I’m lying on the cold cement floor of a hotel room in Lowell. It’s not anything kinky, or the tragicomic result of a Hangover-esque bacchanal, or even a line from a Kerouac poem (though he is the local hero). I’m here because it’s the first night of my vacation, and my back is pretty seriously injured. And I’m pissed.
I try to always see the positive. I know all the life lessons: being angry hurts no one but yourself. Depression is anger turned inward. This too shall pass. I usually try to deal with anger in healthy ways. But today, I just can’t.
I’m not the mean vacation mom, like the one in the campsite next to us, who’s just mad about everything. She’s annoyed that she had to pack up half their lives and drag it out here into the woods and set it all up again just to get her kids out of the house so they wouldn’t kill each other. She’s bothered by their behavior and nagging at them all the time. Her older son yells, “Oh yeah, sarcasm, that always works well.”
I’m the mom who lives for this. I’m not a sidelines kind of girl. I like to be out there in the middle of the action. Laying by a pool is fine for an hour or so, but what’s next? There’s a bunch of amazing stuff out there, let’s go see it.
Though I have to admit my packing experience was probably similar to hers. I was in constant pain and couldn’t bend over. I dropped the last clean spoon on the floor, left it there for my husband to pick up, and used a plastic one from the pantry. While trying to find the travel pillows, I emptied half the linen closet onto the hall floor and left it there. I didn’t even change the kitty litter (sorry Mich).
I think, you have nothing to complain about. You’re young and healthy, quit being a baby. I think of Aunt Rachel, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her early 30s and spent most of the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Or my dear mother-in-law, who is literally in the hospital right now recovering from knee replacement surgery, and is in pain most of the time.
Being positive all the time feels like a big pain in the ass today. I’m angry. I feel gypped. I want my vacation and I want it pain-free. I don’t ask for much. I get very little to myself that I really want, and I deserve it to be nice.
My job is to function at a very high level all year so other people can have a life. I want mine just for this one week. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.
My mother (who I’ve been texting for long-distance diagnoses and medical advice) reminded me of the year she put her back out and had to lay on the couch while her entire family went on with all their vacation fun. She said, “Four years later I’m still mad about that.”
I remember that week, and while we were relieved that for once Mom had to let go of the cooking and cleaning and let us take care of her, other than that we only wanted her to get better. No one was mad or resentful, and I think that’s how the men are seeing me this week (well that and trying to make me laugh by challenging me to race little old ladies with canes). I have to push them to go ahead and do the fun stuff without me. I got us here because I at least want them to still have a vacation.
And even though I’m waving them goodbye and hanging out on my own a bit, I’ll still have vacation memories. Like the look on Older’s face when he helped me grocery shop and found a double cherry that looked like a butt. Or clinging in fear to Younger during the scary parts of “The Lone Ranger.” And the way they charged toward me and actually wanted hugs every time we were reunited.
But as I lie here flat on my back on a picnic blanket waiting to pick them up at the end of their bike ride (on the stunningly amazing and beautiful Acadia carriage roads) I can’t help but feel sad.
I have to settle for the tourist views that you can see from your car. I know the hard-to-find ones are so much more impressive, and more rewarding because you had to work for them. This is the one I enjoyed while writing this post:
It’s not much, but it’s still pretty. I have to be content with the little things this week. Like the dragonfly that landed on me while I waited, and the two beautiful black and blue butterflies that danced over the pond. When the boys arrived they ran to me through the woods, grunting like apes to scare me. I asked if they’d do it again for my video camera but shockingly, no go.
Last year on the drive to Maine I told Dave this was the week I look forward to most out of the whole year. He seemed surprised. I couldn’t imagine why he was, since it really is the best time we have. He said, “There are so many other things to look forward to.”
Sigh. He’s right. It’s not the end of the world. This year I will sit on the sidelines a bit, and I’ll be angry and resent this injury and its horrible timing. As we drive along listening to the special vacation iPod mix I breathe in the ocean air, smell the pines, and try to relax. This is all that matters – that we are together.