Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Reincarnation

By Marc Leavitt of Marc Leavitt's Blog

We, all of us, return, and try another way,
A different simulacrum of reality;
The energy we call the soul, assumes new form
Within a multi-verse of change and random choice.
Next time, you might come back a brilliant butterfly,
Bright wings a-flutter, flying off to find a mate,
Still missing, caterpillar-like, your warm cocoon;
A young amoeba, almost ready to divide,
Multiplying in a single drop of water,
And unimpressed by nearby parameciums;
A single sunbeam, shining on a chilly day,
Homesick for the fiery star that cast you off,
Or, a forlorn grain of sand on a windy beach,
Wistfully recalling you used to be a rock.


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Monday, 21 July 2014

“I Accept The Nomination!”

By Vicki E. Jones

The year was 1968, and I, age 21 and a native and resident of Los Angeles, had spent the summer at a summer job in Boston, working as an assistant to a lab assistant at a biology research facility.

When the job ended, I traveled to Expo 67 in Montreal – a World’s Fair of several months’ duration - and then to Washington, D.C. to both visit an old friend who was working there and to see the Capitol and maybe the White House.

The day after I got there, my friend told me he had to work all day and gave me directions as to how to reach the Capitol on foot from the place I was staying. It was very hot and very humid outside and at age 21 I didn’t think about wide-brimmed sun hats or carrying a water bottle.

The walk from where I was staying took me all the way across town in the hot sun. By the time I reached the Capitol Building I was feeling dehydrated, tired and faint.

I walked inside the building, where a guard immediately recognized that I had a problem and needed help. He took me to the nurse’s office and she put me in a nearby room and had me sit with my head down while she got cool water to drink and some cool compresses to help cool me down.

Meanwhile, I was feeling sorry for myself because I had wanted to see Congress and meet someone famous. I realized that I might not feel well enough to do so and had walked all the way across town in the heat for nothing.

When she returned, she opened the door and I raised my head. I stared in utter disbelief at what was directly in front of me in that room: there, on a scale, was Senator Everett Dirksen, clad only in a pair of boxer shorts, weighing in.

The nurse turned her head and spotted him there and realized she had put me in a room that still had another person in it – and a very famous person at that! Obviously, Senator Dirksen was trying to lose weight and was there to check his progress.

Embarrassed, the nurse tried to cover up her error by saying, “Senator Dirksen, may I introduce you?” Senator Dirksen smiled and said, “Of course!”

When she said “Miss Freed, (my maiden name), this is Senator Dirksen,” I responded with, “I’ve heard of you! You’re notorious!” with a smile.

Senator Dirksen replied, with a big smile, “I accept the nomination!” and shook my hand vigorously.

And so my trip across town had not been a waste of time and energy after all. I did indeed meet someone famous and got to see at least a little of the Capitol, and I would never forget Senator Dirksen’s composure and his great sense of humor.


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Friday, 18 July 2014

Dinner with Mom

By Mary Mack

Most days she was there, waiting for her sister, the moment I returned home from school. “Hi, Helen,” she’d say. “Ready to go swimming?”

“No, mom, we can’t go swimming. And it’s not Helen, it’s Mary, don’t you remember?”

She would simply nod, not certain of a response. But, today, she wasn’t there.

I knew all the numbers to the bars where dad would be so I kept dialing until I finally found him. “Mom’s not here,” I told him. “I think you should come home.”

But when he arrived, I had to convince him to call the police.

“She’ll be back,” is all he said.

I knew better so I took his Plymouth and began to search. I tried the mall, the library and even the park until I remembered. Besides wanting to go swimming with Helen, she would sometimes be waiting for Hoagy, my dad, to take her to dinner (which he never did).

By the time I reached the parking lot of the plant where he worked, it was dark. Rows and rows of cars were stretched out in front of me but I knew she was there, I could feel it, so I drove, ever so slowly, up and down each row, searching for my mother, until I found her, sitting in a car that looked something like the Plymouth, which is to say it was white and had four doors.

