The Best of Our Lives


Journeying with My Father

In the midst of such dark and omnipresent stories from around the world, I want to share some very pleasant and uplifting thoughts.

Recently, on Veteran’s Day, I wrote about my father and the men he served with in Guadalcanal during WWII. Their unit was CASU 11, an acronym for Carrier Aircraft Service Unit. To my great surprise, not long after writing that article, I heard from a man whose father also served in the same unit. Not only that, he sent me pictures of my father and his buddies during their time overseas. I had met many of these men as seniors, but had never seen my father nor them as young men during their duty on the island. What a wonderful gift that brought tears to my eyes. This is one of the photos of my father.

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Just recently I heard from another man whose father also served in CASU 11 during that time and he also had great information and photos to share. The three of us are now in contact and learning more about our father’s service and experiences. I know our fathers and their buddies would be very pleased.

If you read my last blog, you know my wife Trisha and I recently returned from a wonderful travel adventure to Australia. Every day, and more so when I’m given the chance to do something special such as traveling to a foreign land, I give thanks to my late father and mother for their efforts in providing for our family. My father worked both days and nights for thirteen years to establish his business. I was thirteen when we took our first vacation, a trip to my aunt’s house in the northwest. While in Australia, I wondered each day what my father would think about such an adventure, and I often silently thanked him for providing me the opportunity of education and confidence to pursue my dreams.

For those who travel, you know one of the best things about it is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. This last trip was no exception and we met several wonderful folks. In one such instance, as my wife and I were walking around the Circle Quay toward the Sydney Opera House, we stopped to sit on a bench and take in the sights. In just a moment an Australian couple named Chris and Kathryn sat down next to us and a conversation ensued. They were a very charming and energetic couple and we seemed to have much in common. At one point, Chris began to tell us about his father. It was as if he was describing my father. He then expressed his gratitude for all his father had done to give him opportunity to live such a wonderful life. He was expressing the very thoughts I have always carried about my father.

As we said good-bye, we exchanged emails and learning about a poem Chris wrote about his father, I asked for permission to share it with the readers of my blog. He graciously accepted. I know many of you will appreciate and relate to his eloquent words.

 

Journeying with My Father

 

I wish my Father, now long gone, was on this journey with me,

to show him all the sights which I am privileged to see.

As a young man he departed his birth land, on a great adventure,

and settled here, as a dedicated Australian, until his life was over,

never, even after 41 years, returning to his town of origin,

nor fully exploring his adopted land within.

 

I feel sad for my Father because he missed the opportunity

to travel about, with his wife, in this contrasting country.

He saw only some parts of it before he settled down

to spend his life working hard for us, in a new hometown.

No matter how difficult it was to raise all his progeny,

this Dad kept striving to be better, so he could help his family.

 

My Father would love to see the crocodiles and birds,

describing them with his flourishing style and descriptive words.

He would explain to all of us, these wonderful sights we saw

because he would have read and learned of them some time before,

using his inquisitive mind that searched for what was good

until he knew what to say concisely, as only he could.

 

I would show my Father all the gaps and gorges

that are fractured by, then carry, the water of the rivers.

He would marvel at the coastline that is sculptured by the ocean,

and look across these seas to remember his immigration,

giving him closure to his wandering journey,

and allowing his curiosity to appreciate this country.

 

He searched for meaning, St Paul his favourite, by doing lots of reading,

and encapsulated what he learned in cryptic little sayings.

His best, I often heard, and one I try to live by too

was, “Duty before Pleasure,” which I agree is wise and true.

So to show my Dad these sights I’ve seen, and have him hear each sound

would help him be effusive to his children gathered round.

 

When I think it’s only me who is seeing all there is,

he would no doubt remind me with these wise words of his,

“I see with your eyes now because you are my son

who has done his duty, as I tried, and now our pleasure can come.

In your leisure I live my time afresh, seeing you as a man,

and I rest in peace journeying with you, as now I can.”

