What If?

This was the best summer my family and I had in a very long time.

We took trips that were unexpected and the experience was phenomenal. It had been a long time since we’ve been able to do something like this. Time, money and health were always the road blocks in our way. But this year, I took the bull by the horn and told my family, “We will do this, regardless of what comes our way.”

We took precautions, as that’s the only way, as my daughter would say, “Mom would step out of her box.”

Our first trip was to Historical Philly. I had been there before for a writers conference and I had been after my family to take a weekend trip and be in the middle of American History. There was always a reason why that trip would not happen, except the weekend of July 16th. We had originally planned to fly to Colorado to visit with our favorite cousins but that did not pan out at the last-minute, then I remembered, Historical Philly.
“Let’s do it!” I said and off we went. To heck with the appointments not kept or other commitments not met, we were on our way to Historical Philly. As we drove early that morning, I kept thinking to myself, “So this is what being spontaneous feels like.” I love being spontaneous but our lives lately had not allowed any of that to happen. Yet here we were, on our way.

We went all over and we walked it. Each stop had my husband and daughter discussing moments in American History. I felt as if I was in a history classroom listening to the both of them talking. It was better than sitting in a history class. Our evening always ended with a walk through the market and just so that we wouldn’t feel guilty about extra calories, we thought it would be the best thing to order 2 desserts and share while supporting the local farmers. It worked. We didn’t gain a pound.

We’d drive back home after being there for five days and began to plan for another vacation. One I kept telling them we could not afford, just not yet. When we received some bad news about my husband being ill, I felt the time was not right to take a vacation. What if something happened while we were away? What if he didn’t feel well enough to do the things we had wanted to do? What if, what if what if??! I stepped out of that comfortable box I have put myself in, threw caution to the wind and booked us a trip for 8 days to Sunny Puerto Rico. That trip would be the experience of a lifetime because of the people we met.

When the hotel reminded us that we had a $200.00 credit, we chose to take a cruise somewhere and see another part of the island. When our daughter saw that one of those islands was Culebra, she jumped up and down with excitement. That was on her bucket list. I had long given up on my bucket list, I now had a F*&^% it list and well, that just meant I didn’t care any more. Now here we were, on our ancestors island, on our way to scratching off a number on our daughter’s bucket list.

We met some amazing people and it was odd that we had to come all the way to Puerto Rico to meet people who lived in our area. One of them would be the person who would be the most helpful during our third vacation this summer but we wouldn’t know it then.

We had just two days to pack again, stock up the car and head to Georgia, where my nephew would be graduating from  boot camp. Stress, a killer for some, but this kind of stress was exciting. We were on the last leg of a summer we hadn’t planned and we were excited for the long drive, one we had promised never to do again as the last time we did it, it did not make our bodies feel very good. Yet, here we were, 9 pm and ready for our road trip.

The time spent with family is always great but these particular family members are crazy, my kind of crazy. To see what came out of both our cars was like watching a circus clown car and having 12 clowns come out of a small beetle. Yup, that’s our family. We cooked every night, we had munchies and drinks by the pool. We played board games in our room and watched TV, all the while, arguing about the best baseball team ever. The manager of the hotel said we were the best family that has ever stayed there. That earned him and his staff bowls of Chili when it was my turn to cook.

And then….

“Hello, Mr. A_____, This is River______ Corporation. We are sorry to inform you that a fire in your neighbors apartment broke out 3 hours ago and we had to break your door down to fight the fire. The police are there, watching your home, and we will be taking pictures of all the damage that’s been done. We just wanted you to know so you wouldn’t be alarmed when you arrive home.” Click…

My heart dropped. I immediately felt the guilt of having stepped out of my box and taken all of these trips. If I had just not done that, I would have been home and we could have saved our things and no damage would have occurred   and….and … and…

And then….

The couple we met in Puerto Rico had connections to friends we’ve known since our daughter was a child. We exchanged numbers and  intended to see each other before we left but that never happened. All we knew was that the oldest daughter would be going to the college our daughter had gone to and we offered to help her out in any way. We would see an unfamiliar number show up on my husband’s cell phone. It was the father of the young lady going away to college. He would tell us about the fire. How did he know? Turns out he was the Lt. Investigating the fire and knew immediately whose apartment he was in by the pictures he saw on the wall. He told us not to end our vacation because there was nothing that could be done but he would see to it that everything was secured for us.

We did stay for an extra day to watch our handsome nephew graduate and now be a member of the United States Army but we had to leave soon after. The drive was long and quiet. I had no idea what to expect but I was fighting the what if’s going through my mind.

We had some damage and did stay in a hotel for a few nights. We did lose some things but they are replaceable.

A week later, my husband would have surgery and it felt odd for my daughter and I seeing him this way. You see, I’m the one who is usually in the hospital and this was different. The morning my husband was to come home, I would wake up to a flood in my living room floor. I  ran out of what if’s… I was now ready to throw in the towel but I had used them all up to soak up the mess.

All of the bumps in our road were tough. We handled it. My husband is home sleeping on our recliner until he’s able to get into our bed. And today, as I was attempting to shave him,I took a deep breath. I  decided to let my nephew handle this job and I began to tidy up around the house as my sister and her son were on their way. As I went into my room, I heard a loud laughter. Could that be him?

I tiptoed to the living room and there he was, watching cartoons.  Huh?

I watched him for a few minutes more and for the first time since the bad news of the fire, I thought, what if?

What if we hadn’t met that family in Puerto Rico? How much worse would our home have been?

What if we hadn’t taken that trip to Historical Philly? We would have never come across a beautiful 9/11 memorial where I could once again, pay my respects to our friends who were killed that day and the loved ones of friends I have made since my volunteer work began in 2008 for The 9/11 Tribute Center.

What if we hadn’t been spontaneous about the Philly trip? Then I wouldn’t have seen our daughter speak about what she loves the most; History and her dad speak about his time in the military. If that trip hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t be putting in his application to become a Free Mason.

What if we hadn’t gone to Puerto Rico? I would have not worn those ugly flippy shoes and not held on to my husbands waste as he swam with me on his back to the island of Culebra. We would have never seen the beautiful beach or collected the tiny seashells that were so perfect in their shape.

What if I hadn’t tip towed into the living room? I would have never seen my husband laughing so hard over a cartoon. I would have missed that brilliant smile, that gleam in his eyes when he is truly happy.

Yes, my living room is in shambles. My floors are buckled and I have rugs hiding the obvious. We haven’t fully unpacked because we’ve been busy going to appointments and keeping commitments. There’s a lot we haven’t done but there is a lot we have done.

In the midst of all that we may be going through in life, there is always something to be thankful for. I am thankful for Sunday morning cartoons. For friends we have to travel far to meet. I am thankful for stepping out of my box and not being scared about what ifs… I am thankful for a nephew who is now in the Honor Guard serving our country. My daughter will be speaking about her wonderful Philly vacation when she begins teaching again this year and I will be basking in the knowledge that what if could be in fact a good thing.

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