There she was, sitting in the passenger’s seat, coat, hat and scarf drawn closely. So closely she was sweating when I tapped on the window to get her attention. “Hi, mom,” I said softly. “What are you doing?"

“I’m waiting for Hoagy, he’s taking me to dinner.”

“Come on, mom, I’ll take you.”

It was the first and last time I ever took my mother to dinner, to McDonald’s for filet-o-fish sandwiches, and they were just fine.


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Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Chance of a Lifetime

By Clifford Rothband

Take a deep breath and put a smile on your face, let's make today a great day. I read that somewhere.

It was the summer Olympics of 1984. My wife and daughter [age 12] wanted so bad to see the panda's in Los Angeles Zoo.

I was between jobs and we scrimped and saved and booked a flight for the three of us, reserved a car, had lodging set up. If we had any extra money we would buy a Lucky Gold Panda coin.

Our flight took off from Ft. Lauderdale on time, we got to LA around midnight. We got our luggage and went to the car rental company. "Sorry but we have no more cars available.”

What! We went to all the counters and finally got a company that rented us a two-door, dark grey Oldsmobile. That color upset my daughter but it was brand new a car.

Now we ride to our hotel.

"Sorry but no rooms available until the next afternoon.” What! We ask about the pandas at the zoo and the clerk says that she thinks that they are in San Diego, not Los Angeles, so I figure our clocks are off so we set out on the Freeway south.

Almost there and a billboard reads Pandas at the Los Angeles Zoo." What! So we start back and I am too tired to drive anymore so we stop on Muscle Beach figuring we can get some sleep.

My daughter says, "How cool.” Until a glass bottle shatters the windshield and wakes us up. So off we start again.

The wife sees a bright, florescent-lit motel off the freeway and we pull in. I ask for a room for three, the clerk answers, "All rooms one bed. How many hours you want.” What! So I say until the morning.

Now, as we walk to the room, this monster soldier comes up. "Hey Mon, you got two ladies, you want to share?" What!

I hustle my two girls to the room under my arms, We plop down and are asleep in minutes. Around 9AM, there are six eyes looking at a mirrored ceilingL chains, a swing and straps are hanging. What is this a sex motel? It was a good thing that I didn't put the TV on.

My daughter said, "How Cool,” my wife told me to never tell a soul. It was better than any movie dilemma or TV situation ever since we have been laughing at it since.

But I never told anyone until now.

So now it is about 9AM, we grab a Mickey D breakfast to eat in the car, off to the zoo. No, a sign reads the zoo exhibit doesn't open for another two hours! WHAT!

So we squat down and this friendly zoo lady walks up to talk and so we tell our tale.

She says don't tell anyone ever, but follow her. She is in charge of the panda exhibit and they have a special group going in early. Just act like your with them, she says.

So my daughter and wife and I act like junior counselors and the two girls get to hold the pandas for pictures.

Whoever would have guessed such a bad trip would lead to a chance of a lifetime.


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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Rhymer's Lament

By Henry Lowenstern

The well's run dry. I must be frank.
My poetic muse has drawn a blank.
No matter how I fret and curse,
I can't produce a decent verse.
Who played on me this lousy prank?


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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Casinos: The New Senior Centers

By Diane Davis

Seniors are one of the fastest growing groups of compulsive gamblers. Why? Here’s how it worked for me when I had a gambling problem.

Radio blaring, I drove fast and reckless to the casino 12 minutes from my house. For a brief interlude, this 70-year-old woman was not a responsible professor who had papers to grade or a lonely woman with a trail of broken relationships or a daughter whose mother was dying.

I was free of all that, invisible in faded jeans and a sweatshirt. No one knew my name or cared about my reputation or responsibilities. I felt young and carefree and entitled to a night out. I had worked hard and had made an independent life all on my own that looked pretty good on the outside. I deserved a break.

