Our tour group stopped at a restaurant for lunch on a hot February afternoon on the way to the rainforest in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. My tablemate, Donna, wouldn’t be continuing with the group. She had been having intermittent chest pains and since the next site was so remote, she felt, with the encouragement of the tour leader, that she should have this checked out at a nearby clinic. “Life’s a crapshoot,” Donna said as she left to get into the taxi. I thought it ironic that she uttered the same term I had been using for the past two months. Random episodes of mishaps started soon after my husband and I downsized to a two-story townhouse, rather than move into an apartment in a continuing-care-community.
First, I came down with bout of the flu. The flu morphed into “walking pneumonia.” As the pneumonia symptoms subsided, I slipped on a wet floor, lacerating the side of my face as I hit the corner of a table. I dropped-in to Urgent Care for the second time within a couple of weeks.
We had planned a vacation to Costa Rica months before the move. Thoughts of my recent vulnerability began to circulate in my head. Would the active pace of this tour prove too great a challenge? But if life was indeed a crap shoot, I had no reason not to take this trip. Our first morning in Sarapiqui, we woke to a thunderous rain pounding on the roof of our cottage. I had signed up to go white-water rafting for the first time. The rapids were a class three. How rough was that, I wondered knowing that the international rating classification goes up to a six. Besides the storm didn’t cancel the event. I knew I would regret not going. Ten gutsy, or clueless, participants, out of fifteen in our group, showed. Most of us were in our seventies. One man admitted to being eighty. We stood by the water’s edge as the downpour plummeted us.
After listening to brief instructions, we donned life jackets and helmets, grabbed a paddle, and took a seat in one of three inflatable rafts. The rafts rose, dropped, and tossed in the swirling currents. Our guide shouted orders over the noise of the river and rain. “Row” “Stop.” “Down.” “Down” was the scariest. I can still see the raft rushing toward a thick tree trunk extending over the river. The leaves from the tree swept across my face as I hunched on the bottom of the boat. Had I sat up, I surely would have been decapitated. The rain subsided. The three rafts drifted on the calm river as our guide pointed out the birds and reptiles that watched us from the trees and shore.
Halfway into our trip, we beached the rafts, shared a pineapple and watermelon snack and posed for a group picture. (I am fourth from the right) Finally, we pulled the rafts to shore and relinquished our oars. Hiking back to the hotel, tired but exhilarated, we congratulated ourselves that none of us fell into the rapids. Later that afternoon Donna returned. She had gotten a clean bill of health.
Marianna Crane, OLLI Member
Marianna was one of the first gerontological nurse practitioners in the early 1980s. A nurse for over forty years, she has worked in hospitals, clinics, home care, and hospice settings. An award-winning author, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Examined Life Journal, and Stories That Need to be Told: A Tulip Tree Anthology among others. Her memoir, Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers, has been recently released. Her web site is http://www.nursingstories.org. She is a member of the OLLI Writers’ Group.