Adopt-a-Bucket List

My mother-in-law, Faye, has been gone for nearly 30 years. I still remember her beautiful smile, and how much she loved her grandson. I also remember her telling me several times how she would have liked to have gone to Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. I seem to recall suggesting that she look for a bus trip that would take her down there. Her husband, Bill, seemed to want to have nothing to do with making that trip, and Faye often said it was “no fun to go alone.” So that was that. Faye died and she never was able to fulfill her dream.

I have a habit of bringing my Google ™ calendar up frequently, and looking for gaps. Days are filled in with this or that meeting, but especially near the end of the month, gaps can appear that are asking for adventure. This month we took advantage. We try not to miss an opportunity to visit my parents, who are 92 and 90 years old, and currently living near my sister in Milwaukee. So the first leg of the trip would be to drive the RV while towing our car to Milwaukee, which is plenty of mileage for a pair of 60 somethings and a dog. But where to go after that? The gap in the calendar was up to 2 weeks long. We decided to honor Faye and drive down to Kentucky and visit Mammoth Caves.

As a surprise to Alice, I found a picture of her Mom on my computer and downloaded it to my phone. When, after a long day on the road, I saw the sign announcing the entrance to Mammoth Cave National Park, I pulled off.

“Why are we stopping here?” she asked me.

“I’d like to get a picture,” I told her.

I pulled out my phone and found the picture and showed it to her. We both had wet eyes when I took the shot. Faye had perhaps not been able to make the trip during her lifetime, but we felt good about honoring her on this one.

We stayed at the park campground. No electricity or water hookups, but great proximity to the visitor’s center. One of the rules at this campground was pets may not be left unattended. We understood the importance of this rule, so Alice and I took turns doing cave tours. One of us stayed behind with Franco, while the other took the tours. We stayed 4 nights and did all the tours we felt were within our capability. I do have to admit I took my phone out several times during my time underground, and brought up Faye’s picture to show her the inside of the caves. I felt her wonderful spirit each time I did it.

As I think back, I wonder if I couldn’t have done more to make the trip to Mammoth Caves possible for her. Had we have been at a different stage in our lives, I think we might have. At the time when she would have been able to do the trip, we didn’t have much extra money, had full time careers, and a son to raise. Still, after seeing the place with my own eyes, I do wish I’d have been able to facilitate the trip for her. I think she would have loved it.

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