It is, without a doubt, my Camino. Slowly but surely, however, everyone is getting on board. Everyone, of course, means “the family*.” It’s easy enough for acquaintances to come up with statements such as: “Yes, you must!” “Do it!” “Go for it!” “Do it while you can.” “Katy, you gotta do it.” Easy for them to say. But for the immediate family?
Not so hard for Maura, really. She appreciates a good adventure, whether it be her own or someone else’s. Besides, I’m not doing her laundry or her dishes. I’m not cleaning her house, making sure her bills are paid, keeping track of her appointments. I text with her, “like” her Instagram posts, and enjoy a long phone call a couple of times a month. All of which, with a combination of luck, wifi, and charging cables, I should be able to manage while in Spain. My trip doesn’t turn her world upside down.
But the fellas? They have less reason to be behind me. My absence might mean a dramatic reduction of nagging from me—the good news!—but, as well, a considerable amount of extra work for them. Oh!
Ken observed the animation with which I spoke of the photos Virginia posted on Facebook during her Camino earlier this spring. He noticed how my wistful “wish I could do that” slowly but steadily morphed into “I really want to do that.” So by the time I got around to seriously broaching the subject and, in a sense, “asking permission,” his response was: “You know you’re going to do it. I can see that.” His way of getting on board was perhaps more resignation than enthusiasm. He’s happy for me but wishes that he was still of an age and/or in condition enough to do it as well. I don’t doubt that he’ll spend time online looking for a more appropriate adventure… and I just might be invited along. Or not. Stay tuned in for that one. We’ve certainly done many daring-for-the-likes-of-us things since our first camping, biking, and whitewater adventures back in the late 70s. (Now that he’s approaching his late 70s and I’ll be entering mine all too soon, those past adventures seem all the more daring in retrospect.)
So yes, Ken’s on board. Has been since the beginning, really (though some days more than others…). Never put up “a fight.” I know that my going is asking a lot of him. It’s not just the extra work and responsibility he’ll have while I’m gone, not just the lack of my company or the fact that my spring departure pretty much precludes our usual late-winter get away down south. For practical purposes, he probably feels like he has “lost me” to the Camino already, given how my focus and energies are pretty tied up in preparations. During months that might be spent in efforts of downsizing, decluttering, making the house more presentable, etc., I’m organizing hikes, meeting up with folks who have walked the Camino, reading about it, watching films… “You won’t need to go,” he tells me. “You’ll already have experienced it.” Or, he says: “You’re going to be so over-trained and over-prepared,” or “you’re going to get tired of it all before you even leave.” I hear his words and yet still feel like I have hardly scratched the surface. Funny how perspectives can vary.
There’s also this: a year ago, long before the Camino occupied my every thought, Ken stated that he wanted to take over the cooking. He had been a master at it during my working years and, more often than not of late, I appeared to be less than enamored of the job. The actual transition and handing over of the mixing spoons came in mid-February of this year. I think the magic has worn off for him and any day now he is likely to declare that the kitchen is once again my domain. Meanwhile, I’m more than happy to be off cooking duty. I manage to sometimes put the freed-up time and energy towards other needed home chores, but I know that not being responsible for dinner allows for some late-afternoon hiking. I’m grateful. And well fed!
Kevin was the one who assumed, for the longest time, that I was just teasing, just playing with him. “You’re not going to do that,” he said, totally incredulous. Without Dad? he was no doubt thinking. Across the ocean for as long as two months? You’re a mom! You can’t do that! In time, though, he realized that his dad seemed to have come to terms with this preposterous idea and that, indeed, I was serious. From that point on, there was a total transformation on Kevin’s part. He became the leader of my team. My advocate.
