We just came back from a family trip to Israel, where we spent a night and a day at the Dead Sea. If you’ve never been, the main attraction is the desert setting and water with salt content so high that you float like a cork. When laying on your back it’s quite relaxing, sort of like an especially soft waterbed except with the sun shining on your face. Actually, more like blazing on your face; the high temperature for our visit topped at 106 degrees.
This was Nova’s and my third visit. I won’t say we went reluctantly. But, having been there a couple of times, I remembered it as an old person’s destination. To be more specific, old people who tend to be Russian, overweight, wear banana hammock bathing suits, have hair growing from seemingly unusual places in their bodies, and move very, very slowly. Generally a scene I try to avoid if possible.
And generally I didn’t get the idea of a spa vacation before. Now I do.
First, I think of my father gradually slowing down. In particular, it’s harder for him to get vertical and get around. He’s not getting heavier but it must feel that way. For him, floating in the Dead Sea would be a miracle if I could somehow get him there. I’m sure he would love being weightless just one more time, able to leave gravity behind and just float after years of slow deterioration of his physical abilities. This can’t happen of course; the 11 hour flight home nearly destroyed me (although I did consume 4 movies), whereas I don’t think I could even get him to the airport. Now that I spend so much more time with him, I get the attraction of a place that is warm, slow, and rejuvenating.
The other factor is my shoulder. It’s doing better after I broke my humerus 2 months ago; I can even lift my arm over my head now. It’s the little things. Anyway, I can imagine dipping into a magic elixir that makes the soreness disappear even for just a couple of hours. That’s the Dead Sea for a lot of people. It’s probably psychological as much as physical. I get that too.
As a Sandwich Generation father, I was fortunate enough to be there with my kids. They didn’t remember the water’s sensation from their last visit so this was like the first time for them. They loved it. They floated on their backs, on their fronts, found ways to swim around, and managed not to splash salt water in their eyes. Last time they were not so lucky, and trust me, I don’t recommend it.
They also noticed the old men with strange hair reading their newspapers while floating in the Dead Sea. For them they were something of a curiosity, as they had been for me. For me now, they remind me of someone I know very well, and someone I realize I will someday become.