"The Adventures of Tessa" chronicles the experiences of live aboard sailing while traveling the Great Loop Route. Follow the adventures here with Tessa (a 50' Gulfstar) along with her crew, Captain Gary (Frugal Captain) and Lori Milson.
The first time I set eyes on the patio of Unit 105 in 2009, the seed was planted. It was right after we arrived at Matanzas Inn at Fort Myers Beach to pay for our mooring ball. An older couple sat there enjoying sunset cocktails, and my heart decided that some day, some way, Mom would take their place on that same patio.
This year with a great deal of planning and family coordination, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, she arrived. Dreams do come true!
Brother David and wife Sandy kicked off what we referred to as the “Dot Delivery” by flying the friendly skies down to Fort Myers Beach with her. Our concerns about air travel were totally unfounded. She loved it!
It didn’t take long for all three of them to acclimate to the sunny climes. Sandy went straight from the airport to the pool at Harbor House Inn, leaving it only long enough to hydrate and renourish. Dot was content to sit by the pool and read. All she wanted to do was “soak it all in.” We did manage to divert Sandy’s attention once the sun went down to play several rousing card games.
We spent a joyful untraditional Thanksgiving day just soaking up rays while the turkey stuffed with Gary’s freshly shucked oyster dressing baked in the community room oven. Gary headed off to bartend at the Nauti Turtle while I grabbed a chaise lounge next to Mom and read a book feeling guilty...a little. Honestly. Upon his return we kicked the party off with an untraditional appetizer of fried gator tail. Followed by our first ever candlelight Thanksgiving feast enjoyed……outside! We dined on the veranda, toasted to the successful Dot delivery, and felt oh so thankful.
Friday Gary wheeled Dot down Estero Boulevard to our favorite Beach Pub. We buried our feet in the powdery warm sand and people watched on the beach all afternoon. After dreaming of being with Mom on the beach, I sighed with contentment and happily checked that one off the list!
Sunday arrived and it was time to introduce David, Sandy, and Dot to The DEK. It’s a friendly biker bar that offers $1.00 drinks and $10.00 pizza and pitcher combo, perfect for a cruiser’s budget. Dream of Dot partying at the DEK….check!
We drove David and Sandy to the airport with heavy hearts Monday night. After packing so much fun into the six days we were all together it was hard to say goodbye. Although Gary and I were anxious for Mom to begin chapter two of the visit at her very own room with a view at Matanzas Inn, Unit 105.
The first day I became very anxious and overwhelmed at the prospect of taking care of Mom for the next ten days. It would be fair to say that I was a basket case! I wanted everything to be perfect for her and was so afraid that something would go wrong. Would she be ok alone through the night?? What if she falls?? Is she coughing too much?? Why hasn’t she needed oxygen?? Will she be able to get in and out of the shower?? What if the wheelchair breaks??
It took Gary’s loving concern and several stern “get a hold of yourself and calm down you’re being overprotective and smothering her and she is doing great and she’s having a wonderful time and she can do much more for herself than you think and everything is going to be fine” lectures to talk me back into a reasonable frame of mind. We eased into a comfortable routine and just as Gary predicted, all began to feel right in our world.
Mom loves her sleep and needs a lot of encouragement to rise and shine. Each morning after sunrise we would check on her and gently suggest that she start waking up to enjoy the Florida sunshine. Ever so slowly we moved through the morning rituals. Shower, wardrobe choice, pills, breathing treatments, and her favorite Florida oranges with blueberries and yogurt for breakfast on her patio. Then we livened things up by doing hair and makeup like a couple of teenagers preparing for a hot date. We shared many quiet hours just sitting quietly on the patio reading. We spent some days wheeling around Times Square, window shopping, or just gazing at the sparkling Gulf of Mexico. Lunch one day was sushi and mango margaritas, another day her and Gary’s favorite bologna and onions. Every time she exclaimed “I’m just soaking this all in” I silently rejoiced in her happiness. Mom marveled at the beauty of the hibiscus in bloom, and we marveled at how she was blooming herself right before our eyes.
Gary suggested Dot get off her butt and cook for us. “I can do that!” she claimed. She chopped and diced and served up some mouthwatering swiss steak. We needed an hors doerves for the annual Christmas boat parade. “How about your shrimp mousse?” I suggested. “Sounds great!” she agreed. I laid out the ingredients and told her to get on it! It was as delicious as ever. We invited our friends Dick and Ann for lunch. How about a shrimp salad? “Sure” she replied. I laid out the ingredients, told her to go for it, and we never tasted a shrimp salad that good. Sunday came, “Mom, what’s for breakfast?”. “Pancakes” she replied, and made us the most perfect silver dollar cakes you could envision.
Our wonderful friends Trace and Diane surprised us by arriving from the east coast while Dot was here. They got such a love fest going that Gary and I were almost jealous. She giggled like a school girl at all of Trace’s antics, and Diane doted on her like a long lost daughter. We decorated for Christmas with lights and a poinsetta, and played Christmas music while cooking and drinking and dining. I had dreamed of her making new friends but she adopted Trace and Diane as family.
Each day, as she was a bit more active, she grew stronger and stronger. We would notice her carefully moving around the room without her walker, and soon agreed to walk to the pool without it, as long as she had an arm to hold on to. When we suggested water aerobics, she smiled that Dot smile and said “I can do that!” And that she did! These were dreams I had not dared to dream, yet they came true!
Mom, you are a lovely, wonderful, funny, amazing woman. You made us and yourself so proud during this visit. I told you that I wanted to be just like you when I reach 84. Will it be possible to get that good in just thirty more years?
Your memory is not what it used to be, and neither is mine. But I know in my heart that neither one of us will ever forget our special times together, as you made all my dreams come true.
Whenever you are ready to make some more memories, just say the word. I know the perfect room with the perfect view.