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Yesterday Brenda and I spent the day on Siesta Key enjoying the warm Florida sunshine. When we stepped out of the truck and walked to the beach chairs, we chuckled as both of us started coughing at about the same time. Not giving it another thought, we rested, read and talked, we’d occasionally sneeze or cough and noted that there were others around us that were coughing and sneezing too. After a couple hours I walked out to the water and saw fish, dead fish, all along the tide line as far up and down the beach as I could see. Puzzled, I asked a passerby what this was about. “Red Tide” she replied, “I think that’s what it is”. Not having a lot of interest in walking the beach alongside dead fish I turned and headed back to the chair. Naturally occurring algae is what “the Google” told me Red Tide was. Apparently it’s an annual “thing” and it causes respiratory issues in the human species of which I claim to be a part of. Only being a visitor to the sunshine state, I had never before heard of Red Tide, the invisible culprit of the tickle in my throat. But there you go, besides watching the peaceful transition of power from Obama to Trump, I read Dr. Bob’s new book and learned about Red Tide.

Today is a new day and we’ll head to the beach again and I’m hoping that the effects of the Red Tide will be less than yesterday but right now I’m doing what I pretty much do every morning when I’m in Sarasota…I sit at the Starbucks at the corner of Beneva and Bee Ridge doing a little work, reading, writing, catching up on social media and watching people. (This is the rhythm that Brenda and I have adopted to accommodate our “opposites attract” sleeping patterns.) I usually find a table along the east wall, facing the soft seating area. Every morning like clock work, for the past couple years I’ve observed the same 3 or 4 people show up and fill those seats to talk and drink coffee. A mid-60ish woman with her white hair pulled back in a bun, an attractive, athletic 40-something woman and a couple older geezers sit, talking politics, relationships and other random thoughts. Since I sit here for a couple hours I see them come and go. What I’ve noticed is that while they likely just started showing up, when they kept showing up, they became friends. Now these relationships have meaning, they don’t just get up and leave when one of them needs to get on with the day’s obligations of work or retiring. As they bid adieu there is a common sense of value and love that seems to permeate their coming and going as they stand and embrace. “Take care, have a good day” they say. I’m always studying the human experience. Sometimes intentionally, other times by default – I’m human, I can’t help it. This expression of love, one for the other – genuine care, one for the other – it’s a beautiful thing and maybe tomorrow, I’ll walk over and share my observations and get the real story of their connection.

I’m here for a few days, here this time to assist my parents on their first experience flying to their annual stay in the Pinecraft enclave of Sarasota. They’ve always traveled here by bus because the Amish generally shun air travel except when medical reasons dictate otherwise. This was an “otherwise” due to dad’s chemo regimen which delayed my parents’ November to March annual migration by a couple months. Flying was an experience of a lifetime for both my mom and dad. We got some pictures and captured some video to mark the day and to bring the rest of the family that stayed up north, along, if only by media. Based on their response to the flight from South Bend to St. Pete/Clearwater, we may have a difficult time keeping them on the ground. A couple days before our departure, Mom had an appointment with her chiropractor, and he, ever the wise guy,  told her, “You know Ida Mae, you’ll spend less time in the air getting to Florida than you usually spend sitting in one of your Amish church services”. I wasn’t there but I’m pretty sure she said, “Oh Norm!” and then gave a little giggle.

These days, as they approach their 80’s, I’m drinking in every opportunity to be with them. To listen, leaning in to learn how to keep living my life with great love and a hopeful, positive attitude like my mom and dad. It’s odd, I thought at 53 I’d have it figured out, but I don’t. It’s reassuring that at 78 and 79 my parents are still figuring it out, navigating new experiences and along the way their kindness and grace continue to impact us today and tomorrow and the day after that.

I’m going to give up my table now and go see if Brenda’s ready for breakfast with mom and dad at Yoder’s.

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