When we realized we couldn’t have a weekend in San Francisco to celebrate our twelfth wedding anniversary (our dog-sitter was snowed in), Bill said, “I know. Let’s go in June and celebrate your birthday in Copenhagen! Then we can take the train to Kiel–and Berlin!” Neither of us has been to Denmark, Bill’s long wanted to see the town where his grandmother was born, and after the first night on our European rivers cruise when someone sneezed in my face, I spent the next five days in our cabin, we had to fly home instead of touring Berlin…my mother loved Berlin…Bill loved it…I’ve wanted to see Berlin.

I was over the moon. That’s because last September when we returned home from flying to New York for a family gathering, were miserable dealing with airports, both came down with COVID, Bill said No More Travel, I reluctantly agreed. Hoping it wouldn’t stick.

I ordered guidebooks. Began researching the weather. Worried whether a woman of a certain age could appear on European city streets in blue jeans. Signed up on Babel to learn as much German as I could (committed to fifteen minutes a day).

I told Bill we were going to use wheelchairs at the airports, pride be damned. I’d been with my mother traveling in her nineties, she always ordered a wheelchair, and we’d whiz through TSA up to the gate–it made me laugh. And I wanted us to fly Business class because we’d been miserable in Economy from New York…couldn’t take ten hours of wretched seats. Bill said Fine.

Yesterday morning with our marvelous guidebooks at hand, we planned the trip. Eight days in Copenhagen, two days in Kiel, nine days in Berlin. Three days coming and going.


I went online, found SAS had a nonstop flight from San Francisco to Copenhagen at a reasonable time, a good beginning. Except Business class was a shock. Settled for doctored Economy. Gave them the credit card number for $6,948. Maybe it was the two chicken dinners that made it so much…

Still I was elated.

All efficiency, consulting SAS’s email booking confirmation, I went to my iPhone and calendar on the date of our traveling to Copenhagen to record the flight numbers.

Shock #2. I’d booked our outgoing flight for the date we were returning.

Oh Sylvia.

As is my wont, I stupidly blurted this out to Bill. But he was dear and I sat up straight and resolved not to be such a ditz.

Went back online to SAS, cancelled, received an instant refund, rebooked our flight on the correct date. Phew!

Now taking a deep breath, I went to Lufthansa to find a flight home from Berlin. Jumped through hoops and found the best flight–unfortunately we had to change planes in Frankfurt. Premium Economy Flex for the two planes including the price of two sets of seat reservations came to $5,787. I murmured the terrible number out loud.

Suddenly my sweet-natured husband was upset. Flopped down in his big chair beside me at the kitchen table. “I don’t feel good about this. It’s too much money. It’s immoral to spend this much just on getting there and back. And we’ll have three weeks of–” I held my tongue (rare). “I’m uncomfortable about this whole trip. And I have to say, darling, we’re not playing with a full deck.”


“I’m not kidding. Both of us. I forget things all the time. You know I can’t…we aren’t…”

Unhappily I flashed on my unsettling move moments before of reserving the outgoing flight on the day we were to come home.

Bill got up, came over to me, bent down, embraced me. “I’m so sorry…”

Suddenly in some dim recess of my mind I felt–it was physical, this realization–how complicated traveling can be…arduous, even…being assured of the right times and places–getting to the right places on the right times…negotiating this…unearthing that…catching just what you want precisely when you want it…

I imagined days of trudging through museums when dear Bill with his macular degeneration couldn’t see the details in paintings. He’d say, “But you can see them, darling, and that gives me pleasure…” That’s not good enough. That’s not right. Not at this point in our lives.

“Not playing with a full deck” felt cruel. But it was a cold shower. And I guess Old Mrs. Sunshine needs a reckoning splash of cold from time to time to stay on an even keel (nevermind Kiel).

“Bill dearest, don’t be sorry. You’re right. Absolutely. But thank you so much for thinking of it!”

I was comfortable with Bill’s decision. Truly, more than. A few months ago thinking how much I’d love a gorgeous electric car, suddenly it struck me that spending a small fortune on metal just to cart me from one place to another was immoral when all that money could feed hungry people, shelter the homeless, help save the planet. Thus now I came down from the moon, agreed giving $12,735 to a couple of companies not even based in the USofA to cart us uncomfortably a few thousand miles was immoral.

My husband said, “Where can we go instead?” Silence while I closed the open guidebooks on the table. Pretty books. They’ll be poignant on our travel bookshelf. “I know,” Bill said. “Let’s go to Los Angeles for your birthday. Be with your children…and my great-grandson. And we can go up the mountain and I can see the house you designed… ”

Lovely. We could drive down, stay overnight in Ojai…

I went back to my laptop, saw that because Lufthansa had its hand out too far–still wanted extra for this bit and that (why were we paying for “Premium Economy Flex” when it didn’t even include seats?)–the reservation wasn’t finalized. I tucked close the lid, ended the conversation with Lufthansa.

Wie geht’s dir?


They say learning a new language is great for the aged mind. And for filling in a sketchy deck.

8 Comments. Leave new

  • Lilia Croghan
    March 12, 2023 8:06 pm

    Keep on writing my friend. I so enjoy reading your blog. I appreciate your honesty in you writings.

  • Malka Drucker
    March 16, 2023 1:00 pm

    Brilliant writing, of course. Thank you.

    The voice of wisdom is sometimes a bitch. . However. There is no greater satisfaction than the resolution of doubt. You and Bill have found a perfect solution. I’m hoping to get to Idyllwild in late April.

  • Chris Baswell
    March 16, 2023 2:05 pm

    Wise Bill was right. And Sylvia still had the opportunity of planning, which has its own pleasures, dontcha know.
    I move about and travel by wheelchair, and make comparable decisions balancing positive and negative. Will the fun (and the exhaustion) of the travel balance the anxieties about logistics? Especially the awkwardness — occasionally the outright humiliation — of airports and TSA (or their European buddies) requiring a “pat down” — which actually means some poor guy sticking his hand up your crotch and under your butt. Usually I go anyway, but sometimes I get smart like Bill.

  • My Dear Sylvia,
    Please don’t be sorry for being smart enough to decline the opportunity to pay a lot more than the worth of the thing. You and I are old enough to remember when travel was easy, reliable, and mostly affordable. From the 60s through the mid 2000s, travel was not torture. Those days are gone. I’m not sure if I can tolerate hours in a flying sardine can in absolute discomfort. My sister is off to Norway in August and my cousin is off to Paris in April. I’ll wait and see how they do in this modern age of international pain and suffering. Hugs to you both. Suzi

    • It is indeed a great pity that travel is no longer the fun it used to be…unhappy combination I’m afraid of machines and our bods resilience…yes? Thanks for your encouragement, Suzi!


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