Family Friday: How We Spent our 23-Hour Vacation

Several months ago, I was confident that my husband and I could live as pandemic hermits forever. We had gotten very good at the closed-in life, us and our rescue Lab, Kumba.

But, then came the COVID-19 vaccinations. We began to venture out. At our favorite breakfast place, the three Latin sisters who preside over the very welcoming environment greeted my husband as family: “¡Tío!” Uncle. A couple of weeks ago, we even went to the movies and the wonderfully overwhelming sensory overload kept us both awake into the wee hours of the morning.

Our biggest breakout move happened last week, when we left Kumba in the care of my best friend and drove off by ourselves for a full 23 hours, some of it masked, much of it outdoors, and all of it a long-awaited vacation in our favorite local town, Delray Beach.

Dinner al fresco

What a vacation kick-off: Delectable seafood pasta al fresco at Cafe Luna Rosa, polished off by the best slice of cheesecake either one of us had ever had, all the while enjoying the breeze off the Atlantic.

Live music at the Arts Garage

It was the first performance for the Miami Big Sound Orchestra since the pandemic, and the appreciation of the full house flowed out of us and back from them for nearly two hours. Thinking of each of the 18 musicians sitting alone in their homes for the past 16 months just waiting to perform again filled my eyes. (We kept our masks on.)

Ladies, I know you will understand when I say that I am wearing heels for the first time in a year and a half!

Lourdes Valentin, singer
Miami Big Sound Orchestra

Hotel accomodations

We have long been curious about the hotel across the street from the Arts Garage, the Hyatt Place Delray Beach, and now we’ve finally stayed there after enjoying an evening in town. We cleaned all the handles/switches and slept well in the comfortable (and quiet!) room, and we took advantage of an optional late check out and left our car in the covered garage after breakfast to enjoy our Saturday morning.

Just outside the hotel is the Delray Beach Pride Streetscape diversity rainbow, updated to include persons of color.

LGTBQ Rainbow, Delray Beach
LGTBQ Rainbow, Delray Beach

Strolling main street

We hardly ever get out for a walk without Kumba, much less on a city sidewalk. Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue is lined with restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, and shops, including Kilwins. We had to stop for a scoop of toasted coconut ice cream on our way back!

Lounging on the beach

Delray Beach
Delray Beach

Kumba barely missed us

Our rescue Lab’s separation anxiety used to put at risk anything not nailed down when we left him alone, so we prepare treat-filled Kongs as a special treat when we go out. We left three Kongs for our friend to give him after she’d walked and fed him, and crossed our fingers.

Well, those Kongs became games for Kumba and our friend’s rescue dog Lila, who ran and played together Saturday morning as if they’d known each other all their lives. What a change from the Kumba who was aggressive toward other dogs! Our patient training has paid off.

And when we got home, instead of the exuberant delight Kumba normally expresses at our return, he was happy but just a little disappointed that it was us instead of Lila and her human. Shades of picking our daughter up from daycare: Oh, it’s you? I’m playing with my friends.

My Coming Out Party

Two months ago today, my husband, Ray, and I flew home to Florida from Amsterdam, where I’d become critical ill during a vacation. OLVG Hospital was my home for many weeks: the ICU saved my life and the 7AGastroenterology Unit helped me become familiar with myself again. We miss that amazing community, and this note from my doctor shows you why.

In the past two months, after being cleared by the University of Florida’s Shands, my new go-to hospital, I have made steady progress in holding up my own weight and walking: from a rented Rollator, the sturdy walker similar to the one my mother called “My Cadillac;” to a no-seater; to a cane; to no assistance most of the time.

My basket of home-gym tools is no longer dusty, and my workouts at FYZICAL physical therapy are encouraging and wonderfully exhausting. My body lets me know when I’ve done enough. Sometimes all that means is that I need to stop reading and do nothing for a bit. Sometimes I’m plain tuckered out. One rotten thing about lying in a hospital bed all day is that you don’t have the “ahh” moment when it comes to relaxing into a bed for sleep. I was never a napper; I am now!

As I make progress, I am frequently thinking back to the wise advice I got from one of my OLVG doctors: don’t stress about making it “all the way back” to however you were before your illness; aim for small goals and enjoy the process of being able to recover; and there will be days in which you will feel you are going backwards, rather than forwards.

I had one of those days on Friday. The most I achieved was watching recorded episodes of Dr. Who (we became BBC fans while in Amsterdam) and about six hours of House while lying in bed eating crackers and sipping milk. It wasn’t until I stopped feeling sorry for my sad self that I realized being able to watch a show about hospital life meant that I am indeed making progress. Even if it still hurts to roll over.

I wasn’t at all sure I would be strong enough to carry through on our Colombian neighbors’ invitation to lunch, and I knew it was a stretch for my husband, who is battling his own way back from being a shocked spouse in a strange city hoping his wife will live. We’ve kept to ourselves most of the past two months.

Ajiaco, pandebono and empandas, and avocados were yesterday’s luscious lunch

But, my friend was serving ajiaco, the stew made in Bogotá that I had last tasted in 1971, when my parents, sister and I made a return trip to the city we’d called home in the ’60s. We were treated to orchids and ajiaco by very dear friends, Luis and Andres Cárdenas, boys who had grown to be handsome young men in the five years we’d been away. Their sisters Mai, Isabel, and Teresa and a cousin joined Luis and Andrés for photos in our old house.

The Cárdenas and Amerson kids reunited in Bogotá, 1971

We went. We had a wonderful time eating delicious food in Bogotano hospitality. It is like a miracle to have a friend down my street who knows that the furniture in our entryway is not just a bench but a Colombian escaño, just like I know that our delectable lunch was not a chicken stew but a Bogotá ajiaco.

Magic from the past, like a path back to childhood.