Part One: 2019-2020
As I approached the 75th Anniversary of my birth that I’d have to face on February 22, 2019, I decided that I wanted to do something different than have a pitiful party. I decided to sponsor a special vacation for our family, a week on North Carolina’s Outer Banks (OBX).
Mary Ann and I had visited this unique treasure once before, for two nights in early May of 2000. We were on our first retirement journey, a car trip down the Atlantic Coast from Ocean City, Maryland to Savannah, Georgia. We stayed in a small motel in Kitty Hawk and visited the site of Wright Brothers first flight and the dunes in Kill Devil Hills.
This time I wanted to rent a house. I had only two criteria’s, it had to be big enough to accommodate our three families comfortably and it had to be up against the dunes with direct access to the beach. The second, an extravagance, was most important to me. Beth found our house in Nags Head and booked it from Saturday, July 13 to Saturday, July 20.
We crossed the Bridge over Currituck Sound in a monsoon, rain so intense that we could only stay on the roadway by watching the tail lights of the car in front of us. We loved the house. Mary Ann and I enjoyed a view of the ocean from our third story nest, especially a mid-week hurricane that passed us harmlessly about 75 miles out to sea. No rain, mild wind, but an angry Atlantic churned up by its passing. Cace shared our large sleeping quarters as he was the odd-man out with his two older cousins, brothers Drew and Matt.
Mary Ann and I took Cace, Marlowe and Samantha south to Hatteras to see the National Seashore, the lighthouse and to have lunch. Our house was a, “A seven iron shot away from Jennettes Pier,” as Michael put it. We ate at a restaurant located on the pier several times. When Matt wore a tank top to our first meal, that turned out to be a “Howdy Doody don’t do,” a waiter gave him a tee bearing the name of the restaurant; all was well.
We had a great time and, in the words my old colleague from Chicago, Jim Hagalow, “We broke even, everybody was still talking to each other.
Mary Ann decided that we would repeat our vacation in 2020 to celebrate her 75th birthday, but when we called the rental office, an agent explained that our house was already taken. She offered us an alternative week, but we weren’t prepared to act.
Our two children and their spouses informed us that they wished to return in 2020 earlier in July, preferably the week of Independence Day. The 4th would fall on a Saturday, so this became our proposed arrival day. Beth, heroically once again turned to the task of finding us a vacation house. Again, success, Beth found a big house behind the dunes in the town of Duck, about 18 miles north of Nags Head. The exterior and interior photographs looked swell and I signed the contract. Again, I declined to buy hurricane insurance, but, in the fall of 2019, we were all clueless how COVID would play havoc with our very sense of being. (Memo to file: Did we even know what a pandemic was in the summer of 2019?)
True, OBX was not on our radar when the virus blindsided us in March of 2020, separated us from each other by quarantine and condemned us to listen and watch daily doom and gloom during our lock down. As we flipped the calendar from March to April and then from April to May, I could see glimpses of blue sky, despite the gloom and doom.
OBX is a major mid-Atlantic tourist destination and as Memorial Day began to draw closer and closer, I tracked, the pronouncements of the local North Carolina medical authorities. Sure enough, they lifted obstacles, restrictions and prohibitions; OBX was opened to outsiders -OBX returned to business as usual…Hallelujah…” Let us rejoice and be glad!”
Silly me, everybody in our family, from the youngest to me were monitoring the same thing: “Please God, make this happen.”
Still, we knew we had to set rules, F..king rules. We had to shop every day, but we avoided restaurants at all costs. We did get take-outs, but we also relied on meals we brought from home.
I do believe that COVID did reduce the volume of traffic we encountered heading south on the Delmarva Peninsula. Perhaps, the ocean resorts in Delaware and Maryland were more restrictive, though I doubt it. We did well until we crossed the bridge over the sound. Instead of continuing south on that four-lane highway south to Nags Head, our GPS directed us onto a
two-lane road, north to Duck.
We were last to arrive. But, of course, they are young and we are old and we must deal with issues they have yet to encounter. On this day, we got lucky. The traffic that locked them in for over an hour melted away allowing us to join them at the house in a timely manner.
We brought Sicilian pizza, for dinner. Dinner was so much more than pizza. It was an affirmation, a thanksgiving and a celebration of survival, a renewal and, most importantly, a reunion of family. We were free of COVID, Thank GOD, Thank GOD of COVID, at last.
(To be continued…)