I am taking a trip and leaving the kids behind. I am off to a tropical island without Jon. That’s right, I’m escaping it all with a good friend I have known for more than thirty years. We are both moms of toddlers who are over 40 and overly tired. I plan to read a book, drink cocktails, have a few nice meals, and miss my family like crazy.
In preparation, I spent the morning digging through my summer gear and lining up my small army of Miracle Suits. I’m not pregnant and I’m not within a year of giving birth, but damn that tummy control is like an addiction.
On the very bottom of the haphazard pile, I found a hat.
In the spring of 2006, Gail had exhausted most treatments available but her cancer continued to grow. As a last attempt to slow the disease, she opted for an especially difficult course of chemo that caused her to lose a ton of weight and her hair – again.
A very kind family friend knew Gail was struggling so he arranged and funded a trip to Florida. She needed a break more than I could ever imagine on my very, very worst of stressful days.
Right before the trip, Gail celebrated her 41st birthday. I gave her an easy-to-pack straw hat that was quite nice, meaning expensive. Something she would have never bought for herself to wear on a trip she would have never planned for herself. Even though she deserved it. She deserved every expensive hat ever made, even the ridiculous kind that are more art than hat, and a trip around the world twenty times.
Gail died four months later. Gwyn and I carefully and tearfully went through her closet and decided to donate almost everything. Not the hat.
Unlike Gail, I don’t have a problem treating myself to expensive things every once in a while (Jon is somewhere nodding vigorously) but the trip I’m about to take is a real departure for me. Literally. From a thousand miles away it will be impossible to hear Edy yell a desperate snack request from the basement, or Lu stress about something right before bed, or Bea, my sweet Bea, scream with displeasure because I won’t let her eat (another) eraser.
Most of us aren’t facing a now or never situation like Gail, thank God. (Seriously, thank God now.) Comfort breeds complacency and soon years fly by. I’ve been meaning to get away alone. It’s been on my list. But activities and school and holidays and needy babies complicate scheduling and it just doesn’t happen. Until you make it a priority, which I decided to do a few months ago on a particularly frustrating day. It occurred to me, crystal clear, that I could benefit from an interruption to the monotony and a brief change of scenery.
Then yesterday it was reinforced when I got into a verbal back and forth with a surly TruGreen rep. This was odd because a.) I hate confrontation and b.) I am very respectful to people trying to make a living. When I told him we didn’t want our trees and shrubs sprayed he asked a.) if I had “seen the weather lately” (smart ass!) and b.) when he could talk to my husband. Grrrr. Frozen cocktails, hear me now, I am on my way! Then Lu had a softball game in the spitting rain and Bea didn’t want to be there and Edy played on a mound of red dirt in her new sneakers and Jon was at a work event. Okay, you get it.
So off I go with the easy-to-pack straw hat and my Miracle Suit collection, which I swear mated and multiplied while stored for winter. This is good because quality tummy control is not cheap.
I return on what would have been Gail’s 47th birthday, hopefully refreshed, reinvigorated and once again reminded of how lucky I am to enjoy my life of monotony. Fighting cancer is many things, there are highs and there are lows, but there is never monotony.
What is something seemingly selfish you’ve been meaning to do and should move to the top of your priority list – right now – in honor of Gail’s birthday?