I do some of my deepest thinking in the car. I suppose it is the quiet environment with nothing else to do but look straight ahead or into the clouds where there always seems to be a cloud shark or dinosaur to admire. Anyway, our drive home from Myrtle Beach was no different. The kids were tuned out listening to their own music so I had plenty of time to think. I don’t know if it was the wide open road or the highly sing-a-longable songs on the radio (I am quite certain it was NOT the faint aroma of taco. The unfortunate outcome of an ill fated dinner on the go in which both my tee and my skirt took terrible hits) but I had this moment of calm and optimism which I haven’t felt in a long time.
It has become a family tradition to spend 4th of July in South Carolina. I can’t say that I remember much from last year’s trip. We were all so numb and in a haze. I do remember small moments, some tender and some difficult, but I am shaky on any details or events.
This year our summer had a delayed start. The kids didn’t get out of school until June 19th, and the following week I had 2 full days of a class that I am taking and another full day of strategic planning. I actually worked more than my typical part time schedule during my first week of summer vacation! We finally kicked off our summer by heading to the lake. I have been trying to let the kids take the lead on vacation plans and honor their time and wants. This year they wanted to go to the lake, but it is no longer a week long event. They decided that a few days was what they could manage. Dave was always eager to fill the boat up with whoever felt like tubing or surfing or skiing. He was also ready to load bait onto fishhooks for the anglers in the group. This year there were 28 of us between the two houses and Dave’s cousin, Brenda, had the kids on the dock fishing and my brother-in-law, Franck, spent hours dragging folks around the lake. Life goes on.
I am glad that we made the trip this year. If we hadn’t, I wouldn’t have seen Parker wake surf for the first time with some amazing coaching from her Uncle Jeff. The look of absolute shock on her face when she realized she was surfing was beautiful. I also wouldn’t have been sitting on the dock surrounded by my kids with my only niece sitting in my lap while we ate s’mores and watched fireworks and talked about our favorites. Last year the fireworks were just a sad reminder that Dave wasn’t there. This year they brought joy.
Parker went to Savannah with one of my nephews and my niece to spend a week at Grandma and Grandpa’s. The older two and I headed to Myrtle Beach. Last year we spent the week before the 4th in Myrtle thanks to the generosity of Dave’s brother. I remember more about that week than the family lake trip. I suppose it was because it was a new experience for the four of us, and we were all making efforts to get out and do some different things. Both last year and this one we were able to meet up with my friend, Lexy, who has been an incredible and supportive friend even from continents away.
Which brings us back to the drive home. As I thought back and compared last year to this one, I realized how far we have come. I have spent the past year looking back and looking inward, and I am proud of how we have all navigated this herculean task of living without Dave. The last four years were challenging – from his diagnosis and surgeries and treatments through saying goodbye and having to move forward. But we did it. And as I headed north towards home, I started to see potential. And to think about the future. As we pulled off the highway, the universe sent us a little encouragement in the form of a beautiful double rainbow. One day at a time.
PS A tradition that I started last year when we were on vacation was to tip really well wherever we ate. Not $1000 or a new car well, but a high percentage of our bill. My hope is that this brings a smile or small bit of happiness to someone else’s day. It makes us feel really good too. I like to think we are putting some goodness and kindness back out into the world when we have been on the receiving end of so much love and support. Maybe, try it. : )