My mom traveled at this stage in her life as well. After my dad died when she was 51, my mom took it upon herself to travel to Europe for the first time the following year. She did so at least annually almost until the time she suffered a stroke (through her 60’s). Along the way, she found a dear friend Barbara who traveled with her. The two of them were a match made in heaven. Barbara’s husband was still alive, but he had traveled internationally for work and had no desire to do so in his retirement. Both women loved the arts — a day in a museum was perfection for them. They laughed at the same things, knew history (particularly Catholic history which allowed them to understand all the art they saw in churches throughout Europe) and they both smoked. They were great travel friends until Barbara passed away. Such a joyful connection they had created.
My mom handled those bonus years well. She went to work (after being a stay at home mom for 25 years, she found a job when I was in high school and my two older brothers were adults on their own) and stayed working until she turned 65. She traveled, had season tickets to the opera, was involved with her grandchildren. I admire her independence, her elegance, her lack of complaint. She was a great woman.
But in going through her things after she died in 2009, it struck me. All that knowledge she acquired, about opera, and art and history and the insights she gained in her travels. Where did that go? It was gone. There were her well organized notes on her travels and the operas she attended. But then what? What remains? Thinking of that, I want to somehow do more than learn and enjoy my bonus years. I want to somehow make an impact (outside of my family of course). Make the time I spend learning and traveling, which I too love to do, somehow of service, somehow a productive, lasting gift to others. Now, make no mistake. I have NO CLUE how to accomplish that. But it was a lesson my mom left me. (She would disagree of course — being a mom and grandmother is plenty and she is right. Just not for me perhaps)
In honor of my mom on what would have been her 84th birthday (The two of us were here in Ireland 20 years ago almost to the day!!!), I went to two free museums in Dublin. The National Art Gallery had a wonderful Vermeer that was really moving to see. And I was able to see a watercolor that is only on view for one hour two days a week to keep it from being damaged. And I happened to get there in time to see it. Hellelil and Hildebrand, The Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederic William Burton (1816-1900). Very romantic and beautiful. Liked the quote there from George Bernard Shaw in the picture below.
Also went to Hugh Lane Gallery north of Parnell Square. Again, all free, as museums are in Ireland apparently! Saw a painting of a woman aviatrix I had never heard of before — Lady Heath (below). Had just re-read West with the Night by Beryl Markham who was another female aviator around the same time (same as Amelia Earhart too). Looked into her. Another fascinating person and a real pioneer with a tragic end and beginning to her life (witnessed her father beat her mother to death as a toddler; died an alcoholic at a young age). But during her life she championed women’s rights to fly as pilots and was a real character.
Also visited another character’s sculpture on a rock in Merrion Park — Oscar Wilde. Had an Irish coffee at the Jameson Distillery, and Guinness pint at Cobblestone pub, where there was a great traditional music session and met some lovely Irish characters.
Happy Birthday Mom!! As Oscar Wilde said “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”