Retire Mechanical engineer. Student at California State university Channel Island studiyingAbout Me

July 5, 2016

Family Reunion Cruise

After marrying the woman I love, who is my soul-mate, many years ago, we now anticipate and finish each other’s thoughts and sentences. My wife knew I could not say no to our family reunion cruise to Bermuda. I had not seen the grandkids for a couple of years. Yes, we Face-timed on birthdays and holidays, but it is not the same. Of course I said okay, even though NewYork and Bermuda are not exactly on my bucket list of things to do.

Our air travel from LAX to JFK was pleasant, and thankfully without any issues. After collecting our luggage we approach the winding line for taxis. We were approached by a private individual who offered to drive us, but we refused, simply saying we always take the yellow taxi, which have set fees. No telling if these independents are even licensed, or how much we would actually end up paying.

Our taxi driver was quite the conversationalist and made the ride enjoyable. We were dropped off at The Jewel right across from Rockefeller Center. With a corner room, we had an awesome view. I did take some pictures and the fantasy of writing came to mind, but I will put that aside for now.

My stepdaughter, Nicki, texted my wife with instructions for the dinner schedule that evening. We leisurely walked the five blocks to the National Restaurant at The Benjamin, where there were hellos and hugs all around. There were ten of us for dinner- my wife, Nancy, and I, Nicki, our son-in-law Robert, and grandsons Orion and Forest, Jim (the patriarch of the Buckley family) and Marty Buckley, and their daughter Laura and her companion, Greg.

Photographs were taken with i-phones and cameras, cell numbers and e-mail address were exchanged and we finally settled down to a delicious, unhurried family dinner. After coffee and desert, I went over to Jim and asked what I owed for our share of the bill (I new it had to be quite high as this was a premier New York restaurant).“Don’t worry, ” Jim said, “It’s all taken care of.” I felt uncomfortable, as I am not used to someone paying my way, especially in pricy Manhattan.

The next day, our embarkation was a breeze. Because my wife uses a cane for balance, as we approached check-in, we were escorted to a separate line and sped through all the necessary procedures to board. We found our stateroom, dubbed a min-suite, and were very happy with the accommodations which included a very large bathroom with double sink, queen-size bed, sofa, lots of storage and nice size balcony.

We started exploring the ship and ended up on deck 15 where the Garden cafe is located. There we connected Nicki, Robert and the boys and enjoyed a sit down lunch with them. Later, after the mandatory drill, we enjoyed the sail-away from our balcony. I don’t know about others, but I no longer am interested in taking scenery pictures.

But, of course my wife is. She captured Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and the Veranzanno Bridge as we sailed down the Hudson River. Since I have given up taking pictures on our trips, she lets me use her pictures on my blog. I must say, this is our fifth cruise. We’ve done Alaska both north and southbound, the Caribbean and my favorite, a 14-day transatlantic cruise from Miami to the Azores, Lisbon, Cadiz, Rock of Gibraltar and Malaga on the Celebrity Equinox.

Even so, for some reason I have lost interest in cruise vacations, but will try to enjoy this as it is all about family and reuniting with our grandkids. Our first night’s dinner was with the entire family, 19 in all, including Jim’s sister, nieces, nephews and cousins, none of whom we had ever met. I was relieved to know it was casual dress, as I no longer enjoy donning suits or formal wear. This just might turn out to be alright!

Jim had reserved two tables in the Manhattan Room and as we all gathered, ready to be seated, I approached him and said, “Hi, Jim, shake hands with me.” He wasn't sure what was happening, but obliged. As soon as our hands locked together, Jim tried to pull his hand away, because I had in my hand a number of twenty-dollar bills to pay for our dinner the previous evening. “Oh, no, no, no.” I said, “Yes, yes, yes, Jim. This is for our dinner that you took care of last night.”

Mr. James Buckley retired from Coca Cola, where he was VP of Marketing. He is definitely an expert in marketing, as he started his own travel company, Island Travel, in Hilton Head Island and has grown it into a very successful business. Jim and Marty have travelled both poles of the earth and then some. He has been written up in travel magazines for his outstanding travel arrangements.

