Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vacation gratitude




We left for our annual dream vacation on July 31. We headed to the spectacular Oregon coast, to the promise of fellowship with friends who have crossed decades of our lives, and to the relaxation that comes from waves crashing and people making your bed every morning and cooking your dinner every night. It is a trip we anticipate all year long. In January, when dedicated teachers question their calling and wonder if teaching English in China (Bangladesh, Cuba) would be a better fit, my husband starts counting the days to Cannon Beach. Somehow knowing that the sea salt air is waiting for us helps.

But this year my mother is ill. Just a few weeks before our trip, she was in the hospital, holding my hand as she slept. She was in pain, she was pale, she looked so vulnerable. How could I leave her? I received plenty of solicited and unsolicited advice on how important it was for us to have time away in preparation for the demanding days ahead. And, knowing my mother, she would muster up her remaining strength and wallop me across the head with a blunt object if we did not go on our vacation. So, staying home was not an option.

But what would she need while we were gone? What should we set up for her? I had no idea, and I realized I just needed to wait until right before we left. Finally it became clear that she was healing from her surgery, gaining some strength, and would not need medical assistance. The final decision was for dear friends to water the plants, take care of all the animals, and bring Mom the mail. They, too, have five children who adore Grandma Jean, so I knew she would have children visiting, my friend-like-a-sister to talk with, and the eyes of caring adults to evaluate if any changes occurred.

Still it was difficult to leave. I didn't, in my gut, think she would die while we were gone. I am not really sure why it was so difficult, but I grappled in my prayers about it all. Finally, in a moment of surrender, I acknowledged that all I felt capable of doing was leaving town as an act of obedience. I couldn't promise not to worry. I couldn't do anything but leave.

I kissed Mom goodbye in the pitch black of the early morning hours as children stumbled out of bed and headed for the van. Packed with flip flops and sweatshirts, skim boards and beach towels, stacks of books and cameras and memories of previous summer trips, we drove off. The miles clicked by and the sun rose and we sang favorite songs and we ate our once-a-year treat of color-your-milk cereals. Bruce Hornsby played with his spider fingers, the milk turned pink, we caught the first glimpse of Mt. Shasta, we crossed the border and saw the metal cow sculpture, and finally, at last, I felt my incoherent worries fade away. Any questions I had about leaving were answered (or would go unanswered) and all I had to do was look ahead to ocean breezes and long walks and salt water taffy and stacks of books.

By the time we arrived at the beach house with the purple door, our favorite beach house ever, I knew I was on vacation and I knew it was a good thing.





The next day we made our way up the road to the conference center that would be our home for a week, waving to friends as they pulled in from Utah, Portland, Missouri, Nebraska, Washington and Canada. Conversations from years past picked up like no time was lost. Children disappeared into carpet ball games, bonfires on the beach, giggles with friends. Grown-ups napped without guilt, brewed espresso in their room with the ocean view, read book after book after book, and walked to the rock and back as many times as possible. We shared our stories, compared book lists, made sand castles, and laughed and laughed and laughed some more.

There is no way around it: this vacation was a gift. I couldn't choose to go; I really had to be cornered into it. But once we were moving north, once the surrender was made, I could see it for the perfectly timed, carefully crafted, much needed respite that it was. I am so grateful.

Gratitude stats:

15 meals X 6 = 90 meals
7 days of beds made X 6 = 42
5 trips to Haystack Rock and back
2 trips with children to Bruce's Candy Kitchen
8 nights of sleep with the waves crashing and the breeze blowing
8 friends listening as spiritual autobiographies were shared
4 happy children
2 rested and happy adults
3 books read
2 visits at the house with the purple door
Countless joy at how well Mom did while we were gone. Happy, healthy, cared for.

166 more bits of gratitude
(numbers 101 to 266)


holy experience

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