 

Chris T Relf

 

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Climate Change vs. Culture Change

If you turn on your television or radio and I guarantee it won’t be long before you hear someone bring up the subject of climate change. Being older and wiser, or perhaps just more experienced, the first thing that will probably catch your attention is the term “climate change.” What happened to “global warming?” Perhaps the term was modified to make it more palatable. Everyone, including the dinosaurs can agree the earth’s climate does change from time to time.

I’m not a scientist, but I am skeptical. I remember being a college student and telling my then girlfriend I never planned to get married and have children because I was convinced by the science and experts of the day a new “ice age” was coming and future generations were doomed. We all know how that one turned out.

Here are some examples of how the media was covering this crisis:

Time_Covoer_April_9_2007_1101070409_400


thebigfreeze

time-mag-big-freeze

Forgive me, but being a senior with extensive life experience makes me skeptical of the gloom and doom we hear about all living creatures being threatened by the earth warming, the poles melting, and the sea rising. And most of all, I’m skeptical that we humans are to blame because of man-made CO2. A very cursory investigation of the facts demonstrates CO2 was much higher in the age of the dinosaurs than it is today. The melting of ice in the North Pole has slowed to a little over 3% while Antartica’s ice formation is up over 30%. And then there’s the question of the sea rising? Well, take a hike through some of the high deserts in California and guess what you will discover. You will find the skeletal remains of sea life such as shark’s teeth. I’ve seen them. I may not be the smartest person in the world, but I’m guessing the sea used to be much, much higher than it is today. Yep, I’m skeptical.

Now before all the climate change folks get all lathered up and defensive, let me say once again, I’m not a scientist. I’m simply an observer and a good listener. In 1988, actor and activist Ted Danson proclaimed we only had ten years to save the oceans. I also heard the king of “global warming” and now multi-millionaire Al Gore tell us many years ago we had little time to save the planet. He was so concerned he flew all around the world on private jets, bought several homes and a gigantic houseboat, just to make sure we knew to conserve energy. When I see and hear these people and their organizations making millions of dollars from energy credit companies and selling their apocalyptic books while making doomsday speeches, I can’t help but be skeptical. If you’re interested, it’s very easy to find the government statistics on exactly how many millions of our tax dollars we are giving these folks each year. It’s staggering. As they say, follow the money.

For the record, based upon my observations, it’s culture change that should most worry us. There is clearly a coarseness and lack of civility that is growing and taking over our society. Park your car in front of a high school just prior to classes letting out for the day. Listen to the language and subject matter of the conversations. Sit in the food court of any shopping mall. Young and old alike are leaving manners and civility in the dust bin of history.

The media, of course, is the fuel for this destructive fire sweeping our society. The music, films, and television programs provide a negative template for our culture. The “bleep” sound has become standard on most programs. In just the last few days I heard the “f” word used numerous times on live football broadcasts. I recently watched a new program whose main character is an alcoholic and drug addicted free-lance doctor who, in the first show, had just slept with his father’s wife.

If you think I’m a prude, think again. As an Air Force veteran, when I returned from overseas, I realized my vocabulary had shrunk to just a few words, all of which were swear words. I was unusually quiet for some time while I adjusted to what I knew to be proper discourse. Do I watch movies or television programs that have sexual scenes? Of course I do. The point is not that we should be concerned that these things exist in our culture, but that they now seem to dominate and define our culture.

Not long ago, my wife and I were visiting family in the Carolina’s. After a few days, we began to notice that almost all of the people with whom we came in contact were very polite and well-mannered. At one point I encountered a well-groomed young man wearing a high school baseball t-shirt. I asked him what position he played. He responded, “I’m a pitcher sir.” It made me feel great to know somewhere in our vast country a young person still speaks to his elders and refers to them as sir or ma’am. Ironically, when we returned home, we stopped by a local store to pick up some groceries. As I excited, a young man and his girlfriend were having a lively and sexually charged conversation in the parking lot. They actually wanted everyone within a hundred yards to hear their profanity laced comments. Why, I have no idea.

