Next week, I will travel 900 miles by air to spend a few days with my parents at their home. It is something I have never done alone, since having a family of my own. For some, this might seem strange. I have friends who see their parents several times a week, and might even talk to them each day. I also have a friend who has not seen her mother in over ten years. I am somewhere in between. For anyone who is honest about families, there is a wide variation of normalcy.
Over the last few years my husband starting going back to where he grew up, to see his parents. He went alone. We are at a time in our lives that our boys are busy and cannot just take off for a lengthy stretch. This, of course, is complicated by not living near our parents. You have to plan for a trip cross-country, as opposed to dropping in to see grandma and grandpa on a Friday night.
So, our visits started out as being yearly. One year, we went to visit them, and the following year, they came to visit us. This has become much more infrequent in the last five years. My husband’s parents were about ten years older than mine and started to fail in health several years ago. Since their last visit here, seven and a half years ago, they have both passed away. But, before that happened, my husband started going back to visit them a couple of times a year. It was a good thing to do. After his Dad passed away, he continued to go, somewhat more frequently. This amounted to a few times a year to see his mom and try to help his sister with moving their mom from her home of over 65 years. She passed away this past spring, a little more than a year after his dad.
As I have aged and watched my own boys grow up in what seems to be the blink of an eye, I have realized that life is short. We had two of our three boys here in the mid-west. We have been here for eighteen and a half years. We have built a life here with homes, a cabin, a barn, pets, jobs, schools, hobbies and fruit orchards. We have been active community members – not in the sense that we have joined formal organizations like Rotary or the Hunger Task Force, but have made other, solid and continuous volunteer contributions – mostly to our school system and the environment.
We never got in the habit of going back to New York for the holidays. This, I suppose, was mostly my decision. I wanted my boys to wake up in their own beds on Christmas morning. I was selfish enough to want to try to establish our own traditions. However, this decision was complicated by my husband’s job that demanded he work during holidays – many of which the boys had off. Could I have travelled alone with the boys? Certainly. I chose not too. And, let’s face it, traveling at any time when your family is young, is stressful.
So, my husband asked me this past summer when I was going to start going back to see my parents. Sadly, I think it is something we should have been doing all along – all during these eighteen years while we have been busy building a life in the mid-west. I did not argue with him. I just made the plans to go.
And, so I will. Go. This next week, I will travel to see my parents. Luckily, they are both still in fairly good health. I know they are looking forward to my visit, and honestly, so am I. My boys seem excited to know that I can and will go on this trip to see their grandma and grandpa. For despite having busy teenage lives, they know they have family who loves them, even if they do not see them a lot.
But, I realized yesterday, that I will be going to a house in which I did not grow up. I realized that I might need a little help with directions to that house. I realized that as long as my mom and dad are there, I will be going home. I am pretty sure I can find the way.