When I asked my 75-year-old grandmother if she wanted to visit me in Florence, Italy for the weekend, I didn’t really think she was going to say yes.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want her to visit – hell, the more the merrier when you’re running around Europe armed with only a reusable water bottle and a Wal-Mart backpack – but realistically, why would someone choose to fly 5,000 miles and spend around $1,000 for one weekend, especially at an age when most are packing their bags for the nursing homes?
But she did say yes, and even better, she flew to Bergen, Norway first to spend some time with the fam before hopping on the next flight to Florence where we visited the Perugia Chocolate Festival and bought obscene amounts of Baci, hung out at the Boboli Gardens and basked in the sun, and spent our (few) evenings at local trattorias, drinking fine wines on the house with the friendly owners.
I can’t say I’m really surprised at the fact that my grandmother wore me out, a freshly energized 21-year-old, when after being divorced from her husband and house-wifery around 40, she headed back to school to become a nurse, moved to Florida, and still works as a nurse today as she takes her time off to hop around Europe and skiing in the West.
I won’t lie – I don’t see or speak to the lady very often and when birthday cards come around, they’re regularly empty. Even though I have family members who are spiteful of her absence, I have to hand it to her – she’s living the dream at 75. Missing out on it at 25 was never a reason to mope.
When people are young, they make a lot of excuses not to travel. When I was in school, students I knew made studying abroad to be this huge endeavor, when really all it took was a summer of extra shifts at the diner, some responsible saving and papers to fill out. Even though it’s these kids who have the real opportunity sitting right under their suitcases, I’m beginning to see it’s the more seasoned citizens who take advantage of their time by spending it all where it counts.
My friendly neighborhood dentist is also in his 70’s, yet he spent the last weekend before Good Friday in New Orleans, dressed to impress and rummaging the streets for Mardi Gras. It’s actually pretty difficult to get an appointment with him because he’s always away in the Galapagos Islands, Venice, or Thailand, armed with his camera so that he can print out his professional-quality photographs and hang them all over his office ceiling (for patients staring up at it from the dentist’s chair). I actually feel pretty guilty when he asks me “What’s up?” and I have nothing to say yet he responds that he spent last week in Aspen or visiting his son in Hawaii where he works as a scuba instructor. Oh, and he also runs a Christmas tree farm…. in his spare time.
It may be because they feel they’ve deserved this time after a lifetime of raising their bratty kids, it may be because they finally have the cash, or it may be because they’re realizing they spent too much time sitting at a desk under florescent lighting and it’s time to make up for those years. Whatever the reason, if my 75-year-old grandmother can hop on an international flight for some stellar pizza, so can you. Learn from your elders and take the time to do what you want now instead of making up a new excuse for every decade of your life. Be your inner crazy grandmother dentist.