Posted by: Peadar Ban | July 30, 2010

Entering Another Country

The day is as most days have been for a few weeks now, heavy with humidity, but I have two small fans blowing on me and my eyebrows are thick enough to keep the torrents of sweat out of my eyes.  So I will begin, at least, what has been going through my head since my wife, Mariellen, and I returned from a week in the White Mountains with our grandchildren.

We divided the week between the granddaughters and the grandsons.  We thought it would give us more one on one time with each of them, and, perhaps, a little less hectic a schedule.  First up were the three girls, and right away the spanner, as the English might call it, fell into the gears.  Our oldest, Mary, could not get time off from her job until Saturday evening.  The youngest, Carolyn, came down with a world class migraine.  That left us alone for a day and a half with Julia.  It suited her just fine.

I have to say that while I missed them both, I was secretly pleased to be spared the added presence.  And on this rests the source of my musings during the past few days, and the title of this little bit of gas.

When we arrived at the place which was to be our home and headquarters for the next week and I got out from behind the wheel to go inside and register, one of the things that “registered” on me was the amount of soreness I felt from waist down, and stiffness all the way up to my neck.  I was able to stand reasonably straight by the time I reached the hotel desk to check in, but it surprised me.

Pulling the bags from the trunk of the car, and walking with them to the room…downstairs, mind you…was another surprise because of this general feeling of weakness, and desire for a nice nap.  Even after settling in, and relaxing in the room with our granddaughter about all I could think of was going to bed.  Well, I thought of that, and then I thought of my thinking about that with a sort of wonder at it all.  I hadn’t the least desire to go out for a walk, to wander.

Mariellen mentioned that we needed to go shopping for some essentials at a very close by supermarket.  I found that a great chore who love supermarkets the way certain rich ladies may love Paris during the fall fashion week.

The first night over I awoke quite early in the morning.  Feeling well and sound of limb I decided to go to the small gym and do some exercises.  There was another person there, a woman of a certain age who was running on the treadmill.  I began my simple routine of stretching (so called…bend over and touch my thighs) and some push-ups.  All the while I heard the rhythmic pounding of this lady’s feet.  Occasionally the speed would increase, the machine would steepen the incline.  On she ran.

I tried not looking at her, but secretly began to feel annoyance.  I started to think she was showing off.  I started to think that I couldn’t respond in kind.  I soon gave up and decided to go to the indoor pool and swim a couple of laps…or something.  How happy I was to see that I was alone.

Now, I used to be able to stand at the pool’s edge and dip in a toe to test the water.  I tried that and almost fell in.  Very slowly I lowered myself to one knee and dipped my fingers into the water telling myself that it was a more certain, if slower, and certainly more safe, way of finding out how cold things might be.  Thinking about that now I am convinced I was looking for an excuse.

Well, I did go down to the shallow end and slowly enter the water.  Then I swam to the other end, waited a good minute and made the return trip.  One lap.  Enough!!  I got out and shivered over to the hot tub for a ten minute soak.  Like some one of those Japanese monkeys in the hot springs on a National Geographic show I closed my eyes and sat.

That was the way of it with me for most of the rest of the week as grandchildren came and went.  I was content to stand by and watch; the second night on the mountain top watching the setting sun and its last brightness over the blue peaks far away; the evening walks down to the swimming hole on the Pemigiwasset River where the boys played in the water and I took pictures of the round stones sitting in the river bed and watched the clouds form above the peaks; until the last day we were there and I began to realize why it was so.

We were at a place called Lower Falls on the Swift River.  I had been there before with the children.  It is a wonderful spot, and a popular one; about a half mile of natural water slides and pools, swift runs for tubing or simply bouncing along; a delightful water playground surrounded by green trees and granite hills and cliffs.  When last there I’d been in the thick of it with the kids, climbing over rocks, sitting under the pounding falls, swimming in the pools, shooting down the runs of crystal clear and cool water.

On that day with my brand new river shoes on I had absolutely no desire, not the faintest hint of one, to do anything of the sort, and no feeling at all that I was losing out because of it.  So, I stood on the side, watching everything and enjoying all of it as if “It” was me, the sky, the trees, the granite cliff, the river and the rocks, the people and the cool pools of water I had once plunged into.

Sitting there in the shade with my camera in my hand I became an Old Man at last in the country and the company of Old Men.


  1. Age is a state of life as much as childhood and youth and middle age. And is as much to be enjoyed.

    • I agree, Gabriel, especially with your second sentence.

  2. Well, I can surely relate….Even the Pope recommends rest during a vacation…who needs all that exercise to have fun? Apparently, neither you nor I…..

    • I am a good Catholic. If the Pope recommends it, that’s enough for me!


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