Carolina: Cruising Past 70: WOW: Beginning to Write My Book

Monday, January 21, 2013

WOW: Beginning to Write My Book

Kenji's  urgent request of his Grandma Carol
Mama Carol being beaten in junior pictionary by Kenji, 6
With Bill gone for a month to help his son Jim in Boise, Idaho prep some real estate that was paid to them by a client for their new office, I am with my daughter Trisha’s family in Seattle trying frenziedly to finish my book, tentatively titled ‘Cruising to a Life Together, Becoming an American’ . Between cooking for Deejay, Trisha, Yeye, Kenji, and sometimes Krishna and playing with Kenji, I now have all of one month to finish 6 additional chapters to the four I had previously worked on. I am actually just polishing the fifth! Here are annotated excerpts of Chapter 1:

Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson came just in time! They brought the phrase bucket list front and center to my prefrontal cortex.  Bill and I were just starting to date. We took this 13-hour drive from Seattle to San Francisco to visit my sister Cherry, her husband Rick, and daughter Zan.  Throughout the length of boring I 5, Bill did not get a chance to slide his John Legend cd into the player of my Honda Civic nor was he able to turn on the radio for even a minute. That drive produced our initial list of 88 places to see and 48 things to do before we die!

That was five years ago! And in the past four years we have logged a total of 70,000 miles on Star and Vino (our first 24-ft. Class C motorhome/blue Yamaha scooter combo) and M’A ‘turn (our current Mountain Aire 37-ft. motorhome/ little red Saturn). We have travelled all of forty-nine American states (we don’t know of any way to drive our RV to Hawaii), nine Canadian provinces, and six Mexican states! And that proverbial bucket is still filled to its brim. As a matter of fact, it gets filled with new entries faster than we can make visits to the original ones!

Though Manila and Seattle are ten thousand miles apart, Bill and I had lived strikingly similar lifestyles. In one word, in our not so distant past, we were both very driven.  Board meetings, doctoral dissertations, government consultancies, industry conferences, and global meetings filled my days. As a single parent to three daughters, it was truly a daredevil dive that left me completely burned out by the time I turned 50, which is when I had planned on retiring.

I share a little bit more of my life in the Philippines and the transition to being a US immigrant.

Soon I was not only baby-sitting in the day, teaching at Seattle Central Community College, Renton Technical College, and Central Washington University in the evenings and weekends, volunteering as a business counselor at SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), and attending 2 book clubs and 2 toastmasters clubs. My psychological pattern was again wreaking havoc on an otherwise relatively stress-free life. Enter a new knight in shining armor!

Bill’s career had also meant national sales campaigns, buying and growing his own franchise business, participating on the board of national industry associations, taking leadership roles in church councils, and getting involved in political organizations. And the US is a much more complex and bigger marketplace to play in. Sadly, his wife of 29 years, the beautiful Judith Ann (Judy A) died of colon cancer.  Two and ½ years later, Bill married Judith Barbara (Judy B), but this second marriage, despite all the determination to make it work for 8 years, finally ended about the same time as mine did. 

Even if I was not a Judy C, he was willing to try! Anyway, I was, as a matter of undeniable fact, a C. All he has to do is to drop the Judy trap! Clearly, our lives were dovetailing into one unmistakable dizzying direction: a different kind of necessary pause in our busy lives and a not so usual punctuation in our narratives. For me, it was another daredevil dive, this time into a late-age biracial partnership in a foreign land. For him it was his unsinkable belief in coupledom. And, after all, America thoroughly believes in the maxim: 3 is a charm!  
At first, I did not want to go out with Bill. His profile on was headlined ‘Looking For Fun’.  I thought, ‘Who would want to consider any man like that?’ He was a year older than my cut-off age of 62 and 3 inches taller than my cut-off height of 5’7”! Besides, he was wearing dark glasses in his profile photo! What was he hiding or who was he hiding from? Despite these cobwebs, I continued to write back because there was an obvious kinship in our work and travel experiences and thought processes.’ 

Then I talk a little bit more about how we actually decided to meet.

When he walked into the room, he could not believe his utter luck!  I was his absolute dream girl (smart, sexy, sweet)!  Kidding aside, it was I who literally fell off my ivory tower chair. He came dashing in, this distinguished old gentleman, emphasis on old, hopefully meaning mature.  He was oozing with charm and good looks! (Later on, I found out that he slept in and had a facial before coming).  All my cut-offs were quickly redrawn!’

Finally I talk about how our relationship progressed, from activity partners, to steady dates, to an engaged couple, and the grand wedding on a cruise ship.

It was a cruising to a life together…of cruising.  After all, it was not going to be a life of raising kids, building a home, and saving for retirement.  This IS our kind of retirement!  We will be cruisers in the last third of our lives.  We will not buy expensive floating homes or huge mansions a la Gates.  We will travel many bridges that connect cities, countries and continents.  We will revisit books, objets d’art, and places that made/make history.  We will be entertained in sports, theater and other art forms.  We will drive endless roads, fly boundless skies, and sail many seas.  We will commune with all kindred spirits, and we will have the beauty of nature and man’s achievements as a backdrop to a life of leisure and payback. 
This is what the cruise meant to us, this is what weddings should be made of, this is how marriages should begin.  And the quote we love which we have also printed on our wedding invitation,   ‘We may not have it all together but together we have it all!’ now finally hangs as a cute little art work on our door.  It was the finest way to start getting it all together. 

In six short months, Bill sold his company to a group of local businessmen looking to expand. Then we went on a delayed but extended honeymoon. First I took Bill on his first visit to the Philippines. Then we moved on to Taiwan where Bill’s friend Alan teaches English as a second language. We were flirting with the idea of doing the same thing and funding our travels around Asia on weekends.  We did the rounds of the centers for teaching English. But we found out that to get working visas, we would have to teach for at least 4 days a week, leaving us only 3 days to travel. We thought, ‘That would not be as much fun!’ So we left Taiwan with crushed dreams.

On the 18-hour flight home, we thought…there is really no need to work. After all, our children have told us to die poor! We talked about the opportunity of cruising full-time in an RV! Bill owned an RV before and would take fun weekend getaways with Judy A. But I had absolutely no idea because there are no RVs in the Philippines (the roads are too narrow and the infrastructure just isn’t there!). But I’ve seen those celebrity homes on wheels! And, I said, ‘Why I can be like a celebrity, too!

Yeye' baked some fresh de luxe cinnamon rolls for breakfast!
Yeye helping in the cooking
Chapter 2 talks about our trial RVing, visiting our kids from Seattle to Denver to Boise then Calgary and, finally, Anchorage. Chapters 3 to 8 talk about our 6 criss-crossings in North America. Chapter 9 discusses pros and cons, stages, and issues in the RV cruising lifestyle. And the final chapter discusses how I slowly  became an American as a result of the cruising. Good thing I haven't lost my Filipino roots! I have now completed Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 and am currently polishing 5.

Krishna cutting Kenji's hair
What do you guys think? I am very interested to know!!!