Guest Author: Randy Bateman

Mirrors of the Camino by Randy Bateman

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Mirrors of the Camino
Parallel accounts of traveling the Camino de Santiago, as voiced by pilgrims from both the Middle Ages and the 21st century.

By Randy Bateman

Aging is a Marathon – Not a Sprint

Teens and 20s

Growing old is unimaginable when we are in school, striving to understand who we are and carving out our own place in the world.  We dress and act to appear older; try to pass as a high schooler when in grade school, as college age when in high school and the legal drinking age in our late teens.

30s and 40s

As we pass into our 30s and 40s, we dress and act to appear younger, wear clothes that make us look desperate to cheat Mother Nature and pull muscles trying to achieve athletic feats that we were only capable of in our 20s.

50s and 60s

In our 50s and 60s, we spend ridiculous amounts of money on supplements, surgeons, “As Seen on TV” workout videos, five minutes a day “Wonder Gyms” and expensive skin treatments to fool ourselves into believing we are not old or even middle aged.  We joke about senior discounts as we approach the golden age and toss numerous invitations from AARP to become card carrying members.

Roles Get Reversed

At some point, which its impossible to predict or recognize, we swap roles from being the child of our parents to the parents of our children. For those of us with the good fortune of having living parents, eventually to becoming the parents of our aging parents.

We understand and expect we will raise children and put their needs ahead of ours, but for me, and I venture for many of you, we never contemplated or planned to be caregivers for our parents.  We save money for college for our children but who saves money to cover the ever increasing costs of caring for our parents?

Seems Unfair, or is It?

We work hard to provide for our family, spend most of what we earn raising and educating our children and then, as we enter the glide-path to retirement—trips to Europe and Hawaii, a second home in the desert, free time to paint, write, practice yoga and learn to cook extraordinary meals, a jet fuel tanker truck pulls across the runway, directly in our path.

It takes every resource we have to drop our flaps, hit the brakes, say a few Hail Marys and pray we will not splatter all over that runway to retirement.  Trips to exotic places are rebooked as trips to senior living facilities, doctors, “serious family meetings” and to the financial planner.

Wait a cotton-picking minute, didn’t we just do that for our children?

Should we move in the dark of night maybe to Costa Rica like we see on HGTV? I always wonder when I see House Hunters International on HGTV how these couples my age escape to these faraway places to live. Maybe they just don’t care or—have skeletons buried in their backyards!

Growth is Constant – So is Change

Remember when you drove home with your first child, afraid to drive over 15 mph for fear of hurting them? Maybe you got up every single time you heard a whimper in the middle of the night just listen to make sure they were still breathing. As they grew older and more children came along, 60 MPH on the highway seemed fine and letting them cry it out was simply good parenting.

Well, what I learned in dealing with my own parents is, there is a similar transformation in caregiving for aging parents. You actually will not pass out if you change soiled bed linens or wash out clothes after “an accident.” Cutting meat for your son or daughter is really no different than doing it for your mother or father.

Just as you might have enjoyed special bonding time with your son or daughter on a long car trip to a swim meet, Scout camp or dance competition, you can connect with your parents again like you did when you were a kid when spending time with them.

You can reminisce about your shared past; laugh about things you did that were perhaps not considered ‘funny’ at the time and learn some pretty spectacular things about your parents.  Your parents are also willing listeners.  Their worlds have shrunk around them and they are hungry for news, stories and to be asked their opinions.  When was the last time you found those things with your kids?  An added bonus, after 70, 80 or 90 years, they have a depth of experience that makes their advice quite valuable.

But Wait, There’s More!

This is of course just the visible part of the iceberg.  When your mother or father places his or her wrinkled hand on yours or softly kisses your cheek and thanks you for being there and helping them, your heart melts.

Memories flood back of all of the advice, sacrifices and love they shared with you—you realize it is not only fair to help them out but a true privilege you would not trade for all of the castles in Europe and tropical drinks in Hawaii.

Seems like an idyllic answer.  Of course it is.  Raising your children was not easy and at times you wondered if foster care would not really be that bad for them.  Taking on the role of a caregiver is no different, you will have to do unpleasant work, lock horns with ageing parents and make sacrifices.  There will be times you will wonder if locking them away in an institution would not really be that bad for them!

Just as with our children, life is about the people we love and the friendships we make.  Family and good friends strive to achieve the same goal: to be a source of love and support. Whether you’re celebrating life or happen to experience an unexpected bump, it is comforting if you can rely on your family and friends to be there for you.  A listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or finding the silver lining in a less than ideal situation — all of it means the world to you simply knowing you have your family and friends supporting you every step of the way.

Son of an Author

Keep Dancin' by BJ Bateman

Available on Amazon

My Mom, BJ Bateman passed away in 2011 after fighting a gallant fight for 12 years against an incurable disease.  She inspired me and others by journaling her love for life along the way in a book Keep Dancin’ about her life and how to bravely face health challenges in a positive way that does not defeat you. It is still available on Amazon.

My dad was in lockstep with Mom as she danced through her final years and he eventually became her 24 hour a day caregiver—without a whimper or complaint, just grateful for every remaining dance step they had together after 60 years of marriage.

Inspired by Mom, and clearly seeing the need to live a healthy life as my wife and I moved into our 60s, we stepped up our exercise and planned more adventure travel.  After hiking 550 miles across Spain with a backpack in 2018 and 160 miles across Portugal with a backpack in 2019, following 1,000 year old pilgrimage trails, I wrote my own memoir in 2020, Mirrors of the Camino.

Mirror Provides Perspectives

Mirrors of the Camino by Randy Bateman

Available on Amazon

Mirrors of the Camino is a dual journey of a 21st century couple, in our 60s, hiking the Camino de Santiago, sharing how we came to walk our first Camino and our experiences along the way.  You can endure with us our physical and emotional challenges, watch as we develop new friendships with a diverse group of hikers from all parts of the globe and witness our  encounters with, and personal explorations of, a new spirituality offered by the Camino.

All of these experiences are paired with the Renaissance era commentary of an actual sixteenth century protestant minister Stephen, who not only bears the same surname and ancestral origins as I do but authored his own book in the Middle Ages on pilgrimages.

Our stories reveal the striking similarities and perhaps not so surprising differences between pilgrimages of the Middle Ages and those of the twenty first century.  You can read very detailed personal accounts told from the experiences of the two co-authors. This is a travelogue with historical depth, told from two historical vantagepoints and spans five centuries.

During this dark times when you are left only to fantasize about travel, slip into your virtual hiking gear, load up your virtual backpack and take a hike with your virtual hiking sticks around your virtual block and when you return, settle in with a nice vintage vino tinto and indulge in some fun travel.

Randy Bateman

Randy Bateman Mirrors of the Camino

Randy Bateman

Randy is an attorney in Portland, Oregon. He has two Caminos under his belt, and is planning many more.

Mirrors of the Camino is available on Amazon, in both print and Kindle versions.

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