In my journey through widowhood, I have resolved to revisit some of the places that were constants during my forty-two-year marriage to John. I started small, with trips to our cabin, out on the river driving our pontoon, and to favorite area restaurants. I had feared that if I didn’t keep on with the things that were part of my life for so long--allow friends to share their condolences, to see me no longer part of a couple, but still me-- that so much time would pass that life would become awkward.
As winter approached, so did the time of year that we would visit Hotel Los Flamingos in Acapulco, Mexico. Should I go? Could I do it alone? Would it be too sad? Yes or no?
The “snow-thaw-freeze” of late January and early February helped me to decide. I made reservations. On an early, cold morning, I boarded a flight in Minneapolis that would take me to Chicago, Mexico City and then Acapulco. I hadn’t made reservations early enough to get a more direct flight. John’s illness and death had occupied our time for a year, and by this time, it had been two years since I’d had a vacation or taken a flight anywhere.
Air travel has not become any more enjoyable in that time. Passengers can’t be taken directly to the departure terminal, so I struggled with my two bags up an escalator, across a long skyway, and down another escalator to the check-in counter. There things went quickly, and I went on to the long line through the screening devices before going to the gate. Because I have two hip prostheses, I am treated like a terrorist when I set off all the alarms. I get the body scan, the pat down, and then am shuffled off to try to gather all my things together again. I treated myself after that to a coffee and a ride on one of the little golf cart things they use to move old people around.
The flight to Chicago was uneventful. The airport there is huge, but I didn’t have to change concourses. I decided to buy a sandwich for the flight, and made the mistake of avoiding the lines at the more popular spots and getting a wrapped sandwich at some cheesecake stand. Huge, huge, huge error in judgement. Horrible.
Our plane to Mexico City arrived in Chicago two hours late, having to come from Toronto. Our flight path took us over the Mexican border, where there was stormy weather, so it was pretty bumpy. In Mexico City, we went through customs, which involved walking and walking while dragging all my suitcases again. I think if I left Winona and walked for that distance, I would have been nearly to Rushford.
I went from customs to screening, which was a mistake. I should have checked my bag first to Acapulco, so they turned me away and sent me on another long walk. By the time I got to the gate, I was exhausted. Then, to my surprise, we were sent on another long walk, out to a bus stop on the tarmac. We boarded the bus and were dropped off at our plane, an old propeller job, with a skinny little wiggly stairway to get up into it.
In the plane, there were two rows of two seats each, holding about forty people. As Yogi Berra famously said, it was déjà vu all over again. I am sure that I flew in that same exact plane the first time I came to Winona for college via North Central Airlines; it actually landed at Max Conrad Field back then. We rattled down the runway for what seemed long enough to get us to Acapulco without ever leaving the ground. But it wasn’t a bad flight, and the sole flight attendant handed out bags of chips and Coca-Colas, more than we got on the bigger airlines.
Saul, the front desk manager at Los Flamingos, was at the Acapulco airport to meet me, as I had e-mailed ahead for a ride, which they had always afforded us. In the car, he admitted that at the hotel, the staff didn’t know who Frances Edstrom could be and why “he” was demanding a ride. They didn’t recognize the name, since John was the Spanish speaker and did all the arranging and talking. I was Señora “Esdrone” to them, a shadowy personage who followed Juan Esdrone around, I guess. A couple of the guests clued them in to who I was, which is the reason I wasn’t stranded at the airport.
I am now sitting on the balcony of my room--bare-legged and barefoot--overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean. Huge sea-going cabin cruisers passing by look like the boats kids play with in the bathtub. Yesterday, there was some sort of sailing regatta. Pelicans swoop past my balcony in graceful formations looking casually for the next meal. The waves crash on the rocks below. The sun is warm, the breeze balmy, two fluffy clouds all to be seen in the infinite sky.
Last night in the villa next door to the hotel, there was a party I was not invited to. But I felt as though I were there when they woke me up with three huge booms from fireworks that heralded a night of booming music of which I could hear only the bass. If I had seen a musician after I blearily woke up this morning, I may have had to break his thumbs.
Tonight a few of us are going down to the beach near the hotel to a seafood restaurant that caters to the locals, which just about everything in our neighborhood does (and is why I like it so much). Tomorrow we are going out to the beach at Playa Bonfil, which my friend Enid pointed out to me before I came here was the scene of a night attack and rape of several Spanish female tourists. According to the Mexicans here, however, it was part of a drug deal gone bad. I’ll stick to cerveza--beer. We won’t be there at dark, and the surf is gentle enough to play in without worry.