Two to Go

This entry is part 4 of 25 in the series Cruising With the Mothers

“…the ambulance came and the police came and your mother went to the hospital with them and I locked up the house and made sure the cat was in and that he had food and water and…”

“Okay,” I said. “Slow down. Let’s take it from the top.”

There wasn’t a lot of information available that hadn’t come out in the initial torrent, so I thanked Pat and hung up. I knew dad didn’t sound well on the phone – I guess this is one area where the telephone trumps email in communicative ability. I called my parents’ house and left a message for my mother to call as soon as she got home. It has always been my parents’ tendency to keep others – especially their children – from sharing in the woeful times. I knew my phone message would expose Pat as the traitor, but if not for her call I’m sure we would have remained in the dark.

My mother called around midnight. The news was not good, and it sounded like we were in it for the long haul.

“Who told you? It must have been Pat. I told her not to bother you with this,” my mother said.

“Why didn’t you say something earlier?” I asked.

“Why should I drag you into something that you can’t do anything about?”

I chose not to press the issue. My father remained hospitalized through the rest of January and all of February. We made many trips to Connecticut to help out, subtly negating my mother’s assertion that we “couldn’t do anything about it.”

Thoughts of the cruise evaporated during this period. I’d previously asked the charter operator for the deadline for adding another passenger to the booking, and received an answer – February 17. This seemed arbitrary to me, but it wasn’t important in the scheme of things.

In mid-March, my father was discharged from the hospital and moved to a nursing home/rehabilitation center. He seemed marginally better, but we all assumed that he would remain there indefinitely.

After a Sunday visit at the facility, my mother surprised me by saying, “You know, I think I would like to go on that cruise.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yeah. What the heck,” she said. “I need a break.”

The next day, I wrote a plea to the cruise operator. Their response was a relief. “No problem.” I took care of the necessary details, one of which was to buy travel insurance. We’ve always purchased it, and thankfully have never needed it. In the case of this trip, though, it seemed like a particularly wise investment.

Six weeks later, my father completed a miraculous recovery and was discharged. He required some continuing rehab, but this was performed in the comfort of home and quickly became unnecessary. We were all completely amazed.

Unburdened, I finally returned to thinking about the cruise. A few people were beginning to ask questions on the APHC forum, and I suggested to the webmaster that she create a new section specifically for the cruise. This was done in a matter of hours.

If you aren’t familiar with the characters portrayed in Mr. Keillor’s stories, I should probably fill you in. These imaginary people are Minnesotans who live a simple rural life, are extremely reserved, stoic, and wary of hedonistic pleasures and modern ways. Although these characters get themselves into many humorous situations, some of them are just plain dark…

The first indication I had that such people might actually exist came late one night. A regular APHC forum poster, one who had pooh-poohed the cruise as immoral excess, began to post quotations from the D. H. Lawrence poem, The Ship of Death. I laugh my way through most horror films, but I have to admit that this episode “creeped me out.” The posts were blessedly removed and the poster was sent for therapy.

The second indication that the stereotypes had a pretty firm basis came when I started an actual “Roll Call” thread on the board. It went like this:

It is traditional for Internet-age cruisers to conduct a ‘roll call’ to make introductions. Here goes…

My party consists of me, Richard (aka chesterh), and my wife of 28 years, Kris. I am an aging computer geek, and Kris teaches chemistry and biology in our local high school (Londonderry, NH). We took our first cruise in 2002, and were unexpectedly delighted with the experience.

Joining us will be our mothers: Pat, of York, ME (Kris’s mother) and Laura, of Newington, Ct., will both be on their first-ever cruise. This should be interesting.

I started a ‘thread’ about the cruise back in December. It didn’t make it to this new discussion area, but you might want to spend a few minutes reviewing it for various links to helpful information. Click here for ‘The Cruise’.

Your turn…

That post got me the following replies:

chesterh, I’m suspicious. Is it really customary for internet-aged cruisers to get so chummy before hand? I’m sure it’ll make for some wide eyes when we actually meet one another on the boat…

Reply (4 days later):
Well, at the rate this thread is blossoming, I can see that idea might not work here.

I’m just personally cautious about putting personal identity information about myself on the internet and I’m waiting to get some sort of package with the itinerary and offerings before I rev up. Plus, not everybody who chats here is going and some may not want to appear to be rubbing it in for the ones that want to and aren’t. It’s that us/they thing. It’s a monster. People with PHC in their blood are sensitive to it.

…you’re right about not wanting to “rub” it in. I feel that way, too.

“Wow,” I thought. “What have I gotten us in to?” I knew it was going to be tough going, but this was getting ridiculous. I carefully considered my response:

Hmmm…I certainly have no desire to ‘rub it in’. If a cruise roll call is too sensitive a topic for the PHC boards, I do have another roll call going on CruiseCritic, a site with 130,000 members who discuss cruising with complete abandon. (Click Here)

I thought it might be nice to get to ‘know’ each other a bit before the cruise. Some of the regulars on the Chatterbox board are already quite familiar with each other, but I think a lot of first-timers will be showing up looking for information. This thread should function as an ice-breaker.

I have previously invited people to my personal website ( to read some travelogues I’ve written about cruising. Chapter 50 in the series will be posted tomorrow (significant – to me, at least – because I will simultaneously turn 50). The stories are pretty revealing, so if someone wanted to track me down and do harm, I suppose it would be pretty easy. But, I’m determined to have a little fun before I go and my strategy will include taking an occasional cruise and writing about it. I’ll keep my social security number to myself, though…

The tradition of the ‘roll call’ usually culminates in a sail-away gathering among the participants. We meet at a venue that serves spirits, examine each other’s name tags, have a drink or two and talk about our pending adventure as the ship sets sail. See you there?

All the best,

I suppose I should have expected what happened next…

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