What to Do


“What to do with my mother?” is the question I’ve been asking myself. It may sound like I have a problem, but that’s not so. It’s not what to do about my mother, as in assisted living or a live-in assistant; it’s what to do with her, as in do together, while she’s visiting. She’ll go with me when I return to Spain after my usual summer trip to the States, and stay for three months. The adventure starts in four days with our flight from Albuquerque to Madrid, en route to Asturias.

Summer heat in some parts of Spain is unbearable, but in the north the temperatures are usually pleasant, and with summer daylight lasting until late, days are long, especially if you get an early start on an excursion, such as to a nearby beach. The wonderful Rodiles Beach near Villaviciosa gives you a super wide expanse of sand, a pleasant and shady woods with picnic tables along the beach, and, at the far end, a view of the estuary. Rodiles is a 25-minute drive from my home, but all along the coast, both east and west, are many more beaches—hundreds of them. Some lie just past a village, and some are isolated at the end of a winding road down from the bluffs to the sea. But at even the most remote beach, you are sure to find a chiringuito or two—an informal, provisional bar set up at sand’s edge. If we’re after a mixture of surf and sidewalk, we can take a bus or train to Gijón, where there are three beaches to choose from within the city.

Even closer than the beaches are the hills of Siero, the municipality where I live, which start just outside my door. I know the lanes hereabouts from walking my dogs for the past four months, and know where to turn to reach one sight or another. I walk, but driving the narrow lanes is an alternative that might suit my mother. Farther afield and on three sides are real mountains. Waterfalls, crumbling monasteries, gushing mountain streams. The drives to and through these places are lovely in themselves.

Whether we go east or west, far afield or keep close, what’s fundamental is to leave early so we see the day when it is fresh—when nothing is yet wilted from the sun, not the plants, not the people, and not us, and when the cows in the fields look mildly surprised to see us exclaiming over them and when an expanse of beach is untrodden except by the seagulls leaving their tracks like the words of a mysterious message for us to decipher as we follow them.

The gulls—where might they direct us and what advice might they give? Flock together, they might say. I think that the question isn’t what to do with my mother, but where to start.

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Clellan Coe, a writer in Spain, is a contributing editor of the Scholar.


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