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When I turned 72, I used this same “gratitude” blog title. Musing over the past year and a half since Marv died, I can write with the same sentiment today.

To catch up, I spent Christmas in Aruba with my daughter and family. You may remember we were there two years ago also, just a few days before Marv’s diagnosis of small cell lung cancer. I needed to go back, without him, for closure. We had a warm and wonderful week. My ten-year-old granddaughter shared my room for the first time. What a responsible young lady she is becoming. We have the same sleeping hours and the same addiction to reading, so were very compatible roommates. And I took advantage of happy hour each day to drink Marv’s half of the two-for-one pina coladas, our favorite. I know he would appreciate that.

And then I spent a long weekend in Florida with my long-time nursing friend, Marianna. We sat under a thatched roof at a picnic table, toes in the sand, and spent a morning writing:

During my husband’s final days, he told my friend Marianna that she would soon be responsible for the “care and feeding of Lois.” He would soon be relinquishing that role and, in his tongue-in-cheek manner of implying I’d be helpless without help, was making sure my friend of forty-five years would know she’d have added responsibility.

She’s doing that now. We are in Florida for a meet-up, me from 19-degree South Dakota, she from 66-degree North Carolina. It is 82 degrees here and sunny with a slight breeze. She carries the room key. She tells me when to sweep the sand from our hotel room floor. She tells me what restaurant we’re going to for dinner. Remember the “care and feeding…” mandate?

Ha. Ha. Ha.

We are celebrating our almost half-century friendship and my upcoming 78th birthday. We are laughing. A lot. Our days revolve around walking and eating. Just like our early friendship when we would meet up in Chicago’s Loop to explore the city. We’d start the day at a bagel place, walk all day–making stops for coffee and lunch, and end the day with Frango Mint sundaes at the Ice Cream Palace in Marshall Field’s on State Street. Then we’d part and take trains home to our respective suburbs.

Always there was laughter. Uncontrollable giggling. And we have not lost that gift. Especially now as we reminisce on the veranda of our beachfront hotel–the time when we “crashed” the patient units at Cook County Hospital by fashioning fake passes to get on the elevator, the time we giggled through our theories of nursing class when we went back for our bachelor’s degrees (as diploma grads working for over ten years already, we knew ALL there was to know as a nurse, so why in the world did we need to learn such abstractions as theories?), the time we made an appointment to see a Navy nurse recruiter to check on signing up (a recruiter at my college had come to talk to students, and I’d noticed the cut off age for signing up, and Marianna and I, in our forties, were getting close).

We still remember sitting there, in all seriousness, listening to the recruiter. We’d already decided that we’d like the Navy because we’d look good in their uniforms; navy was in our color wheel. So, when the recruiter asked if we’d like to see the uniforms, we had to hold ourselves back to hide our enthusiasm. Hard to do for gigglers. We told the gal we’d have to think about it and get back to her.

When we left, we dreamed of the access to flights we’d have, all the travel we could do, and, of course, the mandatory two weeks active duty each year to see the world. Our husbands were use to us doing silly things, so I don’t think either of them gave us another thought when we’d said where we were going that day. I remember, though, getting home later that usual and Marv greeting me with: “Oh. You’re home. I already had you out on the high seas.”

Over the years, Marianna and I have been able to talk about everything–nursing and writing, of course, plus husbands, kids, grandkids, and every possible topic in-between. And now aging. We intend to go out in style–needing help, I suppose, at some point. Already, we have to work at standing up from sitting on a boat dock and getting out of a deeply-sloped Adirondack chair.

But, as long as we can, we will walk and talk. We’re logging 10,000-plus steps a day here and, as long as we have working jaws and voice boxes, we will talk and strive to face the future with our usual down-to-earth humor.

So, today is my birthday. I’m 78, snowed in, not going anywhere. No one is really going anywhere. Early this morning, the birthday lunch I’d planned on was postponed. But then texts began chiming in and the phone began ringing: “Happy birthday.” And then, to my surprise, the doorbell rang, and there stood my daughter with my favorite chocolate banana shake. She informed me I was NOT to go out–too dangerous. Icy. Poor visibility. But, SHE could go out??

Guess she thinks I’m too old. No matter, I am simply full-up with gratitude. (And, I must admit, it could be my daughter is concerned about my safety…)

my daughter’s path home

(See Marianna’s blog and photos here.)