The journey of the last 2 1/2 years on the Caribbean Island of Antigua was all about family. My husband, John, and I wanted to build a relationship with our newest family member, our granddaughter, Kamala. She's now 3 and yesterday, on the last day of our last visit in Antigua, she crawled under the table and into my lap and said: "I'm going to love you up, grandmother!". And she did! My grandson, Kahlil, age 6 1/2, got in on the act although he's self declared "not a hugger". Hugs and kisses aplenty were shared with giggles galore. How fabulous. Mission, phase 1, accomplished.
Bonds strengthened and deepened with my daughter, Kelly, her husband, Carl, as well. I came to know and respect their lives in a whole new and, truly a more accurate way. They live in the rainforest of Trinidad so we were close enough to visit often and take the time together that building relationships take. The resulting closeness is both a treasure and the bedrock from which I now move forward.
This time was also the winding down of my 36 year career in nursing. I retired in February 2009 from Crossroads Centre, Antigua, Eric Clapton's Drug and Alcohol rehab center. It was an ideal way to end my much loved career!
I wanted to mark the transition from work to retirement by challenging myself to do something I had never done before. So, with the encouragement and inspiration of my niece, Danielle, I started running at age 62 and trained for a marathon. I ran the marathon in February and finished 7th in my age group. The good news is that at my age, 63, there just aren't that many competing - 14 to be exact. It was exhilarating all the same and turned me on to running. I now love to run! It's part of my essential "to do's" each week.
This next journey is about us as a couple, just us, John and I. What do we want for us, rather than what's best for the family. And about each of us as an individual. Mary and John - how do I want to grow as an individual, as an elder. It begins in Italy. Italy is where we're being called. We don't know why yet. The energy is about "where" for now, not "why". It feels very big and very scary. "Wake me up at night and keep me from getting back to sleep" scary. "Knot in the pit of my stomach that makes me want to throw up" scary. "What am I doing and why am I doing it" scary. New country, new culture, new language. Oh, yes, by the way, I don't speak Italian. Neither does John. I'm learning it through Rosetta Stone and Michel Thomas up to now and through "immersion" 4 days from now when we arrive in Italy. The journey begins in 3 days when we leave Antigua and land in Italy 1 day later.
Couldn't it be simpler? How about Florida? I have relatives in Florida. Relatives I love in Florida. Why not Florida? It makes logical sense. A sister-in-law is there, nieces and grandnieces are there, cousins and aunties for my daughter and grandchildren are there. All that's good and sensible. Why not Florida? Because we are not being called to Florida. We are being called to Italy. The region of Abruzzo. The town of Cittá Sant'Angelo. The province of Pescara. Italy.
The same region as the recent earthquake. L'Aquila, the epicenter of the earthquake, is the capital of Abruzzo. See, this calling is not at all practical. I was a psychiatric nurse. My specialty was working with victims of trauma. If I spoke the language, I could help. I want to help but I don't yet speak anything but the most rudimentary Italian. This is not a good idea. But it is where we are being called. Italy. And so, the journey begins in Italy for reasons I can't articulate even for my first post on my first blog.
The journey into elderhood is the journey I embark on. That much I know. I really think I should be able to say something more profound about it. "I don't know" doesn't seem very profound or inspirational or much to share. But it is where the journey begins. The journey to find my role as an elder. In Italy. In "I don't know why".