In about 36 hours, Shelby, Sarah and I are hitting the road. We’re not going to Texas, or the beach, or New York, or to visit my parents. We’re not planning this trip amongst anyone other than ourselves. I neither desired or solicited anyone else’s input with regards to our plans, other than Sarah and Shelby. We’re headed to the mountains in North Carolina, because of course we’re headed to the mountains.
In years past, our “family vacations” were, in general, a week-long trip to Myrtle Beach with Megan’s parents and siblings. Sure, Megan and I’s honeymoon was in Gatlinburg, and just the two of us. We also spent a week in Yosemite National Park and San Francisco together. Neither of those trip included Shelby though.
In 12 years as a couple, 7 of which included Shelby, we took only one trip where we planned and executed everything for ourselves...a trip to Maine. Shelby still talks about that trip, 5 years later. She remembers some things from our 4 or 5 trips to the beach, certainly, but it’s Maine that she wants to go back to.
Well, Maine isn’t in the cards this year. It’s a little too pricey, and a little too far, and ultimately, the Solar Eclipse next week will be directly over our campground in North Carolina. We have what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a total solar eclipse, and it’s occuring in my favorite place on earth, the Great Smoky Mountains.
So it made sense to plan this particular trip. However, as we near the time to hit the road, an idea has begun appearing in the back of my mind...this is finally “our” trip. Five years since taking my family to a place that we all enjoyed, not beholden to anyone, I’m finally getting to fully plan a vacation again. We’re not going in order to visit particular people. We’re not basing it on anyone else’s schedule, or a certain holiday, or even health issues. There is no reason to agree to taking part in certain activities because someone else is paying for it.
We can do whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want. We’re kenneling the dogs, mothballing the house, and pseudo-disappearing. We don’t have to worry about the closest ER because of pleurisy occurring (like it did on a trip to Myrtle Beach), or hernias and altitude sickness (like it did on Megan and I’s trip to Yosemite). Hell, Megan’s parents, frankly, seemed to forget that we were even leaving this week, or at all. (To be fair, they’re new grandparents again as of last week, so their minds have been occupied with more important things).
I know it sounds simple and straightforward...we’re just taking 6 days to go to the mountains and see the eclipse...but it’s much, much more than that to me. At 36 years old, a father for 10 years, a husband for 9, and a widower for 3, I am finally taking my (modified) family on a road-trip that is ours and only ours. Maine was very heavily planned around other people being able to watch our dogs, birthdays, holidays, and Megan’s health. We pulled it off, but I never really felt “free to roam” like I do with this trip.
Perhaps I’m just rambling, or letting the fact that I’m writing about it form more meaning than is warranted. I may be inflating the importance of this trip a bit. There are of course thoughts about how much Megan would have loved seeing the eclipse, especially with Shelby. She would have been so happy to see Shelby taking even a small part in the planning. I do mourn the fact that she’s not present to take part in this.
But just the same, this trip is for Sarah, Shelby, and I. Megan (and Drew) will be along for the ride in spirit. We may have some friends that live in the south visiting us while we’re down there, but they’re planning around our schedule, not the other way around. I am ridiculously excited to see them again (they were close friends of Megan and I, who moved 4 or 5 years ago), but even so, we’re still “on our own program”.
It’s a sense of independence. Independence from work obligations, family obligations, health, financial, and even canine obligations. It is independence from even being a widower, and the past. Taking a “little drive” in the mountains is a bigger deal than I first thought.
I just wish it was time to hit the road already.