I impatiently found a parking place, made my way inside the casino and plunked myself down in front of a favorite machine with a “free” coke. There were nights when that free coke cost me as much as $5000. It had gone on like this for 15 years.

Most people think gamblers are gambling to get the big win. That may be true in the beginning but as the gambling continues, winning becomes just a means of prolonging the game.

About two to three minutes into my play on a slot machine, the “I” that was aware of time, the value of money, my responsibilities to others, my integrity and any worries I had, simply disappeared. Instead, my world became cosmically timeless, full of hope each time I hit the button.

The more money I put into a slot machine, the more I was focused on the possibilities it offered. All I had to do was keep putting money into the machine - the price I gladly paid for predictably reaching the altered state of euphoric anticipation.

Seniors face many difficult losses that increase vulnerability for gambling problems. Events like retirement, the death of a spouse or parent, divorce, income loss, impaired health and distance (emotional or physical) from loved ones, require major coping skills and support systems. Many times those are lacking, especially for seniors living alone. The casino industry offers quick relief to folks like me who struggled to cope with loss after loss.

It is good business practice for casinos to be safe and accessible to seniors. Parking lots are fully lighted and secure. Walkers or wheel chairs are provided. Free turkeys and free meals are offered. Buses are available to pick up customers from retirement homes.

There are lots of people around to cater to you and bring you free drinks. If any kind of problem arises, security people are there in an instant. The drinks lady knows your first name. The tinkling of the slot machines and the background of people talking and 60s music can feel very comforting.

The hidden truth is that casino profits (experts estimate 30%-60%) come from problem gamblers and many of those gamblers are seniors. Visit any casino during the day or night and count the gray heads.

My way out of the hypnotic lure of casinos is not particularly recommended by Gamblers Anonymous (GA) or gambling addiction treatment programs. I took the “geographical cure.”

After years of periodically trying GA and even an out-patient treatment program, I could still not put together more than a few months of abstinence. As long as I had money, a good job and my kids didn’t know how much I was gambling, I couldn’t resist the guaranteed emotional relief I found at the casino.

Finally, my kids did find out and confronted me. It was devastating. In desperation, I took the big leap of moving across country to the state where all my kids and grandkids live. Lucky for me, the nearest casino is five hours away which gives me the time I need to think through and reject the impulse to gamble.

So far, having breathing space and family close by has enabled me to take back my life.

Research from the Housing First! movement that works with people who are homeless and alcoholic concludes that a decent place to live is the precursor to sobriety, not the other way around. Likewise, in my long way home, I learned that paying attention to my sore spot of loneliness and taking me out of immediate harm’s way was the winning ticket for a life without problem gambling.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Monday, 14 July 2014

Selective Hearing

By Mickey Rogers of This, That and the Other

My sister’s late father-in-law was gifted. Whenever his wife was angry she tended to nag him for what seemed like an eternity. Taking advantage of his hearing disability, he simply turned off his hearing aid.

While sitting in a favorite easy chair and reading the newspaper, he would occasionally mumble a “Yes, dear” just to keep her off track. Eventually she’d be satisfied and go about her business while he was able to deal with the problem without actually getting bashed.

No doubt at least some women have developed this skill but men have mastered it, much as we have with burping and scratching. Throughout the years men have learned that this is a fairly good way to deal with the pressures of women trying to make us do the right things.

Sorry, ladies, but in many ways we’re just overgrown boys who like to do our own thing, thank you.

For 25 years I was blessed to work at a place that featured the most dedicated and talented employees ever assembled under one roof. One of the employees was an expert at dealing with the negative side of meetings.

Usually he would sit at the back of the room. When things got boring, he would take a little nap. The genius in his method was that this act was almost imperceptible.

While asleep he would not lean over, flinch or drip saliva down the side of his mouth. Unless you looked at his eyes there was no way to know that at least mentally, he had left the building. However, his selective hearing powers were still operational. If his name was called, he responded instantly.