Understand, it’s not the words per se, but the respect each of us should show to one another that seems to be on the rapid decline. Much like the climate change folks warning the seas will eventually swamp us, I’m afraid the culture change already begun will overtake us as destructive as any tsunami we might imagine.

 

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Size Matters

Short and Tall Businessmen

Throughout elementary school I was always the tallest kid in my classes. I do remember one day in 5th grade when several of my classmates came running down to the playground where our basketball team was practicing (I was the center) and excitedly told me a new kid had just registered who was taller than me. I couldn’t have cared less how tall he was, I was more concerned how athletic he was. He wasn’t, and he didn’t stay at our school for long. Although other people frequently noticed and mentioned my height, for me, it was just who I was.

I continued to grow and would eventually top out at a little over 6’ 4”.  While people often made comments about my height, I didn’t consider it to be as important or defining as did they. I truly never thought my being tall somehow made me superior to someone shorter. In fact, when younger, I probably heard more negative comments about big guys being “dumb jocks.”

Of course, I eventually realized being taller did have some advantages. Statistically, tall people make more money overall (I guess they didn’t figure me into that statistic). You can also reach things on the top shelf. You can also be seen in a crowd much easier. And, in most surveys, shorter people wish they were taller. I guess that’s why I’ve had a lifetime of shorter people demonstrating their admiration with comments such as, “How’s the weather up there?,” and “How’s it going stretch?”

Supposedly, being a taller guy helps in attracting the ladies. Now, while I was able to convince the cute head cheerleader to marry me, I attribute that victory to my overall good looks and sparkling personality.

The fact is, being this tall has always and still creates a number of obstacles such as feet hanging over the bed, almost impossible to get into and out of cars, bumping my head a few thousand times, and making my love for travel quite uncomfortable. Overall, being tall has probably been a net negative. Now, as I’ve reached my golden years, I’ve uncovered some very troubling news.

Troubling News

A recent study on height and longevity conducted by University of Hawaii Professor Bradley Wilcox concludes: Short men will live longer than taller people because they are more likely to carry a gene that protects them from the effects of ageing.”

The gene carried by shorter people is called FOXO3. I guess this shouldn’t come as any surprise. I’ve often mentioned to my wife you rarely see a very elderly tall man. How many years of life do taller men lose to their shorter counterparts? Height and longevity researcher and author Tom Samaras, The Truth About Your Height, concludes it’s about 1.3 years for every inch of increased height. That’s based upon your specific culture’s average height. Yikes, I better type faster to make sure I get this finished.

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Older and Wiser

 John thinking

Throughout our lives we’ve been led to believe the older we got, the wiser we would become. Well, maybe. As an example, given the physical nature of maintaining yards and homes, I’ve noticed many of my friends and neighbors now hire people for many of those tasks. For better or worse, in most cases, I still take on those responsibilities. Of course, that’s probably why my chiropractor now owns a vacation home in Hawaii.

Regardless, in taking on these tasks, I really do try to work smarter. I’m always looking for and finding interesting and easier ways to get things done. In a recent blog I related a great time saver suggested by my wife. It was the amazingly effective and inexpensive cleaning products featured at Dollar Tree stores. Many friends and neighbors followed my suggestion and report having the same great experience. The owner of the bike shop I frequent didn’t seem very interested when I suggested he try their basic cleaner, so the next time I went in, I gave him a bottle. A week later I stopped by and asked him how it was working out. He opened the cabinets under his cleaning sinks and there were several bottles. He said when cleaning the grease from an entire bike, it saves him more than a half hour in work time. I’m hoping for a discount on my next bike tires.

In the same time, money, and labor-saving vein, let me share another great suggestion for working smarter. With a drum roll please, its vinegar. Yes, plain old cheap vinegar. While many of you probably already know of its many uses, and there are literally dozens, I want to share some of my favorites.

