The romance of running away never grows old … you dream of a hideaway high over the ocean, where you can linger over lunch on the terrace, then wander in a fragrant garden. At night you slip quietly into the pool to float under a blanket of stars. Then wrap yourself in each other’s arms in front of the fireplace. You lean close and whisper that running away was a very good idea. And staying another night would be even better.
Five-star resort hotel advertisement
These words appear on a full-page magazine spread sprawled and sunbathing across my bed this morning. They describe to a T my summer fantasy. Paper-clipped underneath is a reminder note to renew our passports (which I have not done) and an ancient, very wrinkled cocktail napkin carrying a quote by Anthony Bourdain about how travel changes you, leaving its mark on your soul.
It’s probably no accident that my nightstand is crowded with romantically jargoned ads and travel pieces clipped during June, July and now August.
It was to have been our summer of love. Sandwiched between the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention, something rather “unconventional” had occurred in our household. Dan and I marked our 40th wedding anniversary — a feat of magical proportions by today’s disposable marriage standards.
Hoping to follow the advice of these secretly stashed ads, we were eager to run away, escape, and be newlyweds all over again. But life interrupted, got in the way — magnified by troubled times, domestic disturbances, chaos and unrest engulfing the planet.
As if that weren’t enough, I was still staggering from my bout of pneumonia, Dan’s workload got insanely busy, and then a few weeks ago when Delta computers crashed leaving thousands of summer travelers stranded, we (unhappily) conceded.
Day trips and weekend jaunts replaced more exotic excursions — the kind I love that require shots, passports, foreign currency. In their place, we discovered comfort and ease in a side-by-side pair of weekends to Southern California and a few nights in Carmel and San Francisco. Familiarity of the roads felt safe, the landmarks protective, the sights and sounds an easy listening soundtrack of “California Dreamin’. ”
A majority of weekends were of the “stay-cation” variety. Parking ourselves at home, we watched pay-per-view movies, got hooked on the TV series “House of Cards” and “Grace and Frankie” while grazing on brie, hummus and sea-salted pita chips from Trader Joe’s.
On a more personal note, it turned out to be a quiet summer of self-study, examining my own vulnerability, getting back to the gym and charting a new blueprint written in the future tense.
As my energy started its eventual ascent, I found myself setting goals again, bringing a welcome renewal of spirit. I finished my next book project, began tapering visits to physical therapy and doctors, and we finally cleaned the garage, did touch-up painting and uncluttered closets.
There is something gratifying about sorting through minutia, filling garbage bags, and simplifying one’s life — even if it’s prompted by a life-changing illness or defining moment.
This afternoon, as I sit writing this column, I suspect it will read more like a lazy, ill-crafted back-to-school, “How I spent my summer vacation” report than an op-ed piece. I haven’t much to report but have never been one to fictionalize stories or change endings. Having said that, the last three months have been surprisingly enjoyable, a timeout I can only describe as full and fulfilling.
We had fantasized about travels to southern France, our favorite destination spot, everything ooh-la-la and lavish. But like all the other uncertainties in life, it was apparently neither destined nor written in the stars. Disappointed? Well, maybe a little. But sometimes planting feet on the ground is the way to go.
Staying put, taking stock and personal inventory, clearing cobwebs and clutter brings a different thrill all its own. August became my January — a time for new beginnings.
Life’s journey as husband and wife has taken us to many continents and from heaven to hell. Through it all, we’ve survived, endured, fallen in love over and over again regardless the circumstance or locale.
A friend recently reminded me that people make the mistake of thinking love is about the bedroom. It’s not, she said. It’s about the emergency room. Love and marriage are about who will sit there and wait. To that end, my husband deserves a shiny gold medal.
A few weeks ago, Dan surprised me with a Las Vegas weekend that included tickets to see Barbra Streisand in concert. My heart skipped a beat as she sang “People” and “The Way We Were” — the lyrics shooting straight to that sweet spot in my soul and transporting me to a place that felt a lot like heaven on earth.
Not too shabby a destination, if you ask me.
Armen D. Bacon of Fresno is a writer and co-author of “Griefland: An Intimate Portrait of Love, Loss and Unlikely Friendship” and a collection of essays titled “My Name is Armen.” firstname.lastname@example.org, @ArmenBacon