Vacation with Mom, Part 4: Final Thoughts
(August 21 - September 7, 1999)

Mom's Facts and Figures:

Number of countries visited:  3
Number of planes flown on:  4
Number of trains:  3
Number of high speed trains:  1 (France's TGV)
Number of miles driven:  about 1500
Number of funiculars:  2 (Sacre Coeur and Heidelberg)
Number of subway rides:  lots (on the Paris metro)
Number of buses:  1 (the on/off bus in Paris)
Number of horse drawn carts:  1 (Neuschwanstein)
Number of Manhattans:  4
Number of countries in which a Manhattan was found:  3

I suspect there may be some doubters out there about whether it is possible to spend more than two weeks on vacation with an aging mother, wife, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law (I think I got all of the relationships on this trip), spending every day together for 17 days.  We've been back in the USA for a bit more than a week now.  As I reflect back on this vacation, I can say unequivocally that it is not only possible, it can even make you feel good about making such a trip with your mom.  Our trip went rather smoothly.  We have always been a rather tight knit family of father, mother, brother, and me, and have remained close as we all have aged into adulthood and old age.  My dad died in 1996, and it is unfortunate that we didn't do a vacation like this years ago.  The opportunity was there this year since I was already in Europe on business and just added two weeks vacation to the trip.

This was mom's first ever trip out of the USA.  Although she travels once in a while to visit us in Georgia and other family in NY, she was pretty nervous about making this trip.  However, I think she now knows it's a bit easier than she suspected it would be.  I wouldn't say there weren't challenges.  There were some, and it helped to understand that mom was like a fish out of water.  For example, mom has known nothing but good old American dollars all her life.  Now she was faced with having to deal with German marks, French francs, and Swiss francs.  It became obvious after the first couple of days that mom wasn't taking very easily to dealing with foreign money and figuring out what it was costing her in dollars.  So I told her to just give the merchant the paper money that is just above what the charge was and hope the merchant gives her the right change.  Then I gave her some guidelines as to how to quickly figure out what it was costing her in dollars.  Of course, Diane and I were around to help her with that translation.  But she really never got the hang of it and it was amusing to see her struggle with it.  Hec, there are still times, even after traveling since 1993, when it's easier for me to just give a merchant a paper bill and not mess with the coins.

There was also the matter of crossing streets in Paris.  I wouldn't say that mom felt threatened crossing the streets.  Actually, she was petrified.  Although mom was born in the countryside in Pennsylvania, she spent most of her youth and early adulthood in New York City.  But all those years away from the big city had made her leery of the traffic in a big city.  As much as we tried to have her walk up with us, mom's comfort zone seemed to be a few paces behind Diane and me.  It took me while to realize that this is where she wanted to walk.  That was OK, until we had to cross busy streets, even the ones with pedestrian lights.  The drivers in Paris are aggressive, to say the least.  They come right up to the pedestrian crossing, and they do so at a speed that makes you wonder if they are going to stop.  Diane and I are used to this, but mom wasn't and it scared her.  There were a couple of times when we started to cross the street and she hesitated.  Now that can get you hurt or killed.  So we modified our street crossing behavior to make sure mom was to the side of us which was away from the traffic and that she was up with us and sometimes holding her hand.

None of the situations we encountered that required some behavior modification on our part were a problem.  I think if one is sensitive to these types of situations, and makes appropriate adjustments, then things go pretty smoothly.

So how did mom enjoy her vacation.  Mom isn't very expressive, and doesn't gush about things.  If the number of photos she took was any indication, I'd say she had a great time.  Maybe it will come out more as she tells her friends and neighbors about her first trip out of the USA.  I did ask her several times how she was enjoying the trip and she said she was having a good time.  She liked Germany and Switzerland the best for the open spaces, the hills, the mountains.  She mentioned in Bavaria and Switzerland that they looked to her
like in the movies she remembered.  It made her think of Shirley Temple and Heidi.

I'm glad I thought about asking her to join us on vacation, and that Diane was quite willing to go along with it.  In the end, I felt good that she had this opportunity to see lands and cultures outside of what she had known all her life.  I was also glad to be able to share some of the places that Diane and I had been to, and to see her reactions to them.  Places such as Neuschwanstein and Wieskirche that left her speechless for a few moments.  I know she enjoyed visiting the various cathedrals and churches along our routes.  The European churches make you feel you are in a holy place, much more than the modern churches of today in the USA.  Whether or not it was the right thing to do with all that money hundreds of years ago while the peasants starved is another subject.  I doubt you would see too many churches like that being built today.

As for Paris, although it wasn't exactly what she pictured it to be, it was obvious that she was thrilled to see the Eiffel Tower in person.  She enjoyed the boat ride on the Seine, Sacre Coeur, and Montmartre, which reminded her of what she pictured Paris to  be like.

AND....she was able to get a Manhattan in every country.  What more could she ask for?  The trip was a success.

Until next time.

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