Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Our whole crew met at the Newport Aquarium today. It’s a small but fun aquarium with sea lions and otters and great displays of Pacific Northwest fish. Our kids may not remember the details of the aquarium, but they’ll remember being there together, sharing the time. I think my dad was pretty happy to see most of his grandkids together. Dad had not seen our kids for four years – they went from being babies to almost teens; went from being little people to Parker being almost as tall as him.

By getting the cousins together, though, we’re honoring the importance our mom always placed on family…it was my mom’s determined spirit that kept the reunions going (ones she planned even as she was fighting cancer – ones that stopped occurring when she died). My sister and I, along with our mom’s siblings (our aunt and uncles) who all have kids around the same age as ours, have decided that the reunions and the family connection must continue. Most of us are getting together next weekend in Eastern Oregon. I imagine if Mom is watching over us, she is doing so with a smile on her face.

The thing about getting together in a town where none of us are staying at the same place (Tiana and her family are in a yurt at the campground where her in-laws are and Dad and his wife stayed in a hotel that didn’t have rooms large enough to accommodate our clan) is that to be together you have to be doing something. As travelers who appreciate downtime (and have kids who need it) it can be difficult to be on the go.

At the same time, there is much to see and do in Newport, so after the aquarium and some downtime, we headed out to see the lighthouse at Yaquina Head.

Dave and I are learning that traveling with a child who spends most of his time in a wheelchair can be a blessing and a curse. Sometimes, it means we get a closer parking spot than we would otherwise have been able to find…but for things like lighthouses, there is no ADA accommodation or elevator to the top…which, after seeing the claustrophobic stairs, I was quite ok that I volunteered to stay on the ground with Kyle.

While the group took the tour through the lighthouse, Kyle and I looked over the cliffs and learned about the different sea birds. I looked in vain for signs of whales or seals or other ocean creatures, but didn’t see any. (Whale watching can be a year-round event on the Oregon coast, and it’s not impossible to see them from the shore).

One of the things I have realized on this trip is that there is beauty in nearly every corner of this country. There are sad sites too – and we’ve seen plenty of signs of the depressed economy as we’ve traveled – but it is beautiful and inspiring to explore.