Weed and grass killer

This summer, after so many windy days, I’ve grown a great crop of weeds all over my property. The toxic sprays sold at the local home improvement stores are really nasty and high-priced. I just fill up my little sprayer with some cheap vinegar, and ta da, no more weeds. Even more interesting, this year my palm trees decided to drop seedlings all over the place that began to grow. Everyone told me, even one of the local “tree guys,” that nothing will kill these seedlings and you have to get down and pull them out of the ground by hand. Oh yeah. Well, a couple of spray sessions with my vinegar did them in. Now, of course, you need to be careful. While vinegar is actually good for growing some flowers, it will kill not only weeds and unwanted grass, it will also kill grass you may not want to kill, so be careful. But, I must say, being able to handle those weeds and wild grasses growing up through cracks in cement and other places so easily is a real-time and money saver. And since its not toxic, I don’t have to worry about growing another head out of my shoulder.

Here are some other great uses for vinegar:

Unclogging drains

Use a funnel to pour 1/2 cup baking soda followed by 1 cup vinegar into the drain. When the foaming subsides, flush with hot tap water. Wait five minutes, and then flush again with cold water. Besides clearing blockages, this technique also washes away odor-causing bacteria.

Cleaning windshield wipers

When your windshield actually gets blurrier after you turn on your wipers during a rainstorm, it usually means that your wiper blades are dirty. To make them as good as new, dampen a cloth or rag with some full-strength white vinegar and run it down the full length of each blade once or twice.

Removing mineral deposits from shower heads

Wash away blockages and mineral deposits from removable shower heads by placing them in 1 quart (1 liter) boiling water with 1/2 cup distilled vinegar for 10 minutes (use hot, not boiling, liquid for plastic shower heads). When you remove it from the solution, the obstructions should be gone. If you have a nonremovable shower head, fill a small plastic bag half full with vinegar and tape it over the fixture. Let it sit for about 1 hour, then remove the bag and wipe off any remaining vinegar from the shower head.

Keep out four-legged creatures

Some animals — including cats, deer, dogs, rabbits, and raccoons — can’t stand the scent of vinegar even after it has dried. You can keep these unauthorized visitors out of your garden by soaking several recycled rags in white vinegar, and placing them on stakes around your veggies. soak the rags about every 7-10 days.

 

Give ants the boot

Serve the ants on your premises with an eviction notice. Pour equal parts water and white vinegar into a spray bottle. Then spray it on anthills and around areas where you see the insects. Ants hate the smell of vinegar. It won’t take long for them to move on to better-smelling quarters. Also keep the spray bottle handy for outdoor trips or to keep ants away from picnic or children’s play areas. If you have lots of anthills around your property, try pouring full-strength vinegar over them to hasten the bugs’ departure.

 

Removing rust from tools 

If you want to clean up those rusted old tools you recently unearthed in your basement or picked up at a tag sale, soak them in full-strength white vinegar for several days. The same treatment is equally effective at removing the rust from corroded nuts and bolts. And you can pour vinegar on rusted hinges and screws to loosen them up for removal.

These are just a few of the dozens and dozens of uses for vinegar. There are many web sites that can give you many more ideas.

 

John Parker

John Parker

http://www.TheBestofOurLives.com

 

Old Dog, New Kicks

Old Man Soccer

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? It depends. I’m a firm believer in living in the moment with an eye to the future. But sometimes the new thing is only just that, new. A morning snowflake with no chance of lasting very long. I guess I’m not into trends. I never bought a Nehru jacket when I was young and my closet is not now filled with skinny jeans. Heck, I’m so behind the times, I don’t even wear pajama bottoms to Wal-Mart. Trends are trends, and fads come and go.

Take soccer. It was actually our generation that introduced our children to the game here in the U. S.  That’s probably because the game requires only a few players, a space to play, and one ball. Kid’s soccer is great. It provides exercise, gets the family together on Saturday mornings, and everyone gets to let off some steam.

The question is: Is soccer catching on in a big way here in the U. S. as some in the media would have us believe? I doubt it. Naturally, those recent immigrants to the U. S. who were soccer fans before they got here are still very excited to follow the sport. For the rest of us, I would say it’s like watching grass grow, but that would be too on the nose. Even with the recent success of the U. S. team in Rio, I really don’t think the excitement will be sustained.

