Cruise Director

Billy stood up from the restaurant table and tottered. I moved closer to my brother in case he started to fall. When his blood pressure dropped with a position change, he would often faint. Although both of my brothers had Parkinson’s, he had been diagnosed first and showed more symptoms. Casper, my other brother was already standing at the cashier, looking back to see what was holding us up.

This was a typical Friday night for me for several years.

Going out for a Friday night fish fry had once been an occasional treat. That changed a few years after my husband died. Because of Parkinson’s, my bachelor brothers started to need a little help. I began visiting them at the farm each Friday night to fill their pill boxes and pay bills. Those were the things they needed. But what they wanted was to go out for a Friday fish fry every single week.

I won’t lie, there were a few weeks here and there that I really wished I could stay home or do something else.

To add variety to my brothers Friday night experience, I tried to take them to different restaurants each week. I often invited one of my friends to join us. Some weeks one or both of my daughters joined us, too. When my sister Agnes and her husband Jim moved back to Wisconsin, they also became members of my Friday night fish fry club.

Going for a fish fry on Friday nights became such a set-in-stone activity, that my brothers couldn’t imagine a Friday spent any other way. Thick fog and icy roads meant driving like a snail. If it was thirty degrees below zero, be sure to wear a sweater under your coat!

One week my brother Casper had shoulder surgery. He was discharged from the hospital at six p.m. on a Friday night. Once settled in my car he turned to me and asked, “Where are you taking us for our fish fry tonight?”

I took them to a place I didn’t need a reservation and Casper polished off a huge plater of fish and French fries. On the way home he commented wonderingly, “I didn’t feel as hungry as usual tonight.”

Since my job was to pick the restaurant, make the reservations and get everyone there at the right time, Jim, my brother-in-law began to joke, “Where’s our cruise director taking us tonight?” The job title really seemed to fit what I was doing.

My daughter Tammie has taken over my job as the family cruise director. When we vacation together, she makes all the plans, sets an itinerary and buys tickets. She’s so extraordinarily diligent at the job, I feel she needs a more descriptive job title.

We visited Door County last week. On the first day there, we went on a five-hour trolley tour of local wineries, then did some shopping and visited a distillery. As I sipped a glass of water, Tammie checked her schedule o’ fun and informed me that we had enough time before our evening meal to play a game of miniature golf.

Not wanting to hurt her feelings, I gently commented, “Vacations are supposed to be relaxing.”

Looking up from the schedule on her phone, my daughter protested, “But I want you to have fun! I have all sorts of things planned. The main things are, a play, drive-in movie, candle dipping, glass fusing, a jewelry ring-making class and a four-hour fishing trip with a guide!”

I gave Tammie a long-suffering look and rubbed my painful knee. In a quiet voice I informed her, “You are not a cruise director. You’re acting more like a fun tzar.”

My daughter giggled and reluctantly admitted she had planned too many activities. She explained, “There are so many things to do. I just figured that if I could fit them all together like puzzle pieces, we could do them all.”

I gave her an apologetic look and shook my head.

Knowing how silly it was to so obsessively follow her overcrowded itinerary, my daughter gave me stern look and joked, “I am your fun tzar and I have fun scheduled. You will have fun. Or else!”


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