During dinner, I asked Jim about his upcoming travel plans. He mentioned one of the upcoming trips is a 138 day around-the-world cruise. I did not want to guess what the cost for one person is. I have to say, I did enjoy this dinner, the sense of family, the camaraderie, the excellent food and service by the waiters, made it all came together.

The next day, Nancy and I joined Nicki and the boys by the pool, relaxing and reading, then I joined Robert and the boys for lunch. Returning to our cabin, my wife decided to take an afternoon nap. Neither of us had slept well the night before, but I was too restless to try to nap. I went up to deck 15 to the Garden Cafe for something to eat. On my way out I ran into Robert and the boys and approached their table.

Robert said, “Ben I have some bad news for you.” I froze and couldn’t find any words to say. I waited for him to tell me what the bad news was. “Nicky fell and broke her ankle.” Even when he said it, I couldn’t quite process it. In an instant I lost being myself, a million things ran through my head.

“How did that happen?” was all I could whisper. “She was bringing food back from the buffet. She hit a wet spot on the floor, slipped and fell, twisting and breaking bones as she went down.  It’s her left ankle, and they say it’s a clean break. She’s in the ship’s hospital on 5.” My next thought was to get back to our cabin and let my wife know.

As soon as we were allowed to visit Nicki, we were taken into her room. We hugged and kissed her and her very first comment was, “Mom, I’m okay, really. Don’t freak out. It’s not life and death. Ben broke his ankle, right?” She was more concerned about her mother and her boys having a good time. We could tell she was in pain, and just then her nurse came in and gave her another shot of morphine, making her sleepy. We kissed her goodby and quietly said goodnight.

My personal opinion of Nicki is that she is an extremely sensitive woman. A brilliant girl, her mind runs through a million things all at the same time. Nancy always says, “There is a reason for everything.” I hate to say she broke her ankle, but she needed to slow down a bit. Two kids and a husband to look after; on top of that, a full-time teaching position at a private school; maybe it was all too much for her. It is not because her husband was making her do too much, but rather because of her high standards and being a perfectionist in everything she does.

Now Robert has his hands full. It is hard enough to manage two kids; taking them to see things and explore the ship, but now he had a wife who needed to be taken care as well. Luckily, on Tuesday, between his sister Laura, Jim, Marty and my wife, the boys were kept busy and happy.

For Robert, there was insurance to file, and arrangements for an ambulance to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital in Hamilton. He had a lot to be concerned about. After all, we were not back in the US. Bermuda is a foreign country, part of the European Union.

On Wednesday, as soon as we were docked in Bermuda, Nancy went down to Nicki and would be riding with her in the ambulance to the hospital. It was another 12 hours before I saw my wife again and knew what had transpired during that long, stressful day. Over dinner at O’Sheehans, my wife told me of her day.

During the ambulance ride, EMT Veronica and Robert rode with Nicki in the back, while Nancy sat up front with EMT Curtis. Curtis, astute at how visibly upset my wife was, asked her if she had ever been to Bermuda before. My wife has been many times, and once knowing that, Curtis began asking her what she remembered. They talked about different hotels, things that have changed, and gave her a running commentary of the scenery during the 45-minute ride to the hospital.

Once at the hospital, Nicki was taken into an ER room, where various nurses and doctors kept checking on her, taking vitals and asking all the pertinent questions that needed to be answered,  and then took her down for x-rays. Robert had pages of paperwork to fill out. Finally the orthopedic surgeon, Dr. William Peckett arrived, introduced himself, gave his opinion on what needed to be done, all with typical British pragmatism.

She needed immediate surgery to set her bones (all three in her left ankle were broken) and a plate and pins would be used to stabilize the ankle. He assured her that this was the most common kind of break and that she should heal well. Surgery was scheduled for 3:30pm and my wife and Robert were taken into a waiting room. 

After two hours, Nancy and Robert were able to visit Nicki in the recovery room. She was smiling, but groggy from meds. Dr. Peckett came in to check on her, very pleased with the outcome of the surgery. Another two hours passed before Nicki was taken up to her room. When my wife and Robert walked in, Nicki was in tears because the patient kitchen had closed for the evening, there was no food for her and she was very hungry.

