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Cape Cod grassy dunes and ocean

Art’s Corner – Learning to Take Vicarious Pleasure

A significant shortcoming of one’s elder years is reduced mobility, which directly affects continued participation in many of the lifelong activities we share with those we love and which infuse our days with boundless enjoyment.

In my case, one such event is our annual family summer vacation on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. My body, having now endured 92 years of use, has begun its inevitable decline and the assistance, both mechanical and human, that would be required in order for me to make this annual pilgrimage renders it logistically prohibitive. I have, therefore, assumed a purely observational role, where I must learn to sit back and take vicarious pleasure in the joyful experiences related to me by my children.

This year my eldest daughter and her husband agreed to open our summer home. At my request, they kept a daily log of their various activities, which they promised to share with me. I hoped to use their account as a kind of “yardstick” by which I could judge how much, or little, the experience had changed over the years. Their first email related that, following a drive of eight-and-half hours, they celebrated their arrival in Chatham with a longtime ritual – a visit to the local Kream N’ Kone to indulge in lobster roll sandwiches and onion rings, followed by a tour of downtown Chatham, with the requisite stop at the Candy Manor for some “fantasy fudge,” and then the ceremonial, end-of-evening stop at Chatham Lighthouse. The next morning was devoted to “square knots” with coffee at Chatham Bakery, followed by hours of house cleaning, spider web clearing and bee hive searches, yard work, the testing of utilities, and grocery shopping.

At long last mid-week brought opportunities for fun and relaxation — visits with neighbors, and a meandering drive down to Osterville for some Four Seas ice cream. I knew the return trip would end in a familiar way, with another glance at the Lighthouse and a final stop at the Fish Pier to pick up fresh lobsters for the Fourth of July cookout. Comfortingly, this litany of activity has changed little over the decades. A bit of welcome reassurance, indeed, in this ever changing world of ours.


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