I can’t even watch the news anymore. No, not for the reasons you’re thinking.
Every weekend I come downstairs in the morning to find my husband watching the local news. I get my coffee and join him on the couch. Often scrolling my Instagram feed or checking emails as that first hit of caffeine jolts me awake and I am able to form full thoughts and sentences for the day.
This past weekend was no different. I joined my husband on the couch and listened as they chatted about the weather (crazy), some festival downtown (Scarcely attended. See: weather), and a pretty serious accident involving some bicyclists only a few miles from my house. On a route I drove daily to bring my children to and from school for years.
Finally the weekend anchors got to the the travel segment. There is an anchor on channel 3 named Jared who does travel deals. Every week there is a new travel deal or 2. Wanna head over to Rome a week from Tuesday? Round trip for 650 bucks a person. How about Tahiti in September? Book by the 3rd for $575 round trip! Incredible deals to be found and they just spell it all out for us. Here’s where you take your flight to and from, how long it will take, and often they even throw in some lodging deals and things to do.
One day? Maybe not
I remember watching these segments when we were a younger family. A broke family, without means to take advantage of these savings and get in a quick couple getaway. I recall feeling that one day, when the kids were older and my husband was done with school, when I had been working again for a bit and we had some disposable income…. One day, we would be watching this segment and pulling out our laptops to book a deal on the fly. We would travel and see all kinds of great places together. Just the two of us.
I don’t remember the deals from this past weekend. I couldn’t focus on it this time. I remember seeing how cheap the flights were and feeling a sudden pang in my soul. Sadness, grief, frustration. Followed immediately by an almost unbearable guilt.
I found myself lost in self-pity. We can’t possibly leave town and get on a plane and leave my girls anywhere. There is no way I am comfortable even considering that at this point in my life. I don’t know if this will ever change but for now, it’s a no-go.
And how the hell can we afford to travel everywhere as a family of five? It’s a heck of a lot cheaper to travel as a pair than a family, I imagine. I don’t really know that for sure because by the time we might have been able to afford things like that, the girls had been diagnosed and our world had been turned upside down. But it’s a reasonable assumption.
I was sad and frustrated in that moment. We (my husband and I) have worked damn hard to get to where we are. We have worked damn hard to make a life for ourselves. We have sacrificed weekends, holidays, nights, anniversaries, birthdays, family events, vacations, you name it, all in the name of creating this life. We wanted to create a life that gives our children a good start in adulthood. A life where we can pay for our children to go to college and they won’t have to worry about loans or working multiple jobs to pay their tuition. A life where we could take a family trip every year and even a married couple trip once or twice a year.
It all goes up in a puff of smoke
It’s all gone. All of it. All our hard work. All our sacrifice. See where the guilt comes in?
Watching that stupid news segment sent me into a tailspin I still haven’t found my way out of entirely. It’s not poor me not being able to travel. Not being able to do fun things and go cool places. It’s that every single thing about our life is different. It’s not what we planned. It’s not what we had hoped and worked for.
It’s that we worked for this. We planned for this. We saved for this. And we can’t do it now. Our “extra” money goes to medical bills, covering time when I can’t work, and saving for their future expenses. We will likely never be able to truly downsize our living arrangements. We will likely need to keep their rooms open and on standby. We hope they are able to move out and move on one day. Not for us, but for them. For their sense of independence. But we always have to be prepared to take care of them. Always keeping extra accessible space for each of our girls.
It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good
We pray they will be able to move out on their own. Have a family (if they choose to) and a career they love. Even then, will I feel OK getting on a plane and flying off to be with my husband? Will I feel OK about being hours away by plane, maybe more? I don’t know. I try to picture it. I try to imagine a time when I will get on that plane and not worry every second of the day. I try to picture a time when I will put my phone on silent and board an airplane with no connection to my daughters for hours on end. As hard as I try, I just can’t see it. It’s….overwhelming.
So, for now, maybe forever, we plan our trips together. As a family.
This year-Disney World. Next year-who knows. But we’ll be doing it together. And maybe that’s not so bad after all.