So many of us are still adjusting to Pop having moved, including Pop himself. It seems like yesterday he was here, yet forever that he's moved. How's that all possible I have no idea, but it is what it is.
On relatively short notice, we had personal reasons to go up to mainland Florida. As long as we were headed up, we sort of figured, why not make a road trip to see Pop….. what's a few extra hundred miles between friends?
On a recent morning, I got up extra early and made a couple batches of muffins and some cookies for Pop, wrapped them individually (of course in my biodegradable compostable bags) for Pop's freezer, piled them into a large bakery box, then hastily tossed some mismatched semi-warm clothing into a case. Immediately after checkouts we headed up to the mainland for our personal business. After that was all said and done, Part B of the road trip began, off to see Pop.
Note: NO food was packed or prepared for ourselves on the road due to severe time constraints. This was unfortunate, and a VERY bad move.
After completing said personal business on the mainland, we got driving from Point A on the way to see Pop about 8:45pm that evening. Food was on our minds, as there had been VERY little of that for us the entire day. Being that it was so late, we could find nothing…. until we saw a Panera sign, YAY, or so we thought. Driving up to Panera at 9:06pm, the lock clicked on the door from the inside as they closed at 9pm.
The road trip continued. Still no food.
We drove looking for anything open, anything at all, with no luck. Finally, we found a Winn Dixie. With 5 minutes to spare before they closed at 10pm we burst into the store like mad demons. We managed to grab some peanut butter, jelly, pitas and a bag of rice chips before they closed. As I sat in the back seat of the car hastily slathering peanut butter on a pita, doing my best not to drop jelly onto the carpeting, I actually considered shooting a video for you. Hunger won out, you got no video, but I got a PBJ pita.
We drove until 3am, crashed for a few hours at a hotel and then hit the road again.
We drove straight through for about another 8 hours (rain, rain, rain and more rain) with nothing but PJB pitas to sustain us. All we had on our minds was getting to Pop at a decent hour.
We arrived at his new location just before 5pm. We parked, grabbed the muffins and a couple other items we had brought for him from his house to surprise him, and made a beeline for his apartment. The door was open….. just like the Keys! I heard some laughter drifting out into the hallway, and then the familiar "come oooooooooo in!"
Poof, there he was!
Surrounded by his son, a grandson and his grandson's wife, we entered the apartment. I honestly thought I could hold my composure. I was wrong. Huge hugs were exchanged, and I just held him so tight. He did the same to me. Kisses. Kind words. Hug. Hug. Hug. Tears. Happy HAPPY tears.
He showed us around his new apartment. He has a nice full kitchen where his food is stashed, and his food is prepared. He has a huge closet, with his clothing labeled by day, and a couple warm sweaters tucked in. He has a full living room with a big TV so he can watch his usual programs despite his failing eyesight. He has a cute little alcove off his bedroom which he has set up just like his space in the Keys…. table, chairs, pencil cup & note pad, pictures of family, his little "golf man" all of which is next to 3 large windows overlooking a garden courtyard.
Tears, tears, happy tears.
His grandson has found the local library for him, and is bringing him his large print western books. His Bible is tucked by his bedside, and he has photos of the family through the space.
Tears, tears, happy tears.
We sat and talked. Then talked more, and more and more. We talked about the Keys, we talked about life up there. We talked about family, we talked about sports. We talked about food. We talked about his recipes, and he was tickled I'm veganized his baking recipes one by one (starting with his famous shoo fly pie, as you already know!) He wanted to know how his house was ("perfect Pop, it's just perfect" and yes, it really is). We talked about the ocean. We talked about the water, we talked about the sky. We talked about clothing, we talked about music. We talked about next year's birthday stickers (yes, he's doing them!), and talked about the chocolate cake I will make for his 106th birthday and promised to deliver.
Tears, tears, happy tears. I couldn't stop.
I asked if we were overstaying our welcome (he IS 105, and it was NOT early morning!) and he replied "NO WAY, are you KIDDING me?! All the way from BIG PINE KEY?!!!"
We made a little list of things we want to send him to make it more like it was in the Keys for him (he likes a calendar on his table…. he is very religious so I asked about a particular cross on his wall "oh yes! I'd love that!"…) and I announced I'm putting him on a "baking schedule" so he will get a small box of my baked goods at least once a month that he can have as snacks, just like it was here ("oh, THANK YOU!")
He kept saying how thankful he was for us coming up to see him. Tears, tears, happy tears.
When I think about what feeds my soul, moments like that visit are what does it for me. 100% pure feeding of the soul.
I didn't take a single picture, not one. Honestly the visit was so full of raw emotion it wasn't really meant for photos, instead it was meant for memories. Memories accomplished.
We all knew we had to go. The time we spent with him were some VERY great hours. He was talkative, engaged fully, and happy. He misses the Keys, we talked about that too. I honestly think that it was hugely important for him to hear about the SO very many people who are asking about him, who miss him, and care dearly for him even though he's far away. That's a really long list, and we didn't miss anyone (hopefully) all the way to the cashier at Publix who asked me a couple weeks ago why I didn't have the "special order" I usually do for "the sweet man you shop for." We promised we'd be back to visit, and we mean it.
Part of me thinks that when I saw him getting on to the airplane in Key West it would be the last time I'd ever see him. He's 105, and hundreds of miles away… we run a business that doesn't really stop, and have no employees to speak of. There's not many opportunities to "run away from home" and do a spur of the moment road trip, no matter how badly we want to.
Universe brings what we need. Universe feeds our soul.
We kissed goodbye. We hugged mad crazy. I cried and told him how I didn't want to leave, but promised we'll be back. He knows its true, but he needed to hear it anyway.
Pop has a message for all of you out there who love him…. "thank you, I love you." His exact words.
The other happy vegan's parting words were "see you soon you rascal!" which Pop shot right back "I love you, you rascal!" and my parting words were simply "I love you."
Close your eyes. Can you see Pop in a vivid color golf shirt, with his trademark smile? Can you hear his voice "you rascal!!!!!" "keep on keeping on!" "I love you SO much!" I hear him. I see him. I hope you can too.
He's still adjusting, and needs more things to fill his days. Remember… here in the Keys, he had golf matches twice weekly, laundry day, his golf cart where he'd sit outside for hours every morning waving to passersby and talking with anyone who'd stop, and more. It's all still new for him, and 105 is a remarkable age to consider reinventing yourself, no?
Whatever the future holds, he knows we're still connected, and we know we're still connected. We're drained emotionally, sad, and strangely satisfied.
Mission accomplished, you rascal.