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Reflections November 2012

Agelessly Yours

Water, Water, Not Anywhere!

By Karen White-Walker

"Why shouldn't they offer a discount to senior citizens?" someone asked. "Guess not too many older folks would be foolish enough to hike down that gorge, slip into a raft and battle the white caps, unless of course, they figured they were on their way out anyways."

Sometimes I swear our family forgets how old we really are, or pray we'll be if we can manage to come out alive from all the incredibly impractical activities that would make “normal” people cringe. And to think that I once thought it was a treacherous sight seeing two old-timers whizzing down our local speedway, Highway 18, on their roller blades. I only wish our family fared as well last weekend. At least those two old fogies were moving along — God bless them.

It started out as a simple rustic weekend when several family members rented a seven-bedroom country home on the fringes of Letchworth State Park in western New York. I never quite understood why they called it “The Grand Canyon of the East.”

Now I know.

"What could be better than all of us being together," we women spoke up.

"What could be worse?" moaned the men, but the one who didn't have a playful tone to his voice was my anti-social husband. I thought reverse psychology would work so I sweetly whispered, "Stay home, you horse's arse!"

Seldom does he listen to me, but son-of-a-gun if he didn't that time.

Sure I was disappointed and heartbroken, but one sourpuss can wipe a million smiles off a million clowns, so I was forced to fake a happy face for my family. You don't deliberately want to drag down your loved ones.

Seventeen of us fit swimmingly into the old farmhouse that could comfortably sleep 18 — must I remind you who was missing? It was the type of home that Cheaper By The Dozen or Life With Father could have been filmed in, but for three days and three nights, we relatives were the leading characters and, miraculously, none of our egos clashed.

But some people just aren't satisfied and they like to rock the boat — literally!

"Why don't we all go white-water rafting in the gorge? It's only 30 bucks per person, less 10% for senior citizens," this serenity spoiler piped up.

"Why shouldn't they offer a discount to senior citizens?" someone asked. "Guess not too many older folks would be foolish enough to hike down that gorge, slip into a raft and battle the white caps, unless of course, they figured they were on their way out anyways."

I hiked down the gorge, slipped into a kayak and not a raft because with a raft you need more water, and as for witnessing white caps I've seen more foam on my husband's beer collar. Not only were there 17 of our crew, but also other suckers who shelled out 30 bucks, less 10% for those on Medicare, who were exploited too. I mean those guides knew that due to this summer's drought there wouldn't be enough water in that gorge to fill a baby's bathtub and yet, they took our money. But then we, the paying customers, should have put two and two together, and it's so easy to blame others for our stupidity, wouldn't you agree?

The minute we put over 110 pounds into the kayak, our rear-ends started dragging the riverbed — and that was the good part. Try dodging huge rocks, failing miserably, and then praying that the boulders overhead would drop onto your head. Sure I highly value life, but not mine when you're paddling for hours on dry dock. Never had my insides been so exhausted and my outside so achy. Two-and-a-half hours into our odyssey and I don't know where I got the energy to ask one of our guides, who considered himself human, if we were halfway through this hellhole.

"Ask me in about 15 minutes," he ordered, and that probably meant that would be the halfway mark. He doled out one sugar cookie and about an ounce of water from a cooler to everyone. In an attempt to raise the water level my sister Mary and I, in almost a state of delirium, tossed the liquid into the river. With that wrist action we had expended what little life was left in us. My niece, Mary's daughter, had an impossible decision to make, one of a lesser sound mind and body could never make. You see she had a two- seater kayak that was capable of dubbing as a lifeboat, but whose life was she going to make more bearable for the last two-and-a-half hours? For once in my life I was happy that I'm not as physically fit as my sister, five years her senior and at the moment, sporting a purple face due to blood probably gushing to the brain.

"Get into my boat, auntie," she ordered, "I don't want to lose you."

"But your mother?"

"She doesn't look like she's in need of the Last Rites, and I got my endurance from her, so she'll be fine. But I'm really anxious as to how you're both going to tackle the steep climb up the gorge to flat land."

That lousy guide, Mr. Big Ears, who was still munching on cookies, the hog, called out to us, "Surprise, surprise! There will be a vehicle waiting at the base of the hill to transport all of us."

"What, an ambulance?" somebody shouted back.

It was a rickety, filthy, old, former school bus, good enough for us, but too good for those guides who exploited us for our money, and the one who suggested that we go white-water rafting in the first place. But one thing I've learned about aging gracefully — I guess I'm not a very good candidate for it, but I survived an ordeal that maybe someone without the uplifting, non-complaining disposition wouldn't have. Oh, and did I mention that incredible quality of humbleness as one ages?


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