“Come look at the things in this box,” he called to me one day. He had gone through his search-and-rescue and his camping supplies, pulling out things he thought might be useful to me either on the Camino or during my preparation hikes. The box included: moleskin for blisters, waterproof paper for taking notes in the rain, lightweight whistle and pocket knife, emergency blanket, first-aid kit, stuff bags. And those are just the things I can easily call to mind. He has been patient teaching me how to use a trail app on my phone and has been a willing partner in the “lifeline” feature of that app so that when I’m out hiking he gets real-time progress reports on my whereabouts delivered to his cell phone, his computer, or both. With regard to my phone: Kevin did research and found a refurbished iPhone with a longer-life battery and considerably more storage space than the 5s model it replaces. Found it and then did all the tech stuff one does to get a new phone up and running with all apps, contacts, and calendars transferred, etc. He is a total life saver when it comes to technology. I currently carry in my pack a device he gave me should I find myself in a dire emergency. (Example: I’ve been lost in the woods for four hours, I’m injured, my cell phone doesn’t work, it’s getting dark AND it’s cold.) Somehow this gizmo, if I remember how to use it correctly, can get the attention of … is it the Air Force? Come to think about it, I might need a refresher lesson on that thing… But then again, I’m not too sure he will claim to know me if I should really put it to the test….
Kevin also likes spending other people’s money (don’t we all?). In this vein, then, he has helped me look for good products and prices and has steered me in the right direction—we hope!—on any number of online purchases. My wide-brimmed Camino hat, the silk sleeping bag liner, the backpack are just a few. “You really should look into some high-quality technical clothing,” he tells me, “but you won’t want to pay the price.” How well he knows me! I really appreciate his concern and interest. And how’s this for concern: thanks to Kevin, in the back of my car I have a bag full of blaze orange hats and vests from Kevin’s collection, enough to keep me and a car full of hiking friends from being mistaken for deer when we hit the trails in the upcoming months.
A few months ago I mentioned that I had signed up for a one-shot WordPress class at the library because I wanted to look into the possibilities of a blog as a way to track and record both my preparation for the Camino and the walk itself. “Oh, I can help you with that,” he noted. “You don’t need a class.” How right he was! At least I didn’t need the kind of class that was presented. To tell you that the instructor showed up 25 minutes late, that all the computers and keyboards were unfamiliar-to-me Apple products, that the jargon and tasks we were being taught were beyond geeky is to only scratch the surface of what was wrong with the class. I was proud that no tears fell during the truncated and frustrating session. (I guess I figured I had my age as an excuse, so no cause for embarrassment.)
The point I really want to make is that Kevin just guffawed when he heard what the instructor’s approach to the class had been. “You don’t need any of that stuff. I can set up a WordPress blog for you in 10 minutes. All you’ll have to do is type the content.” A day or two later, the deed was done and I’d practiced with a fake post or two. If I wanted to write, it was up to me; the structure was in place. “Written any posts yet?” Kevin questioned me for a couple of weeks until, finally, I was able to announce: “Guess what I did today!” He knew.
And then… Maura came in for a fall visit. She’d been reassuring me all along that I should “go for it” with regard to the Camino. When I expressed doubts early on about my feet and knees being up to the task, or about finding the time to train sufficiently, or when I lamented the need to give up my beloved biking and reading in order to hit the trails in the woods, she just said: “Oh, momma, with all the walking you already do, you’ll be fine. And the biking will be good complementary exercise.” Nothing like having someone believe in you, and when that someone’s profession involves working with human bodies in various states of disrepair and malfunction, you listen and try to believe.
Once home, Maura threw herself into giving me lessons on how to use Instagram. (Don’t laugh: some of us are just a lot more comfortable being taught such things rather than figuring them out for ourselves.) We went adventuring almost every day during her 9-day visit, sometimes just the two of us, a couple of times accompanied by Kevin. State Parks. City parks. Nature preserves. The Deam Wilderness. All beautiful in their fall glory! In the evenings, we posted photos. Practice for Spain. If I do it often enough, I’ll retain the skill, right? I told Maura I wanted my Instagram account to kind of match my WordPress site, that both were meant to reflect my months of preparation and, then, the actual walk. At which point she began inquiring about the WordPress site.
