Circumstance can alter life in a second, no matter how well you plan.
Carol had always been a careful and thoughtful planner. It was that dogged determination and attention to detail that allowed her to successfully raise three children as a single mother, while at the same time pursuing a higher education culminating in a Ph.D. Ultimately she became director of continuing education for Ohio State University and enjoyed a full and rewarding career. When she eventually retired, it was time to pursue her dreams, paramount among them being travel.
She was only into the third day of what was to be a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Standing in line while checking out of the hotel in Sydney, Australia, Carol was preparing to embark upon the next leg of the trip ... a boat excursion to Melbourne. Later on, she and her traveling companion would venture on to New Zealand. They had planned this trip for nearly a year, researching every aspect of it, acquiring the necessary insurances, learning all they needed to get the most out of their adventure.
Carol was an experienced traveler, having crisscrossed the United States a number of times, as well as exploring Europe, Russia, and the Far East. But all her careful planning and experience could not prepare her for just one tiny misstep that went on to alter the rest of her life. Standing in that hotel lobby waiting to check out, Carol stepped back ever so slightly and tripped on the suitcase behind her. She went down hard, sustaining a compression fracture to one of the vertebrae in her lower back, an area already weakened by years of osteoporosis. After spending a full two months in a Sydney hospital, her sons arranged for an air ambulance to bring her the 9,371 miles back to them in Ohio. Carol’s bones were so brittle that she was initially placed in a rehab in Cincinnati near the boys. It was hoped that she would eventually grow stronger and be able to return home to Hilton Head.
It has now been more than three years, and Carol is still in the nursing home facility with little expectation that she will ever be strong enough to leave. This is now her home; and although she has her days and moments, she has made peace with the situation.
When Carol first came back to the USA in 2016, my husband sent a postcard to the nursing home, determined to cheer her up. Then he sent another and another and another and is still sending them, one every day. He has made a challenge of trying to find a wide variety ... local ones on the Rhode Island beaches and granite buildings, ones from all over the USA, ones with facts, and ones with humor. He has asked friends when they travel to bring back a couple, and everyone has willingly complied.
A postcard is little more than a rectangular piece of cardboard intended for writing a short message without need of an envelope. The earliest known postcard was sent in 1840 to London, England, but its popularity quickly escalated, and in 1861 the “postal card” was patented, the rights sold to a private entrepreneur. The first picture postcard was produced as a souvenir in Vienna and sent in 1872. Picture postcards hit their zenith in the late 1940s and 1950s after the war, when people began to travel more widely. They purchased cards with beautiful views and sent them to friends and family with the stock phrase, “Having a great time, wish you were here.”
Since then, however, smartphones have become ubiquitous, and people now send instant photos of everything from scenic mountains to the mountains of food on their dinner plates. Finding postcards in gift shops has become difficult.
Still, those postcards are the highlight of Carol’s day. Thanks to Dave and his steadfast regimen, the nursing home says Carol gets more mail than any other resident, a distinction of which she is inexorably proud. Maybe you’ve got some old unused picture postcards lying around and don’t want them; if so, contact me ... it would make Carol very happy. It might just be a picture on a piece of cardboard with a stamp and a few lines, but to an old friend, it’s better than any medicine; and without a doubt, if you were to ask her, Carol really does wish she were here.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-539-7762.