I never had the skill or courage to catch a little sleep during meetings but I did use my selective hearing set. With my eyes wide open and facing the speaker, in my mind I was listing the starting lineup for my favorite football team, managing the New York Yankees in the World Series or sinking the winning basket for the Boston Celtics in the seventh and final game of the championship.

Of course, if my name was called, I could respond in such a fashion that it seemed as though I had been paying attention.

Selective hearing skills can help one get through life without facing so many slings and arrows but if used at the wrong time it can heap much trouble upon a poor slob.

Many years ago, long before the days of cell phones, my wife suggested that we meet at a certain restaurant after work. Since I was doing something very important at the time - watching a review of the previous day’s football games - I simply went into selective hearing mode.

During a commercial, I definitely heard that we were to meet at 5PM and I’m almost certain that she said to meet her at Restaurant A. Just to be on the safe side, I arrived at that particular eating establishment at 4:50.

Twenty minutes later, I was still waiting. Now I have as much patience as the next guy (that is, very little). By 5:20 I was fuming. The thought of being stood up by my own wife infuriated me. Finally, at 6PM, I gave up and headed home.

My better half was waiting there and she was not happy, either. “I waited for 45 minutes at Restaurant B and you didn’t show up,” she replied.

Luckily, I was able to convince her that she had told me to go to Restaurant A and I graciously accepted her apology. That was a close one!

A few months later, selective hearing got me into another jam. Earlier in the day I told my wife that I was going into town to pick up some important items such as potato chips, pretzels and soda pop. Since her parents were coming over for supper, she asked me to pick up a roast.

Unfortunately, I didn’t come back with the roast; the folks had to eat hamburgers and hotdogs but this was plainly my wife’s fault. She had the audacity to make the request while I was watching the bottom of the ninth inning of the Yanks-Tigers game.

Ladies, men automatically slide into selective hearing mode when watching sports! Sorry, but that’s just the way we are.

My wife was startled by an experiment she once conducted. While I was reading the newspaper in the family room, she stood in the hallway and quietly remarked, “Honey, your supper’s ready.” She was surprised when I put down the paper and rushed into the kitchen.

Actually, there are certain words and phrases that override even the most developed selective hearing abilities, such as “Would you like a backrub?” “Supper’s on” and “Do you want to hear the latest gossip?”

On the other hand, the next day, while once again I was reading the paper, she shouted from the door leading into the family room that she had a few chores for me to do.

That’s what she told me later, for actually, I never heard her the first time.


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Friday, 11 July 2014

Carless in America

By Bettijane Eisenpreis

I was standing at the reception desk in the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the lovely old resort hotel in the Berkshire Mountains, when the woman behind the desk handed my completed registration form back to me. “You didn’t fill out this section giving us the information on your car,” she said.

“I don’t have a car,” I replied.

Had I told her I had two heads, she could not have looked more confused.

Unlike most citizens of the United States, people who live in New York City – or, at least, in Manhattan – do not regard a car as one of the necessities of life. Public transportation, complain about it though we may, takes us nearly everywhere we need to go.

When it rains or you’re in a hurry, taxis usually fill the bill. True, taxis seem to dissolve at the first drop of rain and they are expensive. Still, you don’t have to park them or pay the gas and insurance. The monthly rental fee for a garage in Manhattan is more than many Americans pay for a two-bedroom apartment.

For years after my marriage, I was the family driver. I was always a nervous driver and, with accumulating age and infirmities, finally decided I was dangerous and should stop driving. I was ahead of the State of New York in making the decision – but not by much. I had already had one fender-bender which would have been worse if I had been going more than 20 miles per hour.

Not driving in Manhattan means being like almost everyone else. Not driving in the Berkshires is equivalent to being an invader from outer space.

There is excellent bus service to Stockbridge, Lenox and points north from New York City but once you are there, it’s another story.

I did find a local taxi service on the internet and made reservations with them for the two Tanglewood concerts for which we had reserved seats. But how would we get around the other five days that we planned to be in Stockbridge?

