In my experience, all trips have a certain ‘vibe’ to them, a theme that is distinct from the place to which you travel. Our recent travels took us to the USA for three weeks, back two nights, and then to Tasmania for five days. The latter trip was for my husband to attend a conference and I tagged along for the opportunity to catch up with an old friend, and also to see a very exciting, new museum that has opened in Hobart… more on that in another post.
The trip to the USA is the one I will tell you about in this post because it was very definitely themed around relationships. Even before we left, the groundwork was being laid, though we did not exactly realise how it would play out. Our daughter’s boyfriend rang my husband, asking if we would mind if he came to the USA and met us for part of our trip… as a surprise to our daughter!!! We were surprised he would want to spend valuable holiday time with Allison’s family, but they have been together for nearly three years and have bought a house together, and so why wouldn’t he? We are nice, not to mention cool… okay, so we’re nice. Allison had asked him to come but he had said he couldn’t… throwing her off the scent of deception. So for six weeks, four days of which you may recall I was actually with her in Adelaide to help her get through a medical situation*, we chose our words very carefully so as not to spoil the surprise. Wow. That was tricky. I so wanted to lift her spirits with something nice.
‘Don’t mention the war’, my husband kept reminding me!
To cut a long story short… it worked. Three days after our arrival in Cincinnati, my husband made excuses and disappeared to get the Boyfriend from the airport and bring him to where we were visiting my Mum. The photos are not masterpieces, but I think they tell the rest of the story…
Before we departed I had begun to read a book about grieving. ‘The Long Goodbye: a memoir of grief’ by Meghan O’Rourke. For months, instead of lessening, I had experienced feelings build, regarding the passing of my Father 18 months ago. We don’t get to choose how, or for how long, we grieve these things. We just have to work through them. Finishing the book the day before we arrived in Ohio, and two days prior to a family gathering for my Mother’s 87th birthday, was such perfect timing. Only the Universe could have conspired it. I had worked through many feelings, thanks to the articulate and honest way the book is written. But capping it off was this family gathering, without Dad. It was relaxed and fun, and for me, a release. I have this vivid memory of scanning the relaxed, laughing faces of my family and knowing something had changed. I loved my Dad and always will, but he had a way of making family gatherings ‘tense’. That had vanished. It was my Mother’s birthday, but I was the one receiving a gift. And the new, great grandchild was a welcome addition and great reminder of Life’s renewal.
The remaining part of the trip was filled with two road trips, to see a few things, but also to see family and friends. In all we drove through 10 states! It is so much to take in, the sights as well as the people, but also uplifting to renew friendships from a lifetime and witness one that is just beginning. It was wonderfully fun to see our daughter and boyfriend interact and they both kept us entertained repeatedly.
At one point I remarked how dry my hands were from obsessive washing at every opportunity, to keep germs at bay. Allison agreed, and said in a low, quiet voice ‘Not today Ebola’. We all got the humour, not that it is a funny topic, of course. We had a real ‘Boyfriend moment’ when we accidentally discovered the original Kentucky Fried Chicken place in Corbin, Kentucky. Boyfriend loves his fried chicken and one of his few goals for the trip was to eat KFC in Kentucky. So he was beside himself with enthusiasm when we actually saw the place where it all started. And of course we ate some yummy original recipe!! It would have been sacrilege not to.
The second was a smaller road trip, to Michigan. My 85 year old Aunt and her husband live there, as do my lifelong best friend and her husband. It was sad to see that my once vibrant Aunt could no longer even order her own meal in their favourite restaurant. She did still remember me, though she could not remember that it was she who introduced me to global travel on my first trip to Italy over 40 years ago. When I reminded her of this, she characteristically said ‘Good for Me!!’ We all laughed as this was one of the few glimpses of the woman we all knew. Life is very cruel sometimes. I felt the support of my dear friends and family to get through a difficult visit as well as could be expected. The calm, welcoming surroundings our friends provided were an oasis in a sea of relationship challenges and I will always remember it.
And then there was the trip home, which you all know about!! I think I may nearly be recovered now! xx
*(Even though I became her personal physical therapist on the trip, we only barely managed to get Allison through her compressed sciatic nerve problem with drugs and heating pads etc. Now that she is home she is much improved. They tell her it will take a while to correct with exercise, and physical therapy, but she will get there.)