Before I write about our trip home I want to write about my own little epiphany. It occurred on this trip and I've been pondering it ever since. Some of what I'm about to write will be repeats of things I wrote in parts 1 & 2 but there were parts of the trip that helped me come to this epiphany and should be written down to explain how it happened.
On the Wednesday after Christmas Bob and I went to the beach. We drove on a regular highway instead of taking the faster interstate. Did you know that most of Northern Florida is national forest? The highway we took passed us through the Ocala National Forest. There were trails and camping and lakes and even BEARS! It's true. All along the highway there are signs for bear crossing. Who knew? Had I not been yearning for the sea, I would have stopped at one of the many park entrances to do some exploring since it was all very beautiful. This, however, is NOT my epiphany.
When we got to the beach Bob thought he would be able to drive his wheelchair on the sand because cars and bikes were driving on the sand. He was wrong. This meant that while I could enjoy a lovely day walking along the water, Bob would be left alone and on his own. THIS was part one of my epiphany.
Somehow we made this work when we drove to the boardwalk part of the beach. We were still split up but Bob could at least enjoy the ocean while driving down the boardwalk while I was out exploring the surf and sand. Later, I found a nice bench in the sun facing the surf where I could read a book while Bob sat next to me sunning himself like a lizard on a rock. THIS was part two of my epiphany.
We left the beach and turned the van towards home. Well, actually towards our hotel but that WAS our home for the week. We were hungry but we didn't want to eat fast food and we didn't want to eat at any old chain we could partake of at home. We found the Blackwater Inn sitting on the beautiful St. John's River in Astor. It looked like one of the supper clubs I'd remembered visiting with my folks in the 70's complete with cellophane wrapped breadsticks. Bob and I both ordered the catfish. He ordered the special and I ordered the cajun. I also ordered the authentic Key Lime Pie to go. We sat at a table that directly overlooked the river. The sun set. The moon rose. Boats went by. It was lovely. We ate a leisurely dinner with no thought to the time. The only place we were headed was back to the hotel so why shouldn't we just make time to enjoy our dinner. THIS was part three of my epiphany.
The epiphany was this; Our vacation was more enjoyable (seemingly so) because it was just us. We don't have kids. We don't have kids to worry about. No baby feeding/sleeping/changing schedule to follow. No kids whining for us to buy them stuff at every truck stop and gas station along the way. No cries of "we're bored" or "when are we going to get there?" No stopping at Mickey D's because that's all the kids will eat. No dealing with a lack of sleep because our kids were early risers or bad traveling sleepers. No leaving places early because we had to get the kids to bed. Our whole vacation was OURS to plan as we saw fit even if that meant just rolling with it and doing things on the fly because that's what we wanted to do. We slept when we wanted, we ate what we wanted, we left when we wanted, we took as long or as short a time in certain places just because we wanted to. At the beach I could sit on a bench and read a book while Bob sunned himself because we didn't have kids to entertain. Also, if we'd had kids, they would have had to choose who they wanted to be with because Bob couldn't be on the sand by the waves. If the kids had wanted to play in the sand and surf, I would have had to be with them there while Bob watched from the boardwalk. And how fun would that be?
Finally, Bob's care is getting more demanding. When we travel, he needs his own bed due to his sleeping difficulties. That means any kids would have had to have slept with me or on a roll-away. Also, I realized that Bob's care demands a lot from me. Not as much as it could, but rather than the 2 of us splitting the care of a child/children, I now see realistically it would be me caring for Bob AND the kid(s). That would mean a lot more work for me. We already travel heavy on the equipment without having to add car seats, diaper bags, and all the other stuff kids add to your arsenal of equipment. And I'm the one that packs and hauls it all. Bob would be a great father in that he's present and positive and could be great at entertaining a kid and backing me up but he would not be helpful in actual child wrangling.
So I was kind of floored by all of this but I was actually in a place to mull it over and accept it. Not that there isn't still a sore, hurting place there but it's definitely getting better. Even now that we are home I realize that not having kids can be kind of nice sometimes. SOMETIMES. And all of this isn't to say that should there be a miracle child in our future we won't do our damnedest to make it work somehow. But this trip helped me take another step towards acceptance of the family we are. It's just me, Bob, and our 4 cats (who are NOT our fur babies. They are pets, animals, cats. Granted we love and care for them but we house no illusions about their place in our home and hearts) and on this trip it was just me and Bob.And for this trip, this Christmas holiday, and yes, even for today; that's OK.