So why is kid’s soccer so popular, but professional soccer so dull. Well, first off, the skill levels of kids are so varied it almost guarantees some, if not a lot of scoring. Secondly, watching your kids play any sport is pretty cool. All three of our sons played the sport when they were young and all of them enjoyed the experience. Pushed by his older brothers, our youngest was once pulled from a game after only 30 seconds. He had already scored two goals and the coach didn’t want to run up the score.

Soccer played by highly trained and skilled athletes can be very boring. Scoring is infrequent and watching the players flip and flop faking injuries is a bit bizarre. I will admit I do enjoy watching those guys in white coats run out with a stretcher only to have the “critically injured” player jump up and resume play. At that point, off go the white coat guys like a small flock of penguins.

In my opinion, our generation will never really get interested in professional soccer. Maybe some day it will attract a larger audience, but when you have so many other exciting sports that actually tear up the grass, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Happy 4th Of July

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Getting Older

Speaking of times changing, have you ever been going through old photos  and one or two sent a shiver up your spine? I was scrolling through some the other day and a couple really caught my eye. One was my wife Trisha when she was about 17 and the other, well, I guess it’s me. Where has all the time gone?

Trisha Parker

Trisha Parker

John Parker

John Parker

 

Now, I can truthfully say Trisha is still as beautiful as ever, but what the heck was going on with my Duck Dynasty look? I was way ahead of my time. We all age physically, and as I wrote about in my last blog, there is nothing we can do about it except to live the best we can. Everyday!

 

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Growing Older Isn’t For Sissies

As my friend Herb often says, “Growing older isn’t for sissies.” Everyday, we 50+ folks know he’s right. Along with all the other issues we face, as a man, I long ago had that experience of looking in the mirror and seeing my father. For women, aging in a society that celebrates glamour and youth, the mirror can become a dreaded enemy.

Each year, we seniors spend millions of dollars trying to look better (younger) and that probably isn’t a bad thing. When I compare our generation to previous ones, I do believe we are in pretty good shape physically and have aged quite well. I think it’s great that the majority of us continue to groom ourselves nicely and dress somewhat fashionably. I smile while writing that last line because I’ve never been known as a “clothes horse.” If you don’t understand that reference, you’re too young to be reading this blog.

So, what’s the point? The point is, as seniors, we will not win the battle against physical aging. We should stay in good condition, eat well and all the rest, but we are not going to overcome the changes aging will bring about. The wrinkles will come ever faster, the hair we love will thin, and the hair we don’t want will flourish. We need to develop an attitude of acceptance toward physical aging. Of course, my wife Trisha does not accept my view on this subject and has vowed to “go down swinging.”

I raise this issue to preface what I consider to be a more important aspect of the aging process, our minds. To me, the biggest difference I observe among people as they get older is not physical, but mental. I’m not talking about loss of mental acuity, but simply how people use or don’t use their minds. Some seem very engaged concerning current events, new ideas, and even strive to be creative and contribute to society. As Trisha and I wrote in our book, it seems as though retired life for many simply means not having a job any longer. We discovered so many folks in our age group who did not have a plan or set goals for their future. This isn’t a criticism per se because we firmly believe everyone should spend every phase of their lives as they choose. We simply find it curious that so many find themselves in such deep routines, often seem bored, and quite frankly, unhappy. The fact is, planning or not, life does happen.

In our case, my wife and I can’t think of anything more interesting or rewarding than meeting new people, having new experiences, creating something new, or seeing new places around the corner or around the world. I often think about the question I used to get during my teaching career. It was, “Why do you like teaching?” My response was always, “Because I learn so much.” I had to continually read new books, review the latest research, meet new students, learn and evaluate new ideas, and create ways to put them forth. It was always new and exhilarating. I guess that helped shape my views on how I wanted to spend my retired life. I can only say it works for me and my wife, but others must choose the path that works best for them. Choose wisely. As someone once said, “This is your life; it’s not the dress rehearsal.” We’ll drink to that.

