Wish you were here . . .
This was the header on