Russ and I typically try to get away for a trip every Fall. During “intense covid,” this simply couldn’t happen. This year, it wasn’t financially feasible to do one, plus, he hasn’t been able to get much time off from work, not even to go visit his family (his father fell back around Father’s Day and was home less than twelve hours before landing back in the hospital and eventually a nursing home, and the hospital has denied his requests to have enough time off to travel until – finally – next month, between Thanksgiving and Christmas).

Not going somewhere “real” was indeed a bummer. I know that it is more so for Russ than for me because I’m sure that he’s exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally. He never says so, but, after twenty-plus years with him, I know these things. We managed to get a three-day stretch, though, and decided that we would just go down to the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area for a few days. Then the gastroenterologist’s office sent me a message saying that I had an appointment on October 18 – it had been scheduled in December with the doctor, but I thought that something must have opened up sooner, so I was afraid not to take the new appointment. Thus, our three days away became two days away. (And the doctor’s appointment went horribly awry, as it turned out to be with the nurse practitioner, not the doctor, per my specific request, and, well, it was not a good day…)

We left to go down on Sunday. We arrived at the hotel to find the air cranked up to about 67 degrees. I know it’s wasting energy, but I cranked up the gas fireplace, anyway. I wanted some ambiance, by golly! I asked Russ what he’d like to do. “Honestly?” he asked. I said yes. “Could we just sit here on the sofa and watch football?” This is something I do most Sundays, but Russ is typically sleeping, preparing to go into work around 5 p.m., so he doesn’t get to watch football games most of the time. I smiled. In all honesty, there was nothing I’d rather do than to spend time with him, doing whatever was comfortable, so I kept the gas logs on, the air cranked up, and we watched football for several hours.

Then we met a couple of friends at The Apple Barn for dinner, Tamara and Zimm. I’ve known Zimm since my freshman year at Emory; I’ve known Tamara since her freshman year at Emory. It’s always fun to catch up with my college buddies, especially the ones who have become integral parts of Russ’ life, too. Both Zimm and Tamara also work in the medical field, so it was an interesting evening listening to the various perspectives on sundry medical issues.

The next morning, we set off for the Craftsman’s Fair in Gatlinburg. I’d won free passes back in the Spring at the Tennessee Mountain Writers, Inc. Conference. We meandered the booths, finding all sorts of interesting things, including a sign for our yard (which hasn’t been put up yet), that we HOPE UPS will pay attention to and actually deliver our packages to our house instead of all over the neighborhood, to everyone else’s abodes. Russ also bought me a gorgeous copper bracelet with waterlilies on each side of an exquisite dragonfly in the middle of the band. I absolutely love it and have worn it almost every day since he bought it for me, even if I’m hanging around the house in my pajamas. It’s just stunning!

Our other big discovery is my new addiction: True Honey Teas. I’m a hot tea lover, anyway, but this stuff is amazing! It has crystallized honey in each tea bag, making for a smooth and enjoyable drinking pleasure. We bought two bags (twenty-four tea bags per bag), in Peppermint, and (my favorite thus far), Lavender Lemonade. Check them out online at

After the Craftsman’s Fair, we ventured to the Sky Lift and the Sky Bridge. Russ thought I wouldn’t be interested in the bridge because I had some issues with a swinging bridge in Honduras a few years ago on the horrible Norwegian Cruise we were on (it was the day we were at the monkey habitat to see the White-Faced Capuchins). I told him it wasn’t the BRIDGE that I had issues with; it was the SWINGING part that nearly did me in, lol! Whereas I thought that he wouldn’t be interested in the Sky Lift or the Sky Bridge because he has an aversion to heights (actually his aversion is to rectal-cranial situations – he doesn’t like any scenario where his butt goes over his head). We had a fine time going up on the Sky Lift, walking around the little park area at the top of the mountain, and then walking across the bridge that spans about 700 feet across a valley. Turns out it is a cable suspension bridge, meaning – there is a little bit of movement, but nothing compared to that bridge in Honduras. I had been really excited to walk across the clear glass segment of the bridge, though, to look down at the valley below. I was disappointed by how scuffed up and cloudy-looking it was after being open for such a short period of time (the official opening date was in April 2019). Still, the views from the mountaintop were incomparable. There are few “bad” views in the Smokies, especially during mid-to-late October when the leaves are changing colors and the air is full of fun and Fall frolic.

We ended the day by having dinner at one of our favorite spots, a restaurant we haven’t been to for several years, just because we tend to stay more in the Pigeon Forge part of the area than Gatlinburg proper. The Peddler was one of the first restaurants we went to together in the area, long, long ago, when we were dating, or just recently married. The steaks are absolutely to die for! All of the food they serve is excellent, and the salad bar is quite impressive, even to someone like me who doesn’t eat many vegetables.

The evening wound down as we went back to the Clarion Inn Willow Valley and watched a little TV, and relaxed in the whirlpool tub for a bit while the air rushed from the AC unit and the gas logs created backlight. It lasted far short a period. But I am grateful for the time with Russ, relaxing and romancing (as much as we ever romance). I’m thankful that he chose to spend that time with me. All two days of it.