About 6:45 a.m. local time Saturday morning, walking slowly down Aruba's Palm Beach, headed to the Playa Linda timeshare. Early light. "Turn Up The Sun" by Oasis cranking through the iPhone earbuds. Slow-motion surf occasionally lapping up against your toes. Stopping and reaching down at times to pick up a particularly good specimen of brain coral. Perfect.
Walk past Pelican Pier and start scanning through the occupied Chickees. There's Geraldine, 89, up at 4:30 to make sure she got another good one, right at the water's edge. Goes by Mom, Grandma and Great-Grandma to various members of our small group on this trip. Waiting with the good coffee they put out at the resort, some quiet conversation and a smile. You brought along the Monte #1 you bought the other night after an "adults-only" dinner with Gwen, spark it up to go with the coffee. "Please don't mention this to the girls," you say. She agrees.
We're pretty sure this is year #15 and she claims it's her last. Two weeks solid sitting on a beach and she's not a sand person. Says she smokes too much down here, eats too much, gambles too much in casinos that have neither been punitive or overly kind. She'll do 12 hours under a Chickee in a day, not accounting for bathroom breaks and running back to the room at some point to retrieve the remnants of last night's dinner, which she'll eat for lunch.
They put out more coffee mid-afternoon, fuel for a final linger, then the bags and towels will be packed up, the spot on the sand surrendered for the night in favor of showers, getting dressed in some (slightly) more formal clothes and dinner plans. Back again tomorrow. Early.
15 years, 15 vacations, ending on this morning, in this spot. That's what she says anyway. We'll see how things turn out. But we are grateful to have been along for much of the ride. And for this moment.