Trisha and John Parker

Trisha and John Parker

 

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Socialization and Travel

Both in our book and in our presentations, my wife Trisha and I stress the importance of socialization as one grows older. There is overwhelming evidence that a senior’s physical and emotional health, as well as increased longevity on average is directly affected by frequent and continued socialization. Growing older in isolation is one of the worst things we can do in our retired life years.

Obviously, this is more difficult for some than others. I’m sure my friends would laugh and most likely be surprised to know that basically I’ve always been a bit shy. Once I get to know someone, I have no problem, but for most of my life I’ve found it difficult to be “outgoing” and social. Fortunately, I married someone who is probably one of the most friendly and outgoing people on the planet. I continue to learn from her each day and have actually gone through a bit of a change on the social front.

For those who read this blog, you know my wife Trisha and I love to travel. Certainly, our children, grandkids, and friends are the most important components of our lives, but the occasional travel adventure is the extra spice to our retired life. While we love seeing new sights and having different experiences, we have discovered that meeting and getting to know people from all over the world is both a learning experience and great fun. To know it’s also good for our well-being is icing on the cake.

In this case, due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to cancel a previously planned trip with our good friends and travel companions. In just a few days, Trisha put together a completely different trip through northern Europe to experience places we had not yet visited. As usual, she did a great job and we had a wonderful adventure together.

While we were warned weather is always an issue in this part of Europe, good fortune was with us and our weather was glorious. The sites, sounds, food, and most of all, the people were all wonderfully educational and interesting. We were once again struck by how remarkably easy it is to meet, converse, and even strike up friendships with people from other cultures. Not surprisingly, we all seem to want the same things, but politics and power seem to get into the way with our world leaders. I know this is quite a simplistic thought, and there are very real threats in the world, but as it was once said, “can’t we all just get along?”

Here is a brief summary of the places and people we encountered during our trip:

In addition to visiting all the sights of London, we shared conversations with Jerry and Marita at our hotel, and then the better part of a late evening with Canadians Colin and Monie at a local ice cream parlor. They were an extremely nice couple. Obviously, we were curious about the food in London, and I must say the Pub scene is great fun.

We would recommend The Queen’s Arm’s near Victoria Station for fish and chips and a tankard of ale. A real surprise was an Asian restaurant named A.Wongs. It was gourmet food with over the top preparation, taste, and presentation like nothing I’ve ever had before. Perfection would be the word I would use.

Trisha and John Parker at The Queen's Arms

Trisha and John Parker
at The Queen’s Arms

The Queens Arms

The Queens Arms

A. Wongs

A. Wongs

On a flight to Stockholm, I was privileged to meet a terrific man named Urban who provided me with valuable insights into Swedish culture and politics. Our first and lasting impression of this city was entirely positive. It was very clean, the people were exceptionally friendly, and ladies forgive me, some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. Trisha might have called me sexist, but she was very busy looking at all the handsome men. Our first morning at a sidewalk bistro was very enjoyable.

Trisha and John Parker Morning in Stockholm

Trisha and John Parker
Morning in Stockholm

On our first night in Stockholm, we discovered a little bistro called Ristorante 60 with both indoor and sidewalk tables. Next to us were two interesting young musicians and graduate music students named Phillip and Victor. Although we were a bit travel weary and there was a definite age difference, we actually wound up closing the place. Time flies. Here’s Trisha with the manager.

Trisha Parker Ristorante 60

Trisha Parker
Ristorante 60

The next night, at a local pub we met three truly great young men, Joe, Andrew, and Joe (we think he said Joe because he was sure we would not be able to pronounce his name). They had all returned from their second tour as part of a peace-keeping force in Afganistan. They could not have been more interesting and were so humble when we thanked them for their service. It was another wonderful evening.

