with Lynne and Leslie

Disappointing my grandma, making my life a little easier. Forgive me.

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here! I moved away from Miami, where I was living as a underemployed Gen-Xer with my parents and sister, to York, Pennsylvania, and for the next 19 years, up to today, have never lived in the same state as any of them, or as my extended family (except for my almost triplet Nikki, who was in Orlando when I moved to Florida again ten years ago, or my almost quadruplet Kiki, who moved here after I did and was my running buddy for a while.)

This means that as much as I have made the places I have lived, including West Palm Beach for the last decade, my home, there is always that other “home,” be it Maryland where I was raised, or Little Rock, where my parents settled. Most of my travel in that 19 years has been centered on those other places, where vacation time has not meant that I was resting. More often, like my parents before me, who moved away from Maryland with us temporarily in the early 80s and for good in the 90s, those trips are almost as scheduled as my actual job – an hour for lunch with this aunt, two hours with Grandma. A drink with this friend before dinner with another. And hey, we told So-and-so you were in town, and she’s just down the street so you can fit her in before you get on the plane, right?

This has left me, and now my husband, happy to see the people we love but exhausted by the time we get back on the plane, in serious need of a vacation after our vacation.

All of which is to say – the next time I go “home,” I probably won’t be telling anybody, except for the people associated with the event I’m going to. I hope that’s OK. You can blame my dad. Who died last year.

So that’s not going to do you a lot of good.

I should explain.

About a year before Daddy passed, three years into his fight with cancer, which never fights fair, he told me that he was now only traveling to places he really wanted to go, and not out of obligation. I don’t know if he knew how bad things were gonna get, and how fast, but by then he’d had more than 60 years on this planet – half of those spent buying plane tickets. And as much as he loved our family, he said that he’d learned that his time, money and desire not to be exhausted and have an actual restful experience at some point on his vacation were more important than other people’s guilt trips over not seeing them for twenty minutes on the way to see someone else.

“It became about obligation and not about quality – ‘You saw him, you should come see me,'” he told me. “I realized I was always the one who was going to see everyone else. I did all the running. And that doesn’t seem fair. It became expected, and we got caught up in it. Don’t get caught up in that. Go where you want, don’t be guilted into going everywhere you’re invited, and if people say something, remind them they can always come see you. They have an airport, too.”

And then he finished with this.

“Why do all of my trips have to be about being tired at the end of them when no one else’s are?”

Wise, that one.

My husband and I spent thousands and thousands of dollars traveling last year, more than usual, because of my father’s illness and eventual death, and all of the things surrounding that. Those were not fun trips, of course, but they were necessary and satisfying, and we were honored to be there with Daddy, to hang out with him as much as we could, and then to honor him at his funeral and then at another memorial service. We also went to a baby shower, a wedding, a headstone unveiling and Thanksgiving, and packed into all of those trips at least three other visits or stop-ins each trip. We were thrilled to be invited and enjoyed ourselves because, again, we love those people and wish we saw them more often.

But Scott said something profound to me the night we got home, as we grumpily unpacked around midnight and grumped around the cat and pretty much faced a night of grumpy sleep before starting the work week more tired than we were than when we left.

“You know what it is that gets me? That’s supposed to be our vacation, and we didn’t even take three hours to say ‘Let’s go to dinner at this place we really like, just the two of us, because we like it, and not because we’re meeting someone.’ Or go to a basketball game at Maryland, which we would both enjoy, or go see a show. We didn’t do anything that wasn’t about seeing other people besides sit in the hotel room and watch football, and that was wedged between three other visits.”

I was momentarily speechless, and your girl is never speechless, so this was big. Huge, even. And it hit me. He wasn’t saying we were never going to visit our family. He just meant – and I agree- that assuming everyone stays alive this year, we’re going to try to center our travel in 2013 on things that are fun, like going places we’ve never been before. Or going to Vegas. Or going back to the Bahamas or taking another cruise. Or heading to California and driving the coast. Maybe even just driving to the Keys and spending more than a night at a time.

It’s not that we never have fun at home with our folks. We do. And time is short and never promised. But you know what we’ve noticed, that my dad noticed? All of the people we love take vacations, too. They go on cruises, or to the beach. Sometimes they even come down here and see us. But if they don’t, they don’t feel the need to explain it to us. Countless times we’ve gotten emails and texts from people that say “Hey, I was an hour away from you. I should have called you. But I couldn’t get away, so I didn’t.”

And that’s fine, because they were on a trip to do something else that wasn’t about seeing us. Would have been nice. Can’t take it personally.

And I hope no one else does, either. I am going to have to call and explain to the couple of people expecting me to visit that I won’t be able to make it. I’m going to do things I never get to do in my own life – sit with a few people I seldom see and enjoy their company without checking my watch, or making them feel they are punching a clock. I want to sleep late, and not light out before my hosts gets up because I’m on a schedule. I want to spend my time being truly present with the people I am with, and making sure they feel that they have my full attention and love. And when I get on the plane to come back, I want to feel rested and know that the things and people I didn’t see this time will hopefully be there and happy to see me the next time.

You know. Like a vacation.

2 Responses to “Disappointing my grandma, making my life a little easier. Forgive me.”

  1. Turner411@gmail.com' Best Friend Nikki says:

    That’s what I’m SAYIN’!! Sam and I are totally taking a vacay this spring. A long weekend, maybe.

  2. kristiina@typicalhousecat.com' Kristiina says:

    wow, I never realized how lucky I am to live near family, my vacations are pretty much always personal. Thanks for making me feel grateful 🙂

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