Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Holiday Greetings from the Littler Latitudes - 2017 Edition

As Christians prepare to celebrate Christmas, Jews celebrate Hanukkah, Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, and Atheists sit back in amazement watching all of it, its time to reflect on 2017 and think about what lies ahead in 2018.

Like for many of us, 2017 was a year of transitions.  During it I lost a very good friend from college to cancer, as well as my last surviving uncle. I guess Nick's passage means that all of the Beranek cousins are now officially orphans.  During the year I turned 66 years old which is certainly the start of the "Golden Years" we hear about, and on July 1, I married my best friend and dive buddy Cathy Hayslett.

Its nice when you finally meet someone compatible.  (Sorry Wisconsin folks about the Florida State University shirt - we were watching Bristol's college playing.  I was still eating cheese curds and yelling "On Wisconsin" at every opportunity)

The year was filled with travel (not really a surprise by now) with a trip to the Florida Keys in January so Cathy's son Bristol could earn his open water diver certification.  For Cathy's birthday in February we traveled to Bonaire off the coast of Venezuela, for a week of diving in the brilliant blue waters of the southern Caribbean.  Cathy also became a biological grandmother for the first time on February 19 while we were in Bonaire (my grandson Garrett claimed her as his "Grandma Cathy" two years earlier however).  She now has taken her grandma responsibilities quite seriously.

Cathy in grandma mode with Channing Beau.  He's asleep in this picture. He had a PhD in sleeping at that age.

March brought with it cataract surgery on both of Craig's eyes and the removal of a very large non-cancerous tumor (the size of a large plum) from my left shoulder.  There were a few complications with the surgical incision and I came to know the staff at the Wound Center at Doctor's Hospital quite well.  That's all cleared up now and I never want to go through it again.

In early May we flew up to Tallahassee to attend Bristol's graduation from Florida State University (degree in Finance), and a week later took him diving in Roatan, Honduras, as a graduation present.  That month Craig completed a course in Arabic Language and Culture, and another one in speaking French.  I can now speak four languages passably - but there are so many more to go!  Throughout much of the spring Cathy spent hours and hours knitting sweaters for 5 grandchildren, both of her children, and was always looking forward to the next knitting project.

In early June Craig spent 2 weeks in Alaska vistiing his daughter Jennifer, son-in-law Ryan, and way cool grandson Garrett.  He also flew to Barrow, the northernmost airport in the United States, and hung out with Polar Bears on the edge of the Arctic Ocean.

Garrett and me after a long hike to the top of a mountain in Alaska

Garrett really is the luckiest kid in the world

I was there when Garrett caught his first fish at 3 years old.  His mom caught her first fish at 3 years old as well, and also in the Arctic

Nanook.   There is no question who is the apex predator in the Arctic

Welcome to Barrow Alaska. I didn't seen any Snowy Owls while there but it wasn't for lack of trying

Its a long way from Barrow to everywhere.  I could certainly spend a summer there studying birds but there's no way I could survive a winter without going bonkers.

Later in June we did a 3-tank dive with sharks offshore from West Palm Beach.  Its something all serious Jimmy Buffett fans should do.  If only there was a way to sing "Fins" and be heard underwater.

That's me with the orange thing on my right shoulder just after an 11-foot Lemon Shark's nose bounced off my forehead

Cathy and I were married in a tiki hut at the home of our friends near Osprey on July 1.  Garrett came down from Alaska for the wedding, and the night before he was the kid who yelled "Play Ball" at the start of a minor league Bradenton Marauders baseball game (we won that night).

Garrett was able to walk on a professional baseball field when he was 3 years old. His grandpa had to wait until he was in his 60s!

Our wedding was at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday July 1 and at 3:00 pm that afternoon we boarded a Cayman Airways 737 in Tampa and darted down to Cayman Brac for a week of diving at the Cayman Brac Reef Resort.

Its official and she's now stuck with me

Garrett and "Grandma Cathy" at our wedding

Cayman Brac Beach Resort was a great place to spend a week after saying "I Do"

We completed a few local dives throughout the summer and after receiving our PADI certification as Lionfish Hunters, Cathy speared her first Lionfish in early August.  

The mighty spearfisherwoman with her first Lionfish.  They taste much better than they look

About the same time, Craig completed the requirements for Rescue Diver certification, and for Master Scuba Diver certification - the latter being the highest level of certification available to non-professional divers.  With nothing better to do with his time, Craig began working on his Divemaster certification - the first level of professional diving.  Those tasks should be completed in early December.

Autumn in Florida, which looks just like summer, spring and winter in Florida, was filled with college football on Saturday's and watching pro games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday.  Despite Cathy's South Carolina roots, I've converted her to a Badgers fan and a Green Bay Packers fan.  Given the way the Pack is playing this year they need all the help they can get.

October brought us to the Miami airport from which we flew to Barcelona, Spain.  We spent a week in tiny Andorra in the Pyrennes Mountains (Craig's 119th country visited), diving from the island of Ibiza (made famous from the song verse "I took a pill in Ibiza"), and spending time in gorgeous Barcelona, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.  We left Barcelona on November 5 aboard a Norwegian Cruise Line ship that dropped us off in Port Canaveral, Florida, two weeks later.  This was our second Transatlantic cruise and we are already planning another one in April 2019.  We spent the remainder of the year getting caught up on things that had to slide while we were gone and making plans for 2018.  

So far we are planning 2 weeks in the Philippines in February, almost 2 weeks in Colorado in March where my step-daughter Charlotte lives and where Cathy can refine her Grandma Cathy skills.  Garrett will be down from Alaska then, and with luck my 3 granddaughters from Minnesota will be there as well.  It will be the first time all 5 grandchildren will be in the same place at the same time. which is pretty exciting.

In July 2018. we spend a week in the Maldives off the coast of India with a 2-day stopover in Doha, Qatar on the return. I'm looking forward to helping Cathy experience Arabic/Muslim culture for the first time.  It should be pretty exciting.  Finally, with luck we will be spending Christmas 2018 with my daughter and Garrett in either Costa Rica or the Galapagos.  Maybe if I win the lottery before then we'll spend it in both places!

When we were kids we all dreamed about growing up and most of us were upset that we couldn't grow up fast enough.  Now that we have grown up (at least organically that is) we realize the best gift anyone could give us is a lead weight on the hour hand on our biological clock so we might slow it down a tad.  People are transitioning out of our lives at a faster pace now, which is what the actuarial tables and statistics tell us will happen.  Who knows whom among us will be here today and spoken about in the past tense tomorrow.   

Cathy and I hope in 2018 we can all bury the hatchet from past slights and misunderstandings and come together as friends and family and enjoy what remaining time we still enjoy together.  It would be nice if the nation could do the same thing.  Isn't that part of what the spirit of the holidays is supposed to be about anyway?

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