Traveling is my favorite pastime. I enjoy it all, from making the arrangements, to planning, to packing, to the trip itself. It is both exciting and distracting at the same time. I call it therapy. Maybe not the therapy most would imagine, but for me it is an escape. It is a way to clear my mind from the noise, the noise that stress, depression, and anxiety can bring. That anxiety took on a whole new level, a few years ago.
My emotions reached an uncontrollable level three years ago when my brother unexpectedly passed away. It was very sudden, and the loss smashed my family’s lives to smithereens. My parent’s lost their son, my siblings and I lost our brother, my husband lost his friend, my sons and my nephews lost their uncle. It was a gut punch with no end. He was the very center of our family. We laughed with him, we worried about him, we got upset with him, and now we were lost without him. My parent’s were no strangers to grief, and their age and health were already fragile, but losing my brother was an extreme they couldn’t wrap their heads around. They saw him every single day, and suddenly, in a moment, he was gone. With my husband’s unwavering help, we did everything we could to take their minds off their grief. I visited them daily, took them shopping, bought them food from whatever restaurant they wanted. Maybe it helped to distract them for a moment, but nothing could ever take away the pain. I wanted to take them away, even for just a little while. They needed to get away from the house that suddenly felt so empty, so quiet, and so sad.
My parents do not like to fly, and a road trip with the entire family just would not be relaxing for any of us, the best solution was a cruise. My mother had never been on a ship in her life. My father had been on a cruise liner in Europe, back in the 1960’s, but that was a far cry from the ships of today. Understandably, they were nervous, but they were also excited. I found a short, five day cruise which left on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, NJ. The best part was that it would dock overnight in Bermuda. This way, if my parents didn’t do well on the seas, with one full night docked, it would be a little more tolerable for them. We decided to ask my husband’s parents to come along as well. They are very close with my parents, and it was a wonderful opportunity to have my kids make memories on vacation with both sets of grandparents.
I booked a junior suite with an extra large balcony for my in laws, and a two bedroom family suite for the rest of us. My parents were in one bedroom, my husband and I in the other, and my two sons shared a very generously sized open up couch. We had two bathrooms in the suite which was absolutely necessary with six of us sharing the room. We also had a beautiful oversized wrap around balcony. It was a large room and we were quite comfortable.
We set sail on October 15, 2016. My parents where in awe as soon as they saw the ship. They could not believe just how enormous it was. We dropped our bags with the porter, went through security, and boarded the ship at about 11:30 a.m.. We explored the ship, went for lunch at the Windjammer buffet, and at about 1:30 our rooms were ready. Finally, right after muster drill, Anthem left Bayonne.
Other than the weather being chilly due to the fall temperatures, we had smooth sailing. Of course there are always a few bumps and sways, but my parents were comfortable and so far enjoying the trip. It was fun to watch their reactions to the size of the ship and all that it had to offer both inside and out.
They soon learned what cruises are known for.
The food was probably the part of the cruise they enjoyed the most. Who could blame them?
They also really enjoyed the Bionic Bar.
By the time we arrived in Bermuda, my parents were relaxing and truly enjoying themselves.
The weather in Bermuda was absolutely gorgeous. It was a little too breezy for the beach, but honestly my parents were more content to stay close to the port or spend time on our balcony.
Before long five days came and went and we were on our way back to Bayonne. It was a short trip, but my parents really enjoyed it. They were able to experience something completely new and take their minds away from their loss, even for just a few moments at a time.
For my kids it was an opportunity to spend time with and make memories with both sets of grandparents. Sadly, that is not always a luxury we all have. Yes, I absolutely had some moments of anxiety on that trip, and we all needed to practice some patience. On past cruises my kids have had the freedom to set their schedule of activities as they wished, so this time was a little different. My parents are elderly, and they function at a bit of a slower pace. My kids showed the utmost understanding, and genuinely put their grandparent’s needs above their own.
My in laws are a bit younger than my parents, they have no trouble getting around, and they also have plenty of cruising experience, but what made this trip special for them was that they were experiencing it with their grandkids, as well as the rest of us. I have always been grateful for the bond my in laws share with my parents, this trip only made that bond stronger.
This cruise was more for my parents than for the rest of us. They were able to escape some of the sadness, grief, and loneliness of losing my brother, even if just for a few minutes at a time. After the trip, they couldn’t stop talking about it to all their friends, and they enjoyed showing off all the pictures we took.
Those memories of our five day family cruise to Bermuda mean everything to me. Sadly, a year after the cruise, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dementia. He loses more and more memory and details as time passes.
I knew that trip was special at the time, but I didn’t realize just how priceless those memories would become.
I love you with all my heart daddy…