bits and pieces

Message from a new widow: Unplug. Put down that phone. Don’t squander precious time with the people you love. It may be the last chance you’ll get.


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My husband Frank and I were sorely in need of a vacation. Our last three trips were derailed because life got in the way. My “sweet Frank” suffered a major health issue that prevented us from straying too far. My mom’s illness and subsequent death caused me to suffer, terribly. Need I say more?

Finally, in February of this year, it looked as if the coast was clear. We booked a spur-of -the moment getaway to Puerto Rico. Two days before our leave-taking, the super storm Nemo hit and dumped snow, mountains of it. It was trip-interrupts again, or so we thought…

The afternoon before our scheduled departure our street was plowed (thanks, Riverhead). Our expert driver, Debbie, navigated the semi-plowed Long Island Expressway and got us to the airport on time. I’m usually a white-knuckle flyer; but this time, I heaved an audible sigh of relief as the plane lifted off the ground.

Fast -forward three hours.

I made the necessary “we have arrived” calls to the family. Minutes later we were picked up by the hotel shuttle that whisked us off to our own Shangri-La.

2013 0511 iannelliThe resort was nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the El Yunque Caribbean National Forest. The hotel had a palatial feel. Our room was well-appointed with a balcony that overlooked the rain forest. Surrounded by magnificent gardens, palm trees, pristine beaches and 500 acres of natural wonder it was paradise found.

The next morning, I packed our beach bag with the necessities: hats, water, sunscreen and my smartphone. We found a secluded spot on the beach and settled into comfy lounge chairs. Within minutes (although it could have been seconds), I reached into the beach bag and dug out my phone.

Looking down at my device, the absurdity of it all hit me. Instead of looking up at the beauty that surrounded us, I was looking down into my digital world. It was a pivotal moment: I turned off my phone and vowed to digitally detox for the duration of the trip.
After a fantastic lunch accompanied by a drink called “Caribbean Baby” (that me feel fantastic), I made a bee-line for our room, dumped my phone into our suitcase and locked it. Tempted to throw the key over the balcony, I came to my senses just in the nick of time. It was our only suitcase.

On the way back to the beach, I passed through the lobby. Jeez! Right in my line of vision was the business center. My heart picked up speed—and it’s no wonder. Temptation was whispering: C’mon, Ceil, you vowed to stay away from the smartphone, but not the computer.

My conscience retorted: That’s a cheap trick. The idea was to enjoy the trip without distractions.

A little tussle ensued. Conscience won out, for the moment.

Back at the beach, Frank was waiting with a Caribbean Baby, (the drink). When I began blabbing about my near fall from grace, he laughed it off and said, “It’s typical Ceil.”

I took in the azure blue sky, the turquoise water, and the people—and then, I honed in on the people. Lordy, lordy! Most of them were tapping away on the tablets and phones. Folks were so preoccupied with their devices that they were missing out on the beauty that they were paying big bucks for!

While feeling sanctimonious, temptation dealt another blow. The urge to text my sister, to tell her about the dumb who folks who were missing out on paradise was overpowering. When I began to rise from the chair, Frank took my hand and said, “Stay.”

Frank and I began reminiscing about the night we met. We agreed that we were indeed lucky to find love later in life. It was a mystical magical conversation where nothing was left unsaid.

Although we didn’t plan it that way, Valentine’s Day fell during our stay. We made a reservation at a fancy place that served up those  “Caribbean Babies.” After placing our dinner order, I began noticing other couples. Same story different location: Folks had their heads down with fingers tapping away. To me, they seemed lost in their own digital world and to each other.

But was I any different? I realized just how much time I spent connecting with “things” rather than enjoying the present moment aka real life. My vow was strengthened. For the remainder of our trip, we enjoyed the splendor of our surroundings and each other.
And I am so glad that we did.

Forever isn’t as long as we may think. My “sweet Frank” died on April 7. In retrospect, my heart knew what was coming. I shudder to think how close I came to squandering the precious gift of time — time that has been allotted to all of us.

There is one caveat to keep in mind: Time is tricky; it’s only given on loan and offers no second chances. But then again, they say that time heals all wounds. Let’s hope so.


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Iannelli Celia hed 2013
Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in ‘retirement’ — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport. {loadposition tab20}{loadposition tab1}

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Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.