Writing Under Extreme Duress

Okay, not extreme duress, but a heightened degree of tension.

The 49ers are playing the Dallas Cowboys in my family room (huddling not six feet from my couch), it’s an important game, and there is an audience of three cheering on the local team. As you can imagine, there is a lot of commotion. My mother-in-law and husband are heavily invested and have exuberant responses to just about every play, while my father-in-law is much lower-key, and I would include myself in that group. Okay, the truth? 

I’m just not that into it, and I realize this is a deplorable attitude, but I’m sort of sick of games that involve balls, running, and keeping score. And besides, from just about every room in the house, I’m keenly aware of what’s going on with the game. 

So instead of being glued to the television, I’m putzing around, finishing up my packing, watering thirsty plants, and manically organizing our daily clutter. I’m enamored with this house, and I will miss her while we are away. I love the way the morning sun slants into the dining room from the patio. It’s mystical, and no, this is not the wine-talking. I like to stand barefoot in the center of those transcendent rays, coffee in hand, absorbing the warmth of the sunkissed hardwood floors on my feet. It’s scrumptious. 

Am I the only one who does this? I didn’t think so.

Tomorrow we’re heading to Portugal to visit my son Tony and celebrate his thirty-second birthday. As a bonus, we get to spend time with his significant other, Thalita. I’m so excited I can barely focus on packing, deciding which cords I’ll need for charging my various devices, and which shoes will be the least destructive to my feet, yet remain fashionable. Oh, and because it’s a different country, I’ll need one of those doohickies so I can plug in my devices! Details…all I want to do is lay my eyes on my boy and hold him in my arms. 

I’m sure he feels much the same.

As soon as Larry and I announce to the family that we have booked tickets to Portugal, my oldest daughter Julie decides to tag along, claiming she’s never been to Portugal, and if we’re renting a beach house in Prede, she wants a room with a view of the ocean. Kind of saucy.

This is what happens when you over-procreate.

Then, of course, when her sister gets wind of our impromptu outing, she also wants a room with a view. Her own, preferably. So now there will be four of us traveling to Portugal to celebrate Tony, experience the charms of Lisbon, and spend all of Larry’s retirement money on fancy dinners! 

I can’t tell you how much I miss being together as a family (but I’ll try), when all of us are in the same zip code, and we have the opportunity to sit with each other, listening for the things not being said, but insinuated. You know what I mean? It’s referred to as reading between the lines. You can’t decode such innuendos on Zoom calls or through a text message. 

I like sharing a delicious meal together, hunkered around the same table, shoulder to shoulder. This is how we animate our souls. Okay, this is how my soul is animated. I know, I lean toward the dramatic, deal. I believe it’s in the breaking of the bread that we recognize each other. The true selves that we normally mask with personality and ego come out to play. I miss being able to argue about inconsequential things, to laugh hysterically over an exaggerated story we’ve all heard a million times, and then argue over who’s doing the dishes. 

I like taking in the majestic views of the Atlantic ocean at sunrise and lounging over multiple cups of coffee while coordinating our plans for the day, incorporating our divergent agendas. It is so rare when we are all together, even a majority of us, but when we manage it, something extraordinary happens, we revert to our customary roles when we were all living under the same roof as a family. 

It’s comical, revelatory, and I realize I’ve missed us.

The last time all of us were together was Larry’s retirement dinner, celebrated in September. And when I say I miss us, that includes my sons-in-law, Tim and Nic, along with Thalita and all the grandkids. Big families mean big fun and hardly any drama! Bahaha

The flight to Portugal, direct from San Francisco, takes eleven and a half hours. I’ll just be honest, unless you’re in first class, with a pod of your own to sleep horizontally, it’s brutal. I don’t sleep well under the best of circumstances, but sitting in a stiff chair, vying for elbow space, with Larry blocking my access to the bathroom is not ideal. I’m just keeping my eye on the ball, seeing Tony is the goal, and I will vocally deal with the requisite discomfort. It’s not like we’re traveling by horse and buggy. It’s business class, we have extended legroom, and they actually serve us dinner. After dinner we never saw a stewardess for the rest of the night. I think they were hosting a poker game in the cargo space. All I know, is when I finally entered into a deep rem sleep, they opened all the shades, served me a shot of weak coffee, with a slice of ham shoved between two enormous pieces of bread. Obviously, the law of metaphor is working here, and I’m the ham. 

Landing in Portugal is a breeze compared to what I was imagining. There were no lines at the customs department and our bags were waiting for us when we got to the baggage claim. I have to report, there was a small mix-up between Tony and Larry on the exact point of rendevous, and this had Larry spastically racing around the airport looking for our son. 

I’m just an exhausted piece of ham in need of sleep, but I’m savvy enough to stay twenty feet behind him as he tries to get his bearings, knocking people over in the process as he’s glued to his phone as if it’s a tracking device. 

He keeps saying, “sorry, sorry,” to these annoyed travelers.

Could this be why Americans are referred to as ugly?

