"We'll just buy something to eat while we're on the road," my mom said.
My mom is all about convenience in travel. She doesn't understand why I sometimes prefer to drive the eight-ish hours when we could easily fly back to Pennsylvania. (It's often the same amount of time spent traveling.) She could sleep on a plane, but she stays awake in the car while drive. I'm still that 16 year old who once told her to "please! shut! up!" when I first got my permit.
In my defense, I was 16.
And I said please.
Also, she was talking a lot.
Plus! I am a great driver.
I always counter her argument for convenience the same way. I make a case for how simple it is to do things the other way, and remind her that my husband, Brian, and I are road trip savants. We make playlists, we pack lunches, we load the car the night before, and program the GPS. Our cooler contains enough water to allow us to survive in the desert for about a month. We prefer to stop only at state-run rest stops because the chance of human interaction (which always slows down travel) is much lower. Not to discourage the rest of you, but we're the best.
"No, that will slow us down. I'll pack something we can eat in the car," I offered.
My mom begrudgingly agreed. I already talked her down from booking a flight, so I'm pretty sure this was her version of giving up.
We loaded the car before the sun came up, and we made the trek to Pennsylvania to throw a surprise 90th birthday party for my grandmother, Helen. The week before, we put a flyer in the local paper inviting the town to celebrate with us, and no one in her small town mentioned it to her. Everyone kept it a secret, and my grandmother cried when she realized we were all there for her.
She might still be a little mad at us for telling her whole town she's 90, but I think she'll get over it.
Her gift is a spur-of-the-moment weeklong vacation with all of us... Which might seem like more of a punishment that a present. When we told her about the vacation she said, "I don't know if I have time to go away for a whole week. I have things to do."
You see, Helen is the kind of "old" I want to be. At 81, she went out to California and spent time kayaking with her daughter. This summer, she painted her house; stubbornly accepting a small amount of help from her neighbor. She only stopped mowing the lawn of the insurance company next door a few years ago. She holds so many yard sales, selling things for her friends and relatives, that her town passed a law expressly stating how many yard sales a citizen is allowed to have in a year.
She gets around this by telling us which of her yard sales actually "count" in her tally.
For the most part, we all let my grandmother do her own thing. Her neighbor is on our side; she keeps little tallies on Helen's escapades, and reports back to us when she does crazy things like paint her house. This is helpful because she leads a more active social life than all of us, and we can never get her on the phone.
I think that's the kind of retirement I'm working toward. Everyone just agreeing to leave me alone until the day I (may or may not) become a danger to myself. I'm looking forward to being unavailable by phone, and also running a (possibly multi-million dollar) yard sale scheme under the nose of the local government.