Dad almost wiped out on a pile of rocks. He also almost wiped out some national treasures at a museum. Mom traded her gray wool skirt for a bright orange blouse and developed a craving for spicy food. It was a week to remember.
You realize how many steps there are in Yucatán when you’re accompanied by elderly people who need help on stairs and curbs. On our last trip, we took my parents, and Dad wanted to see Uxmal. Joanna, our dear friend who has professional experience in touring with people of all ages and abilities, made it possible. She found a wheelchair and even drove us down to the archaeological site. The weather cooperated, too; it was a sunny, warm day with none of the searing heat that the region is capable of. After a look-see, we went to the Pickled Onion, where Mom and Dad enjoyed a lunch on the terrace dining room and a tour of the grounds.
This was the day I needed to get past before I could feel we’d survived the scariest hump of the trip. It went swimmingly! No injuries, illnesses or mishaps. Thank God! And thank Joanna and Paul. I was so busy fretting that sometimes I’d lose focus and let my parents start roaming off unattended. At one point, Dad was walking with a cane and veered off a perfectly level path and stumbled on some rocks. He recovered just fine. It took me longer to recover from that scare, however.
On another excursion, we went to the Montejo house on the main square. It’s a Banamex-run museum with fragile, Victorian treasures — and lots and lots of steps. Dad was on his cane, and decided to be quite the camera bug. In the Montejo dining room, he spied some delicate fluted glasses, and decided to move in for a close-up. He swung his cane over his arm, and teetered toward the shelf with his lens. I’m not sure who was closer to a heart attack at that point, me or the security guard. I can only imagine the international incident if he had lost his balance. I hope he enjoys those close-up photos of the fluted glasses.
At that point, we wanted to hail a cab for the Mansión Mérida, that lovely hotel with the restaurant on Hildago Park. It would be an easy walk for most anyone, and the cabbie wasn’t thrilled with such a quick fare. I paid him $50 pesos instead of the $20 that it really cost. He still grumbled. Mostly, though, the cab drivers were cheerful and understanding, even the one who had given up his prime space in line outside the opera house when lunch was over and we needed to go another four blocks to our next destination.
We saw all the buildings around the square to see the architecture. Mom ooo’d and ahhhh’d at most everything. Dad’s the silent type, and his hearing loss and Parkinson’s has quieted him further. A pretty woman still catches his eye, though, I noticed.
One night, we took them out to Oliva, to show them one of Mérida’s new wave of restaurants, and we asked the cab driver to circle the main square once. Mom and Dad seemed to love seeing the square at night, the colored lights bringing drama to the cathedral and the government buildings. The cabbie then pulled over to the Jesuit Church of the Third Order, not far from the main square, built in 1618. They were impressed at the age of the structures; those old historic sites we used to visit in Philly seem positively contemporary now. The driver pointed at the stones that were apparently taken from the Mayan structure that had stood in its place, in a sense, tracing the building to a much earlier time. I’m happy that aside from the architecture and busy street scene, Mom and Dad experienced the driver’s hospitality.
Fast forward to home. On our last day, we got up at 4, got a cab to the airport, changed over in Houston, flew to Philadelphia, and then walked through the slush and snow to a hired van to take us another hour to Mom and Dad’s house. By 10 p.m. or so, there we were, none the worse for wear after this very successful trip. We ordered some Chinese food for just me and Paul. We like the spicy dishes like General Tso’s Chicken and Tangerine Beef. The order arrived and Mom asked to try the chicken. I warned her about the chiles, and she didn’t mind. After a week of eating almost exclusively hamburgers in the land of the habanero, she’s apparently worked up an appetite for spices.
Before heading to bed, I wanted for Mom or Dad to say something pertinent. But they were too pooped.
“Just think,” I hinted. “We woke up in the tropics, and now we’re here. Isn’t that amazing? I’m just saying.”
“I think I’ll go to bed,” Dad said. Really? Is that it?
For days, I had a hard time getting them to really say much about the trip. If pressed, they’d say they liked it. Would they want to go back? No. Would they ever want to live there with us, I finally asked Mom.
“We talked about it, and we wouldn’t want to live there.”
“We built you a room with a handicap-accessible bathroom. It’s for you!”
“I know that, and we appreciate it, but we couldn’t live there.”
Oh. OK.Photo: Flickr