Marriage, like travel, is a journey. Charting your destination, off you go.
“In life, it’s not where you go, it’s who you travel with.” – Charles Schulz
On this day, almost three and half decades ago, the two of us became one. Not long after our vows were said, we loaded up my little four-cylinder Mustang and headed west to Arizona, our first move for the Army.
I had zero experience with the military, and that road trip would be the first of many. Leaving on a beautiful fall day, we said our tearful goodbyes to our parents and siblings, and we were on our way.
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” – William Wordsworth
Paper – a trade tool most every writer has used. Sometimes we curse it, when it is blank due to writer’s block. Other times, we crumple or shred the pages we pour our souls onto, thinking the work is no good. Yet there are times we frame that paper, because it bears our byline. Either way, there can be a love/hate relationship with the paper we need and use.
“I could give you some medication for him. It would alleviate some of the pain, but…”
I knew when I hugged him that it would be for the last time. Cradled in my oldest son’s arms, I bid farewell to our family’s dog.
He had a wonderful life. He lived better than some humans, as he never wanted for a meal or a warm place to lay his head.
Apparently, I slept through what my husband said was Jack’s very labored breathing. Our dear old dog made some very odd sounds, jarring my husband awake. And since I woke at my usual time, I let Jack outside while I filled his dish with his breakfast, not knowing what had transpired through the night.
“Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” – John Steinbeck, 1953
If you have ever had the opportunity to visit Positano, the words of John Steinbeck ring true. In 1953, Steinbeck wrote an article for Harper’s Bazaar, after he and his wife visited this enchanted, panoramic town. My husband and I spent four days pinching ourselves to see if we were dreaming, or if we truly were in Positano, a town built into the cliffs along Italy’s famously beautiful Amalfi Coast.
When I sat down to write this post, I was outside typing away on my laptop. Something about the blue sky and gentle breeze reminded me of our trip to Italy.
We’ve been back for a few months now, yet my brain is still in vacation mode – or is it European-lifestyle mode?
One thing I noticed was how different life was overseas. Yes, people worked or went to school or handled the mundane daily chores. However, their attitude was so much more relaxed, for a lack of a better description.
One of the highlights of our trip was eating our way through Italy. Mama mia, the food was fantastic!
Of our two-and-a-half weeks in the Napoli area, we only had one dinner that was just so-so. The rest of the time, every morsel that came our way was delectable.
Mealtimes in Italy are a much slower-paced than here at home. Dinner is much later in the evening – around 8 p.m. In fact, some restaurants aren’t even open for seating until 7-7:30 p.m. You won’t find hours-long waiting, either. At least that was our experience. It was really nice to eat at a leisurely pace and not feel like we needed to rush through our meal because there are people in line, waiting for a table.
How apropos. As a writer, I am always looking out for metaphors and foreshadowing. So when the skies started to darken in the early afternoon, it seemed about right. My mood was a bit gloomy. After two and a half weeks of perfect weather, our perfect vacation was coming to an end.
A year ago at this time, we were prepping for my husband’s deployment. He’d be gone for about ten months. The third time in ten years he’d be gone for an extended time, but this time around, there would be no mid-tour breaks.
Deployments are always a challenge. But this one, by far, was the hardest. Maybe because we’d never been apart ten straight months. In the almost-34 years since we’e been married, the most we’d ever been apart was six months. A week or two of respite mid-tour provided something to look forward to. But not this time.
Ten months is a long time to be apart. Like other military families, we have come to acknowledge that this is now our way of life – our sacrifice. But you never get used to it. And it never, ever, gets easier.
One grows weary of doing things alone – from eating to attending weddings, graduations, funerals and the like. There is always a “Deployment Disaster,” and this time was no different. A few years ago, we had a pipe break under the basement floor. A smelly, messy repair. This time, our hot water tank blew, and the entire brake system in the car needed to be replaced. And the disasters don’t take into account the emotional toll families go through with illness, injury and deaths.
You live for the phone calls – and yes, we were blessed this time to talk almost daily. I learned a few deployments ago to expand my horizons, and this last time was no different. I returned to college to complete my degree; took a few art classes, and stepped out of my comfort zone a few times more than I planned.
At the end of this deployment, we decided to do something completely different this time around. Since all of our children are adults now, we decided to reintegrate after deployment in a brand-new way. Because school schedules, proms and graduations are now all complete, we had no reason to hang around town during my husband’s leave. Plus, we needed something to look forward to after ten months of stress and crazy schedules.
A few years ago, hubby spent six weeks on temporary orders in Italy. I’m mature enough to admit that I was jealous, and I often reminded him of my jealousy. Since I was a little girl, I have wanted to go to Italy. I remember eating many delicious dinners at my godparents’ home, so my love of Italian food has been rooted in me for a half-century. In grade school, I was fascinated that Italy looked like a boot. And then years and years of seeing pictures, reading travel blogs and watching documentaries of this magical place just fed my desire to get there.
And get there, we did.
Not only did I want to see Italy, I wanted to experience Italy. The history, the food, the fashion, the culture and the people.
For two and a half weeks, we ate the most amazing food, drank the most incredible wines, enjoyed delicious espressos and cappuccinos, walked the most historic ruins and relaxed by the Mediterranean Sea. Friends that my husband made five years ago welcomed us both with open arms, and shared their country with us.
It was amazing.
Our entire time in the Naples (Napoli) area was rich with every positive experience I had dreamed of. It was emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally the vacation we both needed.
I can’t count the number of times I prayed and thanked God for the gift He gave my husband and I with our trip.
I can’t count the number of times I have shared our trip with others, and the excitement and peace that I found on that trip is recreated in my soul.
I can’t guarantee that I won’t bore some people to tears with tales of our adventure. I guess that is a risk that you, my cherished reader, will have to take, as I present to you a series of posts on our trip.
I felt broken in 2016. I lost myself in the myriad of problems I faced while my husband was away. Grieving the loss of loved ones; health problems and surgeries of loved ones; loneliness, even though I wasn’t necessarily alone; loss and dismay due to the nastiness brought on by politics. I had a writer’s block that couldn’t be budged, and an anxiety level that could rock me to the core.
And yet, once I boarded the plane with my husband, all of that angst began to melt away. I have never felt more relaxed in my life. I appreciated my faith more – and it had nothing to due with air turbulence or insane driving experiences in a foreign land. I felt rooted; I felt grounded – maybe that’s what the mountains and the sea will do for one’s soul.
Over the next few weeks, I will write about all of our experiences and travels in one of the most beautiful regions of the world.
Yes, it rained on our last day in Italy. And when we met up with one of our friends – who is learning English – he apologized that it was raining on our last day in country. “Italy is sad to see us leave,” I said. He smiled, nodded, and replied, “You make a joke that I understand. It is funny.”
Yes, it may have been funny. We were pleased he began to understand our tongue-in-cheek vernacular. However, the rain mixed in with my tears as we said “arrivederci” to our friends. It wasn’t the weather we wanted for our last day, but for sure, it provided a great metaphor to use, and one that I etched into my heart and my travel journal.