Jerry Seinfeld’s sitcom “Seinfeld” was a wonderful show because it found the humor in ordinary everyday life situations we all experience. I always laugh when I think of the Seinfeld episodes of Jerry going to visit his parents in Florida. Just to kick it off here is a video to give you context.
This week I spent time in Florida with my Dad and his significant other of 12 years, Judi as well as my in-laws who moved to Florida this past summer. I have visited almost every year, early on with both my sons and then in later years either by myself or with one of my sons. Each time I visit I feel like I am in the middle of my own Seinfeld episode.
There is always that adjustment when you spend time living in the same house as your parents after leaving the nest so long ago. We have our own schedules and ways of doing things like when we eat, wake up, go to bed and how we approach our day. And in my case, my mother passed away and there was a “getting to know you” period with a new person in the picture. It can take a while on both sides and I feel good that we have a very nice, warm and special relationship. What I have learned to do is find humor in it all and that hasn’t been hard to do. And so, the Seinfeld adventure begins.
I always refer to my destination as “Del Boca Vista” which is the fictional condominium complex where Jerry’s parents reside. It doesn’t matter which place my father rents as they all seem to have the same flavor. The stories, the different characters all present themselves like a sitcom. The condo rules and the stories of those who broke them as well as the high school drama and hurt feelings about all kinds of things happening in the condo. The infamous “talkers” who you try to avoid or else you will be stuck with for hours and they haven’t told you anything of real interest. This time there was no lack of stories. Last year my son Sam broke a rule by sitting on the grass to read his book when there is a rule against sitting on the grass (so one does not obstruct people’s ocean views.) The best part was my father mentioning to his neighbor about the rule breaking incident not realizing it was his own grandson he was reporting. The stories my father tells seem funnier and funnier. Most stories start with the person’s medical profile: blood pressure, cholesterol, past surgeries or illnesses, and then we move into the story. Best story of the trip was the one about the man at the airport who was creating a scene because they had lost his luggage. At one point officials called in security to control him. It was all about the fact that he needed his luggage ASAP and he wasn’t leaving without it. It turns out he had 6 pounds of frozen chicken inside his bag. I guess the price per pound was better at home.
How many of you have noticed that our parents like to give us detailed directions and how to get to the store? ” Take a left at the stop sign, then a right, then drive up the road to the gas station and take a right, another left and then a sharp right. Hmmm. Scrap the map, I can’t read it anyway without my glasses and they have this new thing called GPS.
The best part of each visit is the “Who’s on First?” exchanges on a variety of topics like where we are going to go to dinner. The question comes up in the elevator and the conversation goes back and forth, side to side and every other direction. We get to the first floor and walk out of the elevator and my Dad says “So where do you want to go to dinner tonight?” as if we never even had the conversation.
“Judi, Barbara Streisand is calling!” That was my father yelling every time Judi’s cell phone would ring and she didn’t hear it right away. Her ring tone is a Barbara Streisand tune. “There goes Tiger Woods” my father would say, every time a helicopter flew outside the window. (Tiger lives close by.) This visit substitute “Donald Trump” for the Tiger Woods reference.
Humor is good for your soul. We should all laugh a little bit more. The best part of visiting in Florida is that we all find humor in the parts of life that are not always so laughable. Sure there are ailments and sure people are losing their hearing and their memories but the stories are good, and the chaos of “who’s on first” moments manageable and laughable.
All joking aside, what inspires me most is the way my father and Judi approach their time in Florida. They are incredibly active and social and intellectually engaged. For years, the highlight of their trip has been taking classes at Florida Atlantic University. FAU offers programs as part of their lifelong learning society. The highlight for them is a course taught by a political science professor, Jeffery Morton, Ph.D It amazed me to hear that his class is a “sell out” class. He teaches it three times in one day, each class filled with 600 people. I have heard about the class for years. Dr. Morton also leads cruises around the world where he accompanies the group, lectures on the ports of call and my father and Judi traveled on several trips with him and other classmates. Last visit to Florida, my son and I attended a class called “Brazil in Metamorphosis” and were inspired as well. This visit we attended a music class profiling the works of Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber which was interesting and fun. Especially when the professor dressed in a Hawaiian and sandals pulled out his guitar and began to sing.
Aging is not so easy. There are physical and emotional challenges for sure. I think it is all about the approach. Keeping active, intellectually stimulated and socially active is the key to it all. And a “Happy Hour” or two thrown in the mix doesn’t hurt either.
My father and Judi seem to have it right. Keep active physically and intellectually and make sure you laugh! Laughter is good for the soul and there was no lack of it on this trip. Special times for all of us and lasting memories as well.
I read and recommend a wonderful book by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge M.D. called Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit and Sexy- Until You’re 80 and Beyond. Check out the book on Amazon. It is a great read for yourself or to give to someone you know.