I don’t “need a vacation from my vacation,” but after two weeks in a beach cottage with my extended family, I could really use microdermabrasion, arthroscopic knee surgery, a colonic, and a full course of psychotherapy.
Vacations just aren’t the same when you get older. When I was a teenager, I came home from my family’s beach vacations with nothing more than a peeling nose and maybe a few deck splinters. But now that I’m in my forties, simple vacation activities like sunbathing, swimming, and paddleball leave me in need of urgent medical attention.
My family and I left the safe little confines of our military base housing two weeks ago, and drove the twelve hour trek down the East Coast to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Just like every year, our family of five, along with my mother, my brother and his family of five, packed ourselves like lemmings into our modest 1970s beach cottage.
At the beginning of the vacation, the adults envisioned getting up with the sun every morning to jog along the bike path where other vacationers could see how disciplined we are. As planned, I got up early the first morning, and picked a jogging outfit from the stack of work out clothes I’d ambitiously packed for the trip.
Of course I had to have coffee before setting out, but not enough to awaken my digestive tract. Then, I announced loud enough for everyone to hear, “I’m going on a run!” and let the screened door slam behind me to ensure that anyone within earshot would be impressed that I’m one of those people who run at the beach.
Twenty minutes later, I was only about a mile from our cottage, soaked in sweat and frantic that my bladder might give way. Thankfully, a Port-a-potty at a tiny public park saved me the humiliation of ducking into someone’s shrubbery. I slowly stumbled back through the dunes to our cottage, picking up the pace to a jog only when passing witnesses. I was happy to see four blisters on my feet when I got home, because I knew they would serve as an adequate excuse to not run again during our vacation.
Later that week while lounging on the beach, the adult women did a sort of reenactment of the Quint-Hooper-Brody-drunken-scar-comparison scene in “Jaws” when we took turns pointing out our liver spots, barnacles, and moles. Despite our rational conclusion that sitting out in the sun would only age our skin faster, we all agreed with the old adage that “tan fat is better than white fat” so we stayed out late into the afternoon.
Sometime at the end of week one, I made the mistake of agreeing to play beach volleyball. Soon after taking my position as right side hitter, I was forced to jump four inches off the sand to block a shot. This simple move caused my knee to slightly hyperextend.
For the remainder of the vacation, while engaging in simple activities such as paddle ball and wading in the ocean, I was on alert that my weakened knee might buckle backwards like some kind of old Barbie doll.
The other adults in our family suffered similar old age vacation injuries, while our kids frolicked carefree. By the end of week two we had collectively accumulated one wobbly knee, five ugly blisters, a swollen wrist, a strained Achilles, three bruises of unknown origin, and four cases of heartburn. The anti-inflammatories and antacids were being dolled out like candy, along with some embarrassing over-the-counter remedies to deal with digestive back up from all the overeating.
Even though we don’t experience vacations the same way we did when we were young, perhaps the benefit of being so weathered, worn and weary after two weeks at the beach is that it is actually a relief to get back to life’s daily grind.