While we enjoyed everything about this beautiful city, a true highlight was our visit to Millesgarden. This is the estate, now museum of famous sculpture Carl Milles and his artist wife Olga. The estate sits perched atop a hillside overlooking the water and city of Stockholm. While the art is magnificent and inspirational, the serenity was refreshing. We stopped often just to sit and take in the sheer beauty of this truly must-see location.

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

I should mention that when Swedish musical legends ABBA needed a couple to fill in for one performance, Trisha and I helped out.

Trisha and John Parker

Trisha and John Parker

Should anyone be planning a trip to Stockholm, Trisha and I highly recommend the Miss Clara Hotel. It’s an eight story former girl’s school that has been remodeled and transformed into a bright and modern place to stay. It has a beautiful restaurant and a great sauna. Obviously, many hotels have similar amenities, but it’s the warm and professional staff that sets this hotel apart from the others.

Traveling to Copenhagen, we had the pleasure of meeting Christian and Caroline and their beautiful family while having lunch on New Haven Street along the canal. Each of them warm, friendly, and with a great sense of humor. We had many different servers at our outside tables, and only one of them did not seem to speak English. Finally, while Christian was helping me figure out my bill, I asked him if the tip was included. He said, “Yes, I believe the tip is included.” Our non-English speaking server was just walking by the table, and in a very loud voice in perfect English said, “The tip is not included!” We all laughed hysterically at this very funny moment.

Trisha and John Parker Copenhagen

Trisha and John Parker
Copenhagen

Of course, among the dozens of amazing sites in Copenhagen, a tourist simply cannot miss the Little Mermaid.

Trisha and John Parker  The Little Mermaid

Trisha and John Parker
The Little Mermaid

In Amsterdam, we had the pleasure of meeting Doug and Joan, and Jim and Judy while visiting the Anne Frank house. It was a moving experience and afterward we all found a canal-side restaurant with the best Panini I’ve ever tasted. These folks turned out to be wonderful company and after lunch we actually wound up walking through various parts of the city together. The next morning, along a canal we had morning coffee for Trisha and the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. The sightseeing then continued. O. K., we did share that pastry.

Trisha and John Parker Morning / Amsterdam

Trisha and John Parker
Morning / Amsterdam

 

For our next stop we headed to Brussels and on the train met a very interesting young Frenchman and world traveler named Stephane. It so happened that while we were there, the G7 leaders were meeting which gave the city an extra sense of activity with helicopters, limos, and lots of police escorts flying through the city streets. On our last day there, while boarding a bus to visit the Atomium, the last site on our list, the driver said he did not take credit cards. Not having enough Euros left, and getting near the end of the day, our plans would have been crushed. Total strangers Denny and Mary spoke up and offered their own money to buy our tickets. Obviously, we later reimbursed them, but what a wonderful gesture. The Atomium was the high point of the 1957 Brussels World Fair and it was a stopping point recently on T.V.’s Amazing Race. We loved it, especially the rocket ship feeling on the high speed elevator to the top.

Trisha and John Parker Brussels Atomium

Trisha and John Parker
Brussels Atomium

After our days in Brussels, we traveled through northern France and then crossed the English Channel at the same time the Allies had done exactly 70 years before. Of course, we were going the opposite direction toward London, but it still gave us a bit of a chill, especially knowing Trisha’s father was one of those D-Day heroes.

Just one more mention of kindness from others we received on this wonderful adventure. On our original flight from San Francisco to London aboard Virgin Atlantic, the flight crew was sensational. Trisha noticed several of the women had their hair in beautiful tight bun-like configurations. She asked one of the attendants how their hair was styled so perfectly. It turns out it’s with the simple use of a mesh “doughnut.” Flight attendant Claire asked us about our travel plans and we gave her our dates. Two and a half weeks later, when we arrived at the gate at Heathrow in London, Claire was there waving at Trisha. They embraced and then Claire gave Trisha a bag with a hair “doughnut” she had purchased for her.

The answer to the question is, “Yes, we can all get along.” Thank you to all the special people who made our trip so much fun. It’s clear that socialization, maybe even especially while traveling makes our lives much richer and far better.

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