I was expecting a very quiet vacation. Your father did his research well and we got just what we wanted, which was a very European experience on our river cruise. In short, that meant that the food was top rate and the portions were just enough to fill you up without making you miserable. There wasn’t a midnight buffet in sight. It also meant that most of the talk around us was in a language we did not understand and the English translation wasn’t always perfect. Mostly it meant that we were the only Americans on board. When I heard that, I thought that it was just as well. We would just keep to ourselves and read our books. I certainly didn’t think we’d find people we absolutely adored.
But that is just what happened. We were seated for dinner with 3 Australians and a couple from Quebec City. Pat and Deanna are so incredible. Pat was a master brewer before he retired and so he had JD from hello. The other couple, Nicole and Lionel live on an island in the St. Lawrence river and can walk more miles in a given morning than anyone I’ve ever known. Lionel was very quiet at first as English is not his first language but as the week went on and he got to know us he was more and more willing to join in the conversation and proved to be very funny guy.
The last member of the English speakers was another Australian named Raymond. All you need to know about him is that one of the first things he told us was that every morning he gets up and asks himself, “What mischief can I get into today?” We spent a lot of time asking “Where’s Raymond?” Usually we found him off talking to a pretty girl.
None of our companions were were younger than 65 and most had a few years on that. As the week went on, we found that we all had more in common with one another than we thought. None were unacquainted with grief. None were living exactly the life they had pictured. It brought us together in a way we could never have predicted.
On an excursion to the Popes’ Palace in Avignon, Deanna came up to me and handed me a little tightly folded package. She had given me the “miraculous medal.” She said that she wore one and that she wanted me to have one as well.
I put it around my neck on the same chain as the medallion that says “by grace alone” that my sweet sister-in-law gave me when all this started. I’ve rarely had it off in all these months. Some might ask why I would wear a Catholic medal when I’m not Catholic. I wear it not because I believe the saint who abides on it can do anything for me, but rather I wear it to honor the woman who loved me enough to give it to me. It’s a great conversation starter. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten to talk about it in just these two short weeks since she gave it to me. I also can’t tell you how many tears were shed as we said goodbye at the end of the week. It was a LOT.
So. Girls. I guess what I want to say is that you never know who is going to cross your path. If you keep your heart open you will often be surprised by love in the oddest of places.
I hope you are surprised just this way many, many times.
Mommy and Daddy