While still in New York, I had surfed the web for a local transit system. Sure enough, there was one. I carefully printed out the schedules of some of its routes, finding that we could reach several sites of interest with great speed and efficiency.

Other destinations required a quick change of buses at a shopping center in nearby Lee. And several destinations were an example of “You can’t get there from here.”

But wait! Maybe I was going about this the wrong way. I had booked the hotel in Stockbridge for a week. Why not assume that meant I should stay in Stockbridge for a week – not use it as a base for forays into all of New England?

And as that old New Englander Robert Frost would say, “That has made all the difference.”

Suddenly, I was having a wonderful time. Going to Tanglewood by taxi meant sweeping by lines of concertgoers trudging in from distant parking lots burdened by lawn chairs, picnic baskets and thermoses. Going home meant sweeping by the same people we had seen at 5:30PM, now dragging their paraphernalia and looking desperately for their cars in a sea of similar vehicles.

In the daytime, I took a bus to the Norman Rockwell Museum just “up the road a piece” on Route 183. There was a local museum in the basement of the Stockbridge library with exhibits about the area’s history (and scandals).

I found a general store that carried maple sugar and horehound drops. There were real ice cream cones, the kind I haven’t eaten since I was 10. And I had an opportunity to sit, to write, to read, to use the pool (or not), to stroll the streets (or not) and just to do nothing.

People said hello to me even if they didn’t know me. And since I was not thinking of the next place I needed to drive to, I said hello back. I wasn’t going anywhere – I was there already!


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Thursday, 10 July 2014

Our Mothers

By Maureen Browning

Esther was my husband's mother. She was 95 years old when she died in the early morning hours of September 10th, 2012.

Gladys was my mother. She was 92 when she died in the early morning hours of September 15th, 2012 – just five days later – the day Esther was laid to rest.

Because I had made a decision to postpone telling my mother of Esther's death until we returned to Arizona from Esther's funeral in Colorado, my mother never knew of Esther's passing and I never had to tell Esther of my mother's death. It would have been heartbreaking for either of them to have known, and I am thankful that never happened.

Gary and I had received word of my mother's death via cell phone in the mortuary parking lot just minutes before the scheduled start of his mother's graveside service in Colorado.

After several minutes of trying to compose ourselves while on our way from the parking lot to the cemetery close by, Gary and I took our places in the front row of seating for his mother's service.

It seemed unimaginable to me that Esther's closed casket was just inches in front of us, reflecting the beautiful morning sun in Colorado and – at that very moment in time – my mother's lifeless body lay in her bed nearly a thousand miles away in Arizona.

Caregivers were patiently waiting for a physician to arrive to complete her death certificate so they could notify the designated funeral home to come and claim her body.

One comforting thought for me that sad day came on reflection of the friendship between Esther and my mother. They had been friends for many years but closer in the years after they were both widowed in the early 90s. During that time, and until their deaths, Esther had remained a resident of Colorado and my mother had moved on two occasions to be near Gary and me.

When Esther came from Colorado to visit us, she would spend some time with my mother. They were grateful to have the opportunity to see and visit with each other twice a year.

Throughout their lives, Esther and Gladys planned ahead. Each was a believer in making lists of all sorts plus maintaining a calendar of appointments and upcoming events. They had also planned and paid for their funerals in advance.

Each had purchased a burial plot, chosen a funeral home, prepaid expenses and had signed legal documents for these plans more than 20 years before her death.

At the time of their planning, the donation of organs, tissue or a whole body was not a common consideration nor was such an option offered by a funeral director when planning in advance. A traditional funeral was the norm then and that was what they had chosen.

In life, Esther and Gladys were always fashionably dressed. Classic was their style and black-and-white with touches of the dramatic were their favorites – leopard and animal prints for Gladys and brightly colored scarves and jewelry for Esther.

In death, our mothers were buried in black attire which each had worn in life on special occasions. My mother's choice was a long-sleeved, black, lacy, sequined gown that she had worn on January 1st, 1995, at the inaugural ball of her nephew, my cousin, Governor Gary E. Johnson of New Mexico. She was so very proud of him.

