by Chris Rogers, editor, Winona Post
I just returned from a trip to Florida to visit my grandmother, who turned 96 this summer. My visit was full of tales from her many travels and time spent flipping through family photo albums to pictures of her as a young bride stuffing a handful of wedding cake into my late grandfather’s mouth.
Traveling from Minnesota to Florida always feels like visiting a strange world of pastels and palm trees. Geckos the size of my pinkie skitter about, and exotic houseplants grow wild: snake plants, ficuses, and umbrella trees.
Florida is an odd state, with an eclectic mix of born and bred Southerners and transplants from all over the country and hemisphere. New developments are constantly popping up, pushing into orange groves and pastureland. The roads are lined in mermaid artwork, gator jerky stands, and ancient banyan trees draped with beards of Spanish moss and aerial roots like robes.
Getting around Florida is less delightful. Tolls are everywhere. U-turns are a must. The bumper stickers are, by turns, amusing and concerning. I thought there were bad drivers in Minnesota, but turns out we’re spoiled here. Floridians either have funny ideas about right of way or little concern for their safety. Sadly, when it comes to using turn signals, the Sunshine State has yet to see the light.
Maybe my cranky judgment of other drivers is a sign I’m getting older. Though I’m a couple decades away from having any right to complain, I am seeing the early signs that I, too, will age: thinning hair and joints that are developing their own unique and irritable personalities.
My grandmother is a role model for aging with grace. She stays physically and socially active, and though she’s lost her husband, friends, and the ability to do some things, she counts her blessings and practices gratitude for everything she has. She made the decision herself to stop driving and later to move to assisted living. I pray I can have the same equanimity. She was aided in that, perhaps, by a willingness to ask for and accept help. As we searched for the LensCrafters in the mall to get her glasses adjusted, her first instinct was to ask for directions. Mine was to wander the mall, and try to interpret an outdated map.
Getting wiser with age isn’t a given, so I hope I can retain some of these lessons from grandma. And though I never thought I’d say this, returning to Twin Cities traffic was a relief. It’s good to be back.