looking forward

With four kids, my husband and I have never taken much time for ourselves. We’ve had children in one public school or another for the past twenty-four years. Yes, twenty-four years! In a row! Without a break in between. We have two more years to go–well, a year and a half–until our youngest graduates high school.

So, being the dutiful parents we have been for a long, long time, we’ve not done a lot of fun things for just the two of us. For one, we’ve been married thirty years and have yet to schedule our honeymoon. Kids arrived pretty soon after we said “I do,” and they kept coming. And never having been well-to-do, we have had to scrimp and save, taking just one vacation of one week long per year ever since we started taking vacations, which wasn’t until child number three was two. And 90 percent of our vacations have been in our car and along the West Coast.

My husband has been a steady provider. He doesn’t earn a fortune and if you saw our house, you’d think he wore a blue collar to work instead of white, but he’s made enough to pay the bills, save for a rainy day, and help the kids out when they needed it. And I’ve provided for the additional stuff–those unexpected bills that spring on you just when you think you’ve got the spending pattern under control. Being thrifty and just making enough means there have been a lot of dreams deferred to raise four kids to be reasonably well-adjusted adults. Fortunately that takes more time than money, but in a world where time is money, being present can equal not buying presents–especially for ourselves.

Last year I lost a dear friend who was younger than I am. Her daughters have now been without her for six entire months and they will never get her back. I’m sure if there was a way to buy an extra day, a week, or a year, my friend would have emptied her bank account, gone into debt, or robbed a bank just to have a little more time to spend with her girls, travel more, and experience more.

With that in mind, I booked a Memorial Day weekend trip to Sedona, Arizona, where several of my husband’s friends just visited to ride mountain bikes. I saw him eyeing those Facebook photos the way a bear looks at honey. I just knew he needed to get away. We lost his mother just two weeks after my friend, so it was a tough row to hoe for all of us last fall, then winter, and now into the spring as we sift through the probate process, packing up her property bit by bit, cleaning up and getting ready to sell a place where maintenance had been deferred for years, while his sister and brother sit 2,500 miles away, waiting for the final check to arrive. It’s time to take a breather, to spend time doing for ourselves. To spend time just doing.

So in a few weeks, we’ll pack up the ten-year-old SUV and hope that the kids will want to come along. It sounds like a beautiful place and in May it won’t be as hot as in the summer months. It won’t be free, of course. There are two days of hotel fees, gasoline, and food on the road and at our destination, but in the end, I’m sure we’ll be happy to share one more experience and a couple more days, because when you’re gone, they’re gone. And there’s no buying them back.