Here’s where I’m not totally sure that I’m reporting things accurately. Probably the fewer words I use, the better. Maura started quizzing Kevin about “servers” and “hosts,” getting more excited as their conversation continued. The long and the short of it? Kevin was persuaded of the advantages of hosting this blog on his server, and Maura offered to be co-administrator of the site, the artistic, creative force behind it. So what was initially a very plain, black-and-white, get-‘er-done-and-out-there site, is… or is going to be… well, what you find… if indeed you find it. More fun! More colorful! Extra links, bells, and whistles. Maybe. Depends on how well Maura and I manage to communicate about it across more than 2300 miles and several time zones. “It depends on what you want,” she tells me. Uh, do I know what I want? Have I studied many blogs?
“Wait, though,” I ask her, “aren’t you too busy to do this? Won’t it add unneeded pressure to your life?” To which she replied: “Actually, I find it a form of relaxation. A good diversion. I just need to get back up to speed. Haven’t played—her favorite word?—with this stuff for a while.” At various times during her home stay, she and her computer would keep me company in the evenings while I did kitchen clean-up. I pictured her checking in on the people whose blogs and Instagram posts and what-nots she follows. Or looking up the latest from her “nutritious movement” friends. And maybe there was some of that. She coyly admitted, though, that most of the time she was toying with this site, just checking out options and possibilities. Then there was the evening when she was tapping away busily on her laptop, asking me the occasional question about my iPhone-use habits. Turns out she was investigating on settings and ways in which I might conserve battery space while I’m in Spain. She gave me a tutorial and I took notes. I can easily lay claim to the daughter who loves the woods, but the one who finds technology “relaxing” and who takes on the tough task of trying to teach an old dog new tricks? Where did she come from? Regardless, I’ll take her!
Last but not least: Regina. Though she doesn’t live in our house, she picks up the pieces when and if things or people around here are falling apart. She’ll notice my absence because no doubt she’ll feel the need to “come by” with greater frequency to cheer her dad and brother. She’s already my best Instagram follower. If anyone reads this blog, it is likely to be her, especially when I learn how to cut out 90% of my verbiage and just get to the point. If I learn. Regina is incredibly good about listening well and before you know it she’ll be giving you things you forgot you mentioned needing. Or sending you info she found online about a topic you’ve had questions about. Like SIM cards, for one. (Regina, I did star that email and know I can call it up when I’m ready to deal with that topic.) She’s steady as a rock. Since she can’t imagine why someone would willingly walk around the block (yes, I exaggerate), she’s no doubt convinced that I’m crazy for wanting to walk across more than half of Spain. But she already knew I was pretty loony, so no great learning curve needed here. I picture her come mid-April, texting Ken and Kevin to let them know there are new pictures to see or a new post to read. At least I hope there will be some to find. We’ll see. If I have any emergencies while in Spain or need someone to get me some information, Regina is my go-to gal. Counting my blessings!
So there’s my team, assembled and, more often than I deserve, at the ready. Hoping the family will stick with me through the dreary winter months and will find reasons to anticipate their own spring adventures.
And then there’s my village. It does take one, you know. But that’s a story best told on another day because for now…
Snip, snap, snout, this [overlong] tale’s told out.
¡Y colorín colorado, este cuento se ha acabado!
*Cheat sheet for the uninitiated:
- Ken: husband extraordinaire of 38 years, chief cook (but not bottle washer), fan, rider, and promoter of recumbent trikes, etc., etc.
- Kevin: son, geek and computer guru, mid-30s
- Maura: daughter, exercise physiologist and tree-lover/-climber/-hugger, incredibly patient teacher of a variety of skills, early 30s
- Regina (not pictured: (step-daughter, cat-rescuer and all ’round come-to-the-aid-of-anyone-who-needs-help type, of an age that she probably prefers to keep to herself