I think at this point is was shear exhaustion, as well as being hungry, that finally caught up to her. Robert went out to find dinner for Nicki, while my wife sat with her and helped her organize her things for overnight. After eating, she felt much better, and started to get sleepy. It wasn’t until after 8pm that evening that my wife and Robert returned to the ship.

On Thursday, Nancy and I had breakfast at the Uptown Grill, did some reading in the library, lunched at O’Sheehan’s and then enjoyed our glass bottom boat tour and snorkel trip. After dinner at Savor (the best restaurant on the ship), Robert called to let us know Nicki was back on the ship. Nancy went down and spent a few moments with her, just relieved to know she was back and doing well.

Friday, our last day in Bermuda, we spent walking around the Dockyard Mall and had brunch at an internet cafe, trying to catch up with e-mails and let friends and family know all that had transpired. After returning to the ship, my wife went up to the promenade on deck 8 and sat with Nicki while she took a nap. Sometimes a daughter, no matter what age, just needs to have her mother near.

That night, Jim had arranged a cocktail party for all of us at Bliss. As Robert wheeled Nicki in, there was applause and laughter and seeing her smiling face. More pictures, more laughter, too many cocktails and it was off to have our group picture taken on the glass stairs under the incredible chandelier in the atrium. Dinner again at the Manhattan Room. This evening all the men sat at one table and all the women at the other.

Jim made me sit at the head of the table, and had his distant cousin, David, sit to one side of me. What an interesting man. David is a retired policeman, and now a Deputy Sheriff in Cleveland, Ohio. I had been warned by his lady companion, Tina, that David would talk my ears off. Of course, what Tina and others don’t know is that writers listen, especially if someone is as interesting as Deputy Sheriff David.

I was actually having a great time. Occasionally I would ask David pertinent questions regarding different topics. He would go on and tell me the business of the county he works for. One of his responsibilities is to collect and burn all the drugs that elderly people have and don’t use anymore. I did not know that one can’t dispose of prescription drugs into the garbage because it gets into the water table and pollutes our drinking water.

He told me how proud he is of his daughter’s success on the carrier, Gerald F. Ford. Her duties are in the engine department which is powered by nuclear energy. I was quite interested as I am a mechanical engineer myself and have worked on nuclear power plants in the US. I explained how nuclear power works, basically nuclear power heats up water and turns it into steam, then steam turns the shaft and the propeller of the ship.

After dinner I asked Tina if she would write down everyone’s names because I wanted to remember who everyone was. Although I must admit I still can’t figure out who is who, I still enjoyed meeting and talking to this great extended family 

Our last day on the cruise, Nancy and I literally ate our way through all the other restaurants we had not previously tried. I still do not have a very good impression of the food in the Garden Cafe buffet. Frankly speaking, I could not find avocados. And, can you believe there was no roast beef in the buffet?

Now, when we were on the Celebrity Equinox for our transatlantic crossing, we could find anything and everything to eat. So, I told Nancy I didn’t want to eat at the buffet. Her reply was, “No worries. Let’s just try all the ones we haven’t been to. And that we did, and wallah, everything was great.

We docked early on Sunday morning and our disembarkation was smoother than I had thought possible, especially for New York. Then reality hit. At La Guardia, flight after flight departed without us. Finally, thanks to Nancy’s creative scheduling we were able to get on the last flight to Knoxville,Tennessee, where we stayed for the night and then on the first flight to Atlanta the next morning.

From Atlanta, there were no issues to Pensacola. That afternoon, I did some grocery shopping, while Nancy rested. For the rest of the week, it was checking off things from the cottage to-do list and plenty of beach time. Nancy, of course, put much of this on Facebook. I started my food schedule to lower my blood sugar levels and was amazed that from an average of 124-137, I have already come down to 103-109.

I am exploring local colleges and other possible job opportunities here in northwest Florida. Our long range plan is once I finish my degree at Cal State, we plan to move back to the cottage. I think I am going to like the sugary-white beaches of the Panhandle. Perhaps even get a teaching job at Pensacola State College.

Who knows what the future has in store for us!