"Brrr" is not a sound I usually make when I'm in southwest Florida, but today's weather can best be described as "bracing." It's a brisk 47 degrees here this morning, with a very respectable 20 mile per hour wind. As I said, brrrrr. Anyway, the dogs like it - they much prefer cool weather-and it wasn't terribly unpleasant on our morning walk, since the sun continues to sparkle brightly on the lakes. I'm bracing myself for the trip home tomorrow, for leaving this quiet paradise and returning to life in the "real" world. The aspect was complicated yesterday morning, by a phone call from the director of my mother in law's assisted living facility, informing us they were taking her to the ER. We had already heard she was ill with a gastrointestinal flu sweeping the rounds of the place, and she had become severely dehydrated. After talking to a nurse at the hospital later in the day, it appears she may also have pneumonia.

Although my mother in law is 87 and severely demented, she's also in generally good physical health. It would not surprise me one bit to see her rally from this and return to her post on the sofa in the "family room" at Chestnut Village. And while I certainly don't wish her any harm, it occurs to me that perhaps easing out of life at this point would not be the worst that could happen. In previous centuries, pneumonia was euphemistically termed the "old person's friend," a fairly quick and painless exit when life was at its nadir. In modern times, a few rounds of IV antibiotics often performs the "miracle cure" that was impossible 100 years ago.

So we will be mindful of her condition as we travel northward. I feel badly that she's alone in the hospital now with no one there to speak to her or for her. I can't help but project myself into that possible future, for one day I too will be old, and "depending on the kindness of strangers."

Life is always surprising isn't it, whether it's the chill of an unexpected wind, or the telephone call bringing disturbing news.

You just have to be braced and ready.