After only three days on the boat we are learning about the culture of cruising. Life is divided between the Boat and the Bus – cruising from port to port, followed by at least one bus tour at each stop. As a companion/escort for the oldest person on the boat, my goal is :Don’t be last to board the bus. This is not easy.
In Stockholm we kept no-one waiting as we left the boat, nor after the Vasa Museum.
But we were the last on the bus after visiting the Stockholm City hall where they hold the Nobel Prize banquet each December 10. Here is what the guide (a charming Swedish Carol Channing type) said in her Swedish accent: “When you exit the souvenir shop go through the arch on the left there will be your bus waiting.”
We were not the only ones who heard: “When you exit the souvenir shop, go through the arch. On the left there will be your bus waiting.”
She meant :” When you exit the souvenir shop, go through the arch on the left. There will be your bus waiting.”
The issue – there were two arches – one IN FRONT of the exit, as well as a much less prominent arch in the dark on the left when you exit. So we got lost (along with Christine and Mark from Pennsylvania, bless their hearts) and were retrieved twenty minutes later by the assistant guide who was supposed to be bearing up the rear to make sure all laggards were accounted for, but somehow lost track of us. Bah!
Doing the bus tour each day feels like being part of a canned travelogue in a bubble, but I can’t leave Mom on her own, so I have abandoned the bike tours which were going to be my variety. The lap of luxury is still a lap – we are used to being a bit more active.
Back on the boat, at a cocktail party for first-timers we met two other sets of mother/daughter voyagers. The 89 year old said to Mom –” so sorry to hear you have beaten me by two years – I’m not the oldest on the boat!”
Mom rapped back instantly “I’m sorry too!” General laughter.
Mom at lunch: “There’s a statue over there – it’s a copy of something that is very familiar; I think it’s Rodin;, can you name it?” I look, see no statue. “I don’t recognize a statue,” I say to her. She gets up, goes closer to see. The waiter mimes anxiously, as she wanders toward the deserted corner, “Is she all right?” I mime “It’s ok.” Mom looks about in the corner, returns . “It was a pile of dirty napkins. That’s AWFUL!”
There are a lot of groups, but we are not part of any. Even the mothers-and-daughters have other family members they are with, and no invitations to join them are forthcoming So we are spending a lot of time together. I have much more understanding of the handicaps Mom is living with – and more admiration for the way she gallantly overlooks and surmounts them.
It is what it is. Her eyesight and hearing seem to go in and out – she can spot a sign out of the corner of her eye “Did that say ‘teleferique’?” No, it was “telegraf” – pretty close; and then mistake a pile of napkins for a statue by Rodin. She can rap right back in conversation, and then not be able to hear me across the table. Meanwhile, I am learning to go at a slower pace, to listen, to think ahead, to appreciate the small comforts of a cozy robe, a sunny balcony, a reclining chair.