This is when a person of interest catches my eye. He’s sitting at a coffee shop. I inch forward as if the paparazzi for the National Inquirer, trying to keep my cover. I need to get a closer look at this handsome young man in a baseball cap, focused intently on his computer, with his back to me. I don’t want to be rude, but I have a feeling that I gave birth to this person, and suddenly I scream, “Tony!”

Most people around me stop dead in their tracks and turn to witness the unexpected source of commotion. It’s not highly recommended for foreigners to scream in the middle of the airport. It’s alarming, to say the least. And then it happens, he rises from his chair, and I pull him into my arms. He relents and lets me overhug for a while.

And this is when I remember Larry is still headed outside, oblivious that his wife has found her treasure.

I yell, “Larry, I found him,” as if I just encountered the Holy Grail!

I’m Living in Portugal, obsessed with my kid, so I have no time to write and read this week. Miss you all. 


Leave a Comment

  1. The sweetness of that ignition, every fiber of your being just brimming with delight at the sight of your beautiful boy–you describe this so well that I’m feeling it myself. I hope you guys (yes, of course including Larry) enjoy every minute. I also love you naming that awareness of the warmth and cherishing of your home–I was going to say too bad this can’t be bottled but it already is, sitting there in your own tender heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mary Ellen, oh how I’ve missed you and the Gecko’s! We enjoyed our time in Portugal, I cherished every minute with Tony and Thalita, it was ever so hard to leave. I can’t remember laughing so much, walking so much, or eating so much in quite some time. Lots of memories to cherish and oh how I already miss being able to walk down the street and enjoy a cup of coffee with those two. It was heaven. Hugs, C


    1. I know, technology is not my friend, I was trying to fix a mistake and it deleted the entire blog. Sorry about that! Thanks for commenting! This platform is not made for senior citizens! Hugs, C


  2. What a completely delightful post. First, I am with you on the intensity of sports consumption. I am just not into it all anymore. I am envious of your trip to Portugal (well not the trip but the destination) as my memories of our trip there are some of my best. We visited Lisbon, Peniche, Sintra, Fatima, and others. I remember the people being very kind and welcoming and the food and scenery so wonderful. I teared up a little when you recognized your son. Have a wonderful time, Cheryl!


  3. I love the descriptions of all being together again, “I believe it’s in the breaking of the bread that we recognize each other. The true selves that we’ve carefully masked with personality and ego. ” Beautiful, Cheryl! Hope you have a wonderful trip!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cheryl, Your children and their spouses and their girl friend, your grand children, and your husband should never have to wonder if they were loved! You’re an amazing friend, mother, grandma and wife and they’re all so lucky to have YOU. I know all of them would feel the same way – ‘I’ll never find another you” Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, Debbie, you are so sweet! I’m the lucky one to have all of them to love and you and Ron as my beloved neighbors! We are ever so grateful to have bought the house next to you over thirty years ago! My how time flies. Hugs, C


  5. Hi Cheryl,
    What a brutal weekend. Hopefully you were in Portugal for the disastrous 49ers vs Eagles game. Imagine waiting all weekend for the big game, cracking open 3 cold ones, and then POOF! The debacle is on. Deep depression here. My son Tyler and I had the blues for at least 4 days. How can we carry on?
    I have been enjoying your writing and am looking forward to February 23rd. When I read about your fun adventures during retirement, it makes me want to join the ranks of the retired. I keep going over the numbers, and I think I can do it, but there are too many unknowns (like year of death, how much and how long they will keep printing money, etc.) When I finally get the courage, I will take the plunge and join you in the ranks of the retired.
    Your trip sounds like it is and will be a blast. The true joy of it will be time spent with your clan. Cherish these times. They are fleeting.
    Lastly, you struck a chord with me on the Seekers song. One of my all-time favorites and it fits. I am still mourning Judith Durham’s passing.
    In their honor, I will link another one of my favorites, and of course it doesn’t fit (oh well, that is why I wait a while to post, so no one else will read it.) It is however, a brilliant combination of Beethoven’s 9th, with special credit to Friedrich Schiller, along with the Frank L Baum’s Wizard of Oz (kind of inspires me to a tear of joy.)

    “Ruby Roses never fade.”
    What a voice.
    PS Looking forward to visiting you all. Things are a bit chaotic right now. I suspect it will be after I bless the rains. Maybe in late summer or early fall if that is possible.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Okay, the next thing I know they invited us to join them at the local pizza bar! Bahaha, I’m finally home and feeling not only the wine but the jet-lag/ I wanted to respond tonight (even though Larry is snoring next to me) because I believe the exhaustion produces a more ingenious response. 1. The game was a complete disappointment, more so for Larry and Tony than for me. 2. I like playing pool even when I loose. 3. Retirement rocks! I’m not kidding, we’re thinking about taking a trip to the Hawaiian Islands in a few months. Care to join us? 4. There is no down time, we’re never bored, in fact, there is not enough time in the day to complete all our tasks 5. Our time together as a family was fantastic, stored up some great memories, and can’t wait to go back and visit those two again. Portugal is a magical country and I understand the appeal. We’re definitely walking the Camino Lisbon in 2024, hope you can join us. Miss you guys. Much love, Cheryl xxoo


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