The choice for Esther was a beautiful black two-piece ensemble. The sweater-like top was trimmed with small beaded jewels around the neckline and down each side of the zippered front. She had worn it on her 95th birthday, June 1st, 2012, as family gather to celebrate with her.

One of the most thoughtful and generous gifts ever given to Gary and me from our mothers was the gift of their planned prepaid funerals. We perceived this to have been an expression of their love and consideration for us.

Gary and I have, in turn, donated our bodies to the University of Arizona College of Medicine. In addition, we have purchased a prepaid insurance policy that guarantees cremation and return of cremains to a family member if either of our bodies is not acceptable for donation at the time of death.

We have done this for each other, our children and in loving memory of our mothers.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Wednesday, 09 July 2014

Mexico Adventure

By Marcy Belson

My husband used to tell me, when I complained about something "not right,” that any trip in the RV or to Mexico should be considered an adventure.

This is my story of one of those adventures.

We had a group of friends in our hometown, and several more from Balboa on the coast, who traveled together. Over time Gordon, my husband, became known as The Queso Grande or for those of you who don't speak Spanish, The Big Cheese.

Mr. Big Cheese liked to be in charge of these trips. He made all the reservations at hotels, the travel accomodations, the daily plans for those who wanted to go marlin fishing or have transportation into the nearby towns to shop - whatever, he could and would handle all of it, including problems.

The trips became known as Krumi Tours. Over the years, we traveled together to Paris, Mexico, Hawaii and various sites in the USA. All planned and directed by Mr. Krumi himself, The Queso Grande.

One of the trips was to Cabo San Lucas, the full name, as it was known, back in the day. We were a group of ten and we flew out of Tijuana, Mexico.

Four of us traveled across the border to the airport and as we rushed to get the luggage out and check the car for our belongings, a young Mexican boy talked to Gordon asking if he could watch our car while we were away.

Gordon brushed him off, shut the doors, the doors locked, the keys were in the ignition. The Mexican boy pulled a wire out of his pocket, worked it through the top of the window and unlocked the door in record time.

Gordon then gave him $10 and told him to watch the car. Our ten adventurers met in the airport terminal and checked luggage for the trip.

The plane flew to Las Paz and we had a connecting flight on from there in a smaller plane, a prop job. It landed at a small airport outside of Cabo - no one and no buildings other than an abandoned shack without a roof. But, the cabs were lined up and we quickly joined the others for a ride to our hotel.

Never gave it another thought until it was time to come home.

We ordered three cabs to return us to the same airport and with our paper tickets to fly, we were ready. But no plane. No people, no plane.

Finally, El Queso walked back to the paved road and flagged down a car asking them to contact the hotel and send someone to help us figure out what was wrong.

Several hours later, with much whining from me, we discovered we were at the wrong airport and our plane had left without us. Now it was time for El Queso to do his magic.

He hired a private plane and pilot and the plan was for five of us to fly to Las Paz. The plane would return to Cabo, pick up the other five passengers and return whereupon we would have new tickets on the next plane to Tijuana.

Good plan.

We were in the first group to leave. As we trudged out to the tarmac, our pilot joined us. He had a long white scarf and a leather jacket. In one hand, he carried a full margarita glass and with the other hand, unlocked a two engined plane.

The plane had two other passengers not part of Krumi Tours. They were fishermen and they had the long ocean fishing rods and reels which, due to their Size, would fit only in the walkway between the seats.

We climbed aboard, with one of our group sitting on the floor in the doorway to the pilots area. The fishing equipment was then placed in the tiny area between the seats.

Off we went, with our fun-loving pilot dipping and circling to give his passengers a better view of the area. I was a happy woman to get off that plane, go to the terminal and order my own margarita.

Another hour or so and the other passengers arrived. An uneventful trip back to Tijuana and a long car trip home but memories to last the rest of our lives.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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