First, a thank you to those of you who left such touching comments about my mother’s last days. As of this writing, my mother is still alive, but continues to decline steadily. According to the hospice workers, what they are seeing is consistent with someone reaching the very last days of her life. Since she has had almost no food or water to speak of for five days, her end cannot be too far away. Two of my sisters are with her, along with my father, who are likely to remain until life leaves her.
It must be a law of nature that the worst things in life must happen at the most inopportune times. And so it was with us. My wife and I had reservations at Caesars Cove Haven, a honeymoon resort in Lakewood, Pennsylvania made months ago. At first, the mere idea of going forward with this belated celebration of our twentieth wedding anniversary seemed appalling. However, my Dad said we should go. That is my father: pragmatic to the core. He hated to see us lose the $100 deposit on the room, and there was plenty of other family support available. My brother Jim flew up from Knoxville for a day and a half. My sister Teri, to whom my mother is probably closest, flew up from Fort Lauderdale. After my last and likely final one-sided conversation with my mother, there seemed little else for me to do or say. I was wrung out emotionally, although I knew this grief train that I was on had a few more stops. As crazy as it seemed, maybe this brief escape would prove fortuitous.
Sunday morning found my wife and me surreally packing for a quick trip to the Honeymoon capital of America: the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. We had been there before on our 10th anniversary. I was determined to return for our 20th anniversary. These resorts are not for the financially challenged, but they are a magic place where even seasoned couples like us can make love like newlyweds again. The minimum requirement for us is a room with either a Jacuzzi or a hot tub. A heart-shaped bathtub is almost de rigeur for a couple’s cottage in the Poconos. Those with fatter wallets will spring for fancy rooms with Champagne Tower tubs. My wife is too vertigo challenged to try the tower, so we booked a suite with a heart-shaped Jacuzzi. We selected a room in the Harbour Tower suites. This model is small but reasonably opulent. It included a round bed that looked up into an opaque ceiling full of “stars” that only became visible when you turned on the switch. (Round beds, BTW, may seem like fun but are really impractical.) Our room also contained a clear glass shower stall that we actually managed to use, in spite of frequent dips into the heart-shaped Jacuzzi.
Fortunately, my thoughtful wife succeeded in distracting me fairly well. During our five-hour drive, she told me a number of true to life paranormal experiences reported by her friends. Good conversation, intimacy and a steady supply of Excedrin made the headaches, if not wholly recede, at least move to the margins of my mind. We arrived at dusk. Many docile deer and a tacky sign that informed us we were entering the “Land of Love” greeted us. Apparently, Caesar’s Cove Haven Resort is (according to its sign) the world’s most famous couple’s resort.
No question about it the resort is quite nice. For those couples for whom mating like bunnies every couple of hours is more than sufficient, there are many other things to do. Unfortunately, some of them are not available if you visit in November. So do not expect any paddleboat rides this time of year. No one seemed to want to start up the pitching machine either. However, there were indoor activities like pool, table tennis and mini-golf. A “chariot” (small bus) constantly ran across the resort, eager to take both young and old couples from one building to the next. November must be their slow month. With fewer weddings and anniversaries this time of year, I was not surprised that place was perhaps just a quarter full.
It was a stretch to call the view outside my window a “harbor view”. The only ship that will drop anchor the harbor we looked at from Suite 424 would be a rowboat. Ducks in the “harbour” looked like they were having a good time. Our particular set of suites, while very nice, had seen better days. We understand this resort is undergoing a modernization.
The dining room (“The Coliseum”) is a nice swanky place to enjoy breakfast and dinner. For the prices you pay to spend per day at this resort ($250 and up a night or so, when you add on the gratuities and other expenses) you should certainly expect a certain feeling of opulence from your dining experience. You will not be disappointed, but do not expect couples to be dressed to the nines. You can expect that there will be a pianist on the grand piano most nights. My wife thought that the uniforms worn by the bar waitresses were a bit over the top. I have not seen skirts quite that short since the early 1970s. Needless to say they are worn by attractive looking women. However, they still look ridiculous in their faux Roman skirts.
Not all expenses are included. If you want lunch, prepare to dig out your credit card. Many activities are not included either. For horseback riding, you need to visit the Happy Trails Riding Center, a few miles down the road. We found breakfast was more than ample to carry us over until dinner. For those who like after dinner entertainment there is always a comedian in the club during the evenings. Couples are encouraged to participate in their version of The Newlywed Game, which reputedly can get very risqué. We preferred to find intimacy in our heart-shaped Jacuzzi instead.
Those couples though that would prefer to have a private dining experience are likely to be disappointed. This resort is similar to the last one we attended: couples are seated eight to a table. I realized that here in the honeymoon capital of the country was perhaps the last place where people from completely different kinds of life have to make extended conversation with each other. Normally it would take a lot of persuasion to put me at a table with obvious Republicans. Last night one of them was talking about the virtues of corporal punishment in the public schools. In just about any other setting, my political side would have come out. I would have been relating some of my experiences in this matter. Instead, I was mellow and listening with an open ear to the other side of the spectrum.
I found things in common with just about every couple with whom we dined. At dinner last night, four of us turned out to be teachers. That allowed for animated dinner conversation. One newlywed couple asked us for advice, since we had survived twenty years of marriage. This made me both laugh and feel a bit old. From two sets of African American couples, to a young couple with traces of acne on their faces, to older distinguished couples like my wife and I hope to be someday, each dining experience was a potpourri of polite but subtly weird conversations between people pulled from many different places. Yet we all managed to engage in real conversation even if sometimes I tuned out the sports discussions.
Otherwise, we enjoyed the more banal activities: playing very bad pool and one round at a very mediocre indoor mini-golf course. We also took the opportunity to do some sightseeing outside their campus. For periods, I was able to tune out the immediacy of my feelings for my mother. Some part of me felt guilty for doing so, and other part felt relieved. Considering my state of mind, I was likely better off far away and distracted than by spending my days caught up in the minutia of my mother’s decline.
Now that we are back home again though, I again feel the heaviness of her dying. It is a heaviness that I am sure my mother would not wish on me, but which I cannot help but feel. I am also sure that it will not diminish for a long time.