I'm blogging from a La Quinta in Vermont. I had zero plans to take both boys 4 hours from home overnight, but after a phone call on Monday, here we are. My papa isn't feeling well; he usually spends the whole summer in Vermont, but this year it was a challenge to even get up here, and he's leaving early. Papa is headed back to Florida on Saturday, and I realized that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see him while he was so close. So we road tripped it! We planned the driving for peak nap times and had a strange picnic in the trunk in a gas station parking lot. We got some truly weird looks, but we were 40+ miles between rest stops, and there was no waiting. It went more smoothly than I could have hoped.
Last night we went out to dinner at the Milton Diner, my absolute favorite nostalgic place. Doug, the owner, is good friends with my papa and pointed out that over the past few years, no matter how short the trip to Milton, I always find a way to come to the diner. Papa ordered two creamees for Milo and Elliott. I tried to explain that E was too little, but he was making comments about how he used to take his baseball teams and children and grandchildren to the creamee stand and he all he really wanted was to see the boys eating ice cream, which is how I found myself offering soft serve to my six month old. Papa is also staying with family friends who own an equipment rental and excavating business, so their entire gorgeous property is covered with trucks, tractors, and backhoes, along with huge rock and sand piles. Milo's head basically exploded.
I've been an emotional wreck for a few days now, and this trip has made my lip quiver more than once. Papa is not himself, and he has been sick and in pain for awhile. He's mourning for my grandmother who died last September, and his sons, who are all buried nearby. He's thinking about his past and the things that he regrets. When we were visiting, the trucks and tractors smelled like engine grease and the oily smell + the dust reminded me of growing up on the tree farm. Milo hopped in the bucket of a tractor and I remembered my dad driving us around in the tractor and I thought about the kind of grandfather my dad would have been. I almost never let myself wonder about things like that. I thought about Milo hypothetically wandering around London Grove Nursery, and showing him the things I did when I was little. That will never happen now, because it's all sold and put away, and I cried for the first time about the house I grew up in and the farm life I always took for granted. I told you, I'm an absolute mess.
But one thing is really, really clear to me after coming up here and expending SO much energy and stress to sit with Papa and eat diner food and ice cream cones and chat with my cousin and spend less than 24 hours in town: family is worth it. The reason I'm trapped in a glass case of emotion is that my childhood memories and family bonds, complicated and messy and contentious as they can be, are the most sacred thing in my life, and we're growing up and people are dying and things are changing and it hurts because of how important is all is. When Ben and I pick and choose the places we will go, and the stories we will tell; the traditions that will be a part of our family life, we're sending the message that FAMILY IS WORTH IT. Worth the money, worth the stress, worth the travel, worth hearing the same story 700 times and the same jokes and eating the same food and letting these people you're related to drive you up a wall. It's what you do for family, and the harder we work to make the family time happen, the more we'll get to reap the rewards. Stories and creamees and things like that.