Life on the Mississippi or What I Learned on My Summer Vacation

I’ve long dreamed of traveling down the Mighty Mississippi on a riverboat, so with vaccination and mask in place as required, I stepped onto the first deck of the Queen of the Mississippi in Memphis and climbed the five flights to my stateroom. I stood on my balcony looking over the muddy water and at the riverbank across the way. I knew this would be a great adventure.

But it didn’t start that way.

I went to the dining room for lunch and sat at an 8-chaired round table with an older couple. Actually, most everyone on the boat was older. And most everyone was with a spouse. The table filled up with strangers, couple, couple, couple, and me next to an empty chair.

We introduced ourselves and discussed our reasons for choosing this journey, and as I explained that Jim and I had planned on sailing down the Mississippi, but now I was here on my own, my eyes filled with tears.

Who would want to sit beside a gal dripping tears? I was someone I would not want to be around.

Crying in front of strangers isn’t my normal behavior, but the tears came unbidden. In that short time onboard, I had watched couples walk arm-in-arm, others holding hands, some unconsciously touching each other’s shoulder. I was filled with envy and anger. They had no idea how often they touched each other. I know this, because I’ve been there, reaching for Jim and giving no thought to the action. He should have been on this trip with me!

After a couple meals, I had firmly convinced myself that I was what is commonly called these days—an “other.” I was different. I didn’t belong. Not one person I talked with said anything to make me feel this. Not one person. I did it to myself.

And only I could change it.

Fortunately, good friends (a couple), were also onboard for the adventure. Before we left port, I told them I would not dog their steps. I was an independent woman. I could do this alone. But by the afternoon of the second day, I was their shadow as we walked around downtown Vicksburg, Mississippi.

I did much better at meal times. Because I can’t stand awkward silences (yes, my one fault), I asked these ‘older’ people about their hobbies. I realized these old geezers had been twenty and thirty and forty and sixty. They had fascinating backstories (a biker who’d pedaled through many countries, a forester who’d fought fires, an Iowa farmer who’d worked 365 days a year for decades and had just sold his land to travel), but they weren’t looking back. They were looking forward.

These people were living.

Just because they limped slightly or carried a cane, they didn’t stay home in their mechanical recliners in front of Andy Griffith reruns. They may have taken the riverboat elevator instead of climbing the stairs, but just like me, they sat on the top deck by the rail, sipping a cold drink, and taking in the panoramic view of the river as the sun said goodnight.

So, what I learned on my summer vacation:

–Old people once were young. (And really, I need to look in the mirror before calling anyone old.)

–I am in control of my own attitude.

–A lot of people must not have had a US map puzzle when they were kids. How could folks from California and Florida and Massachusetts not know the location of Missouri?


Doctor Sarah's Dare by [Veda Boyd Jones]Deception and Secrets–At a celebration dinner, Dr. Sarah Madison’s friends from high school days tell her she’s way too serious, intimidates men with her intelligence, and has lost her sense of whimsy. They dare her to ask out a complete stranger and not tell him she’s a doctor until she’s manipulated him into going to a fundraiser fashion show.
Across the restaurant, three doctors in Kansas City for the AMA convention discuss their college days. One asks Dr. Marshall Adams if he still has IT, the ability to pick up any gal he wants. They dare him to ask out the woman at a nearby table; she’s been casting icy glances their way. He accepts the challenge.
Thus the clever deceptions begin.

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