Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Friday, April 12, 2024

Karen, get over yourself: Stories from A to Z

The next morning, the mutual goodwill disappeared. It began when I made a week’s menu and list of groceries, with the idea we could shop together at a store larger than a corner tienda. 

Why was I not surprised when my independent twenty-seven-year-old son, who had lived on his own since he graduated high school and joined the Marines, did not want to trot off to the supermarket and shop with his mom from her list? 

Instead, Forrest intended to go out exploring on his own. “I want to find some fresh fish,” he responded to my suggestions about groceries. When I mentioned a few other things to pick up, he walked away with, “I’ll see what I see.” 

I returned to my room and crawled under the covers to write in my journal. Even with the door shut and the electric heater turned up high, it was cold outside those covers. With Forrest gone, I felt desolate and abandoned, familiar feelings since Bruce had died. It certainly wasn’t anyone’s fault, simply part of this long grieving process.

Sad feelings of loss and abandonment could overcome me at the slightest provocation, and they hit me that morning in our condo. Probably due to a letdown after our empanada dinner, when we had experienced one of those rare magical moments a mom does not often get with her grown children. 

Last night was the first of many such magical times Forrest and I were to share through the course of our trip. But I didn’t know what was ahead, and that morning I only wanted Bruce. 

The love of my life and my companion for nearly fifty years. What was I doing hanging on to Forrest? Insisting he take me along on what was originally meant as a solo trip couch-surfing through South America? 

Eventually I got this out of my system and noticed how bright it was outside. I dressed and went into the sunshine, much better than staying in my freezing cold bedroom huddled under the covers feeling sorry for myself. I walked to the tienda café of the night before and bought my standard breakfast of diet Coke. 

On the way home I noticed a little vegetable stand across the street from our building. I bought a carton of eggs plus an onion, garlic, and peppers for omelets. Enough to have a few meals to start us off. I also picked out several potatoes, thinking about what I could made in this nice kitchen for my youngest boy. Nothing made me happier than cooking for my loved ones. Cooking for yourself is just not that fun or rewarding. 

Forrest arrived soon after with his own collection of groceries: pasta, sauce, eggs, and a few other items. “I couldn’t find any fish,” he said. 

I made us a vegetable omelet and later he cooked rice with sauteed vegetables. 

We needed Wi-Fi. I couldn’t go without working for more than a long weekend before my authors with books in process got panicky. Anywhere I stayed, I needed reliable Internet. Forrest was focused on finding the best connection in our building and went to explore every corner of it in his search. 

I walked again to the tienda/café and bought a few sticks of butter and a carton of milk from their cooler. After putting it away in our fridge, I returned to the vegetable stand across the street for more vegetables and some fresh fruit. On my way home, I saw Forrest sitting outside the building on one of the benches. 

“Hey, Mom,” he greeted, “the connection isn’t too bad right here. I’m using the password for that place next door.” 

“Oh, good. Let me go put these things away and grab my laptop. I really need to check my email.”

That outside Wi-Fi wasn't bad. I could stay connected and take care of business. Except the sun was too bright to see the screen easily. And working hunched over on a park bench or seated at a concrete planter is too uncomfortable to last long. I was soon ready to pack up and go do something else. 

Forrest was still busy on his phone. “I’m connecting with people who are here for the eclipse,” he said. “You’d be surprised how many there are, from all over the world.” 

“How did you find them?” 

“Through a couple sites, the couch-surfing group I’m in, and one I found about eclipse-chasers. I’m going to meet up with some people for lunch today.” 

“Okay, well that sounds interesting. I think I’ll take my laptop upstairs then go out for a walk to find the beach.” 

Forrest pointed in the direction of the Enjoy Coquimbo building, the real one not our fake one. “Go back to the first hotel where we stopped and then turn right. It’s so close. You can’t miss it.” 

He was right. It was less than a ten-minute walk, and what a beautiful beach, the kind where people come for the sand and the ocean. It had long stretches of wide, flat sandy beach where you could walk forever right next to the water. 

Worth the trip just for this beach

Live crab next to my boot

Along the sidewalks and boardwalks situated between the sea and the street were all kinds of little shops and cafes. Farther down were the less touristy areas with fishing boats and rustic seafood stalls and restaurants. 

After walking awhile on the nearly vacant beach, I connected back up with the street and noticed a green and white street sign pointing to La Serena. This was the town I originally had sought lodgings in, but they were more expensive and less available. Coquimbo, which was described as working class with a fishing industry, sounded more appealing to me than a touristy college town anyway. 

I followed the arrow to La Serena, crossed a busy street and came to a shopping center. I was tired by then and not in the mood to walk around to see what it had. I stopped at a pizza place on the edge of the center, ordered a bottle of diet soda and asked for a glass with ice. There was no ice. Okay, I'll take it warm. 

I took my bottle and glass to a table outside in the sun and watched shoppers come and go, all of them with good clothes and great hair.

The men regardless of age could be male models or movie stars based on nothing more than their hair, worn longish and styled to look casual yet fashionable, like it just happened to grow this way. Perhaps it did. I never saw anything like the hair on these men. Young or old, they all had the same great hair. How did they do it? 

It seemed like a national trait to have the best hair and know instinctively how to cut and style it to look fantastic. Same with clothes. Nice, expensive-looking clothes that looked perfect on everyone, even when dressed casually. The women too had beautiful hair, cut and styled in simple, basic lines, most often long and curled under, that made the most of their features. 

I felt sloppy in my leggings, Doc Martens and oversized sweatshirt, compared to their woolen overcoats and stylish boots. And who knows what my hair was doing. It certainly wasn’t thick and smooth like Chileno hair. Still, I enjoyed sitting there as an invisible observer of the Coquimbo/La Serena population.

That evening, Forrest sat up late in the living room watching local TV to practice Spanish. He flipped through channels to find another soccer game. He might have gone out somewhere. I didn’t know since I went to bed early, read awhile on my Kindle then fell asleep by nine. 

Our first full day in Coquimbo, a Saturday, had started out rough but turned out quite nice.


  1. I am loving this and the intimate way you write.

    1. Thank you, Sue, for visiting and commenting. It's great to have you along for the ride.

  2. Hi Karen. You paint such beautiful imagery with words and then they flow so effortlessly...I find myself coming back here.

    Arpita @

  3. Those sautéed vegetables and rice sound-

    1. Hi Lynn, That's such a standby I can make it in my sleep. Had it last night actually. Course it's fun to add variations with different vegetables, seasonings, and types of rice. The one yesterday I made with a mix of brown rice and quinoa.

  4. I had a feeling you would find plenty of fresh food. It's hard to lose a loved one and your soul mate but I'm glad you were able to feel the sun on your face. I bet your Bruce was happy too.

    1. Hi Birgit, that's one thing I love about Latin countries is the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables.

    2. Also meant to add-- sunshine and good fresh food cures a great many ills, right?

  5. HaHa. DS, fresh for service in the Peace Corps, still likes going to the supermarket with his mom. I count myself lucky.

  6. Enjoyed following you along... just found you from the A to Z master list. I'm also writing in it, my 9th year.

  7. Fresh fruit, fresh veggies, sunlight, farm fresh eggs, sauteed rice and veggies- sounds absolutely wonderful. You are painting quite a picture of Chile with your words and I'm loving it.

  8. It sounds like a picture postcard come to life! Diet Coke is my breakfast of choice, too, although lately I've been on a Diet Dr Pepper kick. And I never feel like I'm dressed right for any occasion!

  9. You documented the ups and downs, all moments apart, very well. A dear friend (very newly widowed) describes the same.


Comments are welcome!