These were all great adventures in Dubrovnik, but one of our favorites was traveling to the island just out from the gated city called LOKRUM Island. Hiking, swimming, olive groves, peacocks, a replica KINGS THRONE from Game of Thrones, food and drinks by the sea and even a natural water hole called  The Dead Sea, which is a salt filled lake linked to the sea. The amount of salt in this lake is suppose to make it very easy to swim/float.  It is a quick 15 minute boat ride from the east side of the Old Gated City port. They sell tickets right on the dock and leave every hour on the hour. Your ticket is for the ferry boat and your entrance onto the island. This ferry is foot passengers only. There are no vehicles on the island. Well worth spending a day on this island.

This day became a day of reflection, as it was my birthday and I had great reason to celebrate! I had made it past my mother’s age of death, disease free. I remember being pregnant with my youngest son when I got the phone call from my sister telling me she had passed. I was 30 yrs old, my mom 51. She had been in a nursing home since I was 12 yrs old! WOW! Yet, I felt only embarrassed and ashamed that she had this disease and I could possible end up with it too! It brought on such fear  that I literally moved from Colorado when I was 18 years old to Phoenix, Az in hopes of finding a life away from the fear that haunted me everywhere I went in Colorado. But, it didn’t work. (Side note…my father raised myself and my younger sister Carri after they divorced. Therefore, I had quite a bit of separation from her when I was young)

When I got a phone set up in Phoenix, and finally got the courage up to call her in the nursing home, I was shaking and crying uncontrollably. I hated calling her, for fear of what my future would bring. Hearing her talk on the phone was a struggle, as Huntington’s Disease slowly destroys your neurological functions, and I could barely understand anything she was saying. The fear was paralyzing and prevented me from reaching out to her. She would often call me collect,(for those of us that remember land line phones and long distant calling, this is where I accept the call and pay for the charges) and many times I would say “sorry she is not here” and hang up. I just couldn’t deal with the guilt and listening to her beg me to come see her or send her money for her cigarettes. For God’s sake, what was wrong with me? This went on for several years! Every now and then I would take a little time and talk to her, but was always in a rush to get off the phone. Reflecting on this now that I have accepted that this was the fate of my family, I can see it differently, but at the time I was just too fearful of her and what would come of me. “Run far and fast… and don’t tell people about Huntington’s because then you are admitting defeat and you will end up with this disease” was the motto in my head! You can’t escape your genetic heritage, but if I did it in my head and said “I won’t get it”…for me, that was what worked. I am not proud of this, but this disease was not well known and I would have rather buried my head then deal with any of this. That is what kept me getting up every morning and going to school, working and enjoying life as best as I could.

View of Dubrovnik from Lokrum Island

Looking back on my mother as a young mother herself, her plate was full. She had 4 children by the age of 22 years old. She did not know that Huntington’s was the disease her father had. He had gone in and out of mental facilities, with no one really knowing what was wrong with him, until he finally took his own life by laying himself on a train track in Denver. I never met my grandfather and I don’t even know how old my mother was when this happened, but that is the only story of him that I remember hearing about. So when my mother started getting symptoms of this disease, my parents were fighting all the time and divorced when I was in first grade, but none of us knew my mom was in the beginning stages of Huntington’s. My dad having no idea why she was so hostile and my mom not understanding what was happening to her. She then moved from our home town of Rifle to Denver, about 4 hours drive,  and took my older brother and sister with her. Over the course of the next 6 years, we watched her deteriorate and had no idea what was happening to her. So as a family, we all had to make a decision to put her in nursing facility. I was in sixth grade. It wouldn’t be until I was 15 years old when a Doctor finally diagnosed her with Huntington’s. A phone call and visit to Denver that I will never forget. More on that later…

My mother’s High School Senior Photo

So this birthday in 2018, I sat on the island of Lokrum in the outdoor bar with Todd, and cheered to me making it to this age and slowly feeling this weight being lifted off my shoulders. I made it past my mom’s death age without having Huntington’s! Reason to celebrate, and I can’t think of a better place, then to be surrounded by the beautiful Adriatic Sea, beautiful Peacocks, olive trees, my husband Todd and the amazing views. 

Cheers to 51 years!

The Dead Sea of the Lokrum Island

Our own private swimming hole

Hiking on the island
Kings Throne from The Game of Thrones

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