It’s Monday morning, the day after Fathers Day and I’ve been thinking a lot about the unintended consequences of RV’ing. Among them is the realization that RV’ing isn’t just a geographic phenomenon. RV’ing is a trip along the time-space continuum.
I remember as a youth hearing arguments about whether future space travelers — moving at speeds near the speed of light (this was all theoretical at the time) — would arrive at their destination younger than the rest of the universe because by traveling at such Einstein-ean speeds time would slow down for them, while it continued unabated for the rest of the universe. Well, I’m not theoretical physicist and my answer to the query is the same today as it was then: I have no idea.
Our visit with family and the making of some new friends over the weekend reminded me that while RV’ers are out RV’ing the rest of the world is on a different time track; and you can’t expect other people not to change while you are gone RV’ing. In fact you ought to expect change while you are RV’ing!
This inevitable change on the part of others is something that (seemingly) a lot of RV’ers never considered before going RV’ing — or else we just seem to meet up with the ones that didn’t because I often hear comments of surprise that RV’ers friends (and family) have ‘changed’ in their absence.
You can’t have your cake and eat it too
Social media like Facebook are wonderful for keeping in touch — but they are not a substitute for face time with loved ones. While you are gone away from home (wherever that might once have been) those you left behind are on a different trajectory through life.
When I was growing up and wanted mutually exclusive goals my mom had a saying:
Wish in one hand
and spit in the other
and see which you get first.
First, you can tell that my mom wasn’t genteel. She pretty much told you what was on her mind! But she had a good point. You can’t expect one outcome while pursuing a contrary outcome.
So, I ask, “How do you remember people“?
For me, I ‘remember’ what a person looked like and who they were on the day I met them. 30 or 40 years later when I meet someone — in my brain — it’s as if I’m still seeing them the way they looked when first we met.
With family members it’s different. Mostly we don’t meet ‘family’ as grown, mature adults. As a parent we see our children growing and changing and once they were in diapers, and then pants and then practicing at the piano and then …. well, you get the idea — I remember a kaleidoscope of changes.
So too with grand children. Melanie and I bonded when she was an infant — I was her primary caretaker for about 6 months when momma went back to work and I had been working out of the house. We developed something special and I’ve been doing every thing I know to keep that special bond.
But grandkids change just like children. They grow up. We watch them. And we are amazed. Now that Mel has moved a second time – this time even further from Milwaukee – those changes are even more evident every time we see her.
It’s important for me to both see & acknowledge those changes. It’s also important for me to take joy in them. She’s coming into her own right as a woman and that’s what having children is all about; not keeping them as children, but pushing them out of the nest so that they become positive additions to society.
On the other side of the equation, we have chosen — in choosing to go RV’ing that some of our past life acquaintances will sort of fall by the wayside. There are only so many hours in the day. It’s not possible. to maintain all the old relationships to the degree we did in the past; and we had to come to the point of saying, ’that’s ok.’
But we do have family and friends who are still very important to us and finding ways of staying intimate with them poses it’s challenges. You have to work at being a friend. You have to spend time with people. And that’s not about posting memes on your Facebook page. It’s about engaging and conversing and laughing and arguing and all the things that friends do — by which they reinforce their knowledge about each other.
When I was young I read a paragraph long story about the man who saw his neighbor and another man stumbling out of a bar. This man went back home and began telling everyone that he saw his neighbor drunk and what a bad person he was ( as I said — this story goes back a long time! ) When he told a friend of the neighbor what he had seen the friend said unequivocably: “You’re wrong. Whatever you saw, you drew the wrong conclusion — I know him and he’d never get so drunk as leave stumbling from a bar.” It turned out that the neighbor had been called by the bartender to come and get his inebriated friend. (And if you’ve ever tried to walk with someone lacking control of their own legs you know how easy it IS to stumble as you walk.)
My point in bringing this up is that you don’t often see ‘friendships’ that are that close; where two people know each other well enough that if they are told something contrary to their knowledge about a friend that they know without a doubt that what they were told is false — and will act to correct the error.
You don’t get such knowledge about many people in life. But those are your real friends. The ones who see you stumbling — the acquaintances — don’t know you very well at all. And what’s worse is that they are just as happy to think ill of you as to think well of you. I don’t need people like that in my life; and I suspect you don’t either. Yet, we all tend to carry some, maybe many of them along with us through life.
RV’ing has been a way of discovering who in our lives have been important. Who has it been who wanted to stay in touch. Who has it been who has known us well enough that no matter what we appear to be doing knows what our real purpose/motives are.
Our daughter Kathryn and I work really hard to stay in touch; we were always a very close family and the last thing we would want would be for our travels to alienate us from her, or Michael.
Melanie is out finding her own life, but we’re doing the best we can to stay involved with her too. That’s the reason for our summer plans to hang out along the Mississippi. We’re within striking range from Minneapolis and we’ll make sure to stop by to see her with our eyes and listen to her with our ears and give her big hugs.
You do what you have to to maintain those relationships that really matter.
There are friends from Peg’s work that we stay in contact with. There are men and women who modeled for me that I stay in contact with from my past life. Some more than others, and those friends & acquaintances pick a level of involvement with us that suits them. I like to think we honor their interest in our life by being interested in their life as well.
Accepting that life changes, and that by choosing to leave people behind when you drive way in your RV you are also (on some level) choosing to let relationships cool, and perhaps end. It’s part of the RV lifestyle. You can’t be in two places simultaneously. The wonderful part of RV’ing though is that we are all in the same metaphorical boat and those who do RV seem to become quite adept at staying in contact with each other. I have met and maintain relationships with a lot more people now that I’m a full-time RV’er than I tried to do when I was working.
It’s a different bucket of fish; but it’s still a bucket of fish! There are friends to be had — just not necessarily the SAME friends. This is a great lifestyle if it’s right for you. It’s not for everyone, but if it fits you it can be fantastic!
Grant River Recreation Area
I wanted to say a little more about where we are. Grant River is not a huge campground. But being right on the shore of the Mississippi it’s a lovely one. There is the drawback of being adjacent the mainline of the BNSF — but for 20 or 30 times a day (or night) the interruption of noise is a fair trade off for such a beautiful location.
There’s not much local activity. You have the Potosi Brewery 3 miles up the road and the small town of Potosi. A mile beyond that there’s the town of Tennyson. The nearest grocery is Lancaster or Platteville or Dubuque depending on your interests (Piggly-Wiggly, IGA, HY-Vee respectively) but they are all more than 15 miles away.
This is the heartland of America. A lot of campers are farmers getting away for a few days. Most of the licenses are Wisconsin — we’re off the highway here. No Interstate exit ramps here. The people tend to be open, welcoming, and helpful We’ve been here for 4 days now and even though there’s a boat ramp I’ve only seen one fisherman. This is not like Blackhawk park or even Thomson Causeway where fishing seems to be a huge attraction. You see a lot of campers walking (it’s about 1 mile if you make the full tour) a couple times a day for their exercise. You don’t see a lot of projects going on, I was alone the other day in working on my storage shelf. There always seem to be more trailers here than coaches, and a good number of single nighters — usually people making their way up or down the Mississippi River Road for their summer trip.
Living most of my life in Milwaukee I’m no sort of farmer, but I have to say I always feel comfortable with these people. They aren’t in your face about anything; except being friendly. There are grandparents and geezers. This weekend there will be some younger couples and the campground will be full. Through the week it’s been about 1/2 full and nice and quiet. This isn’t a place you come for lots of hiking, and it’s not a place you come for lots of attractions. But it’s wonderful to recharge your batteries (the emotional ones, not the ones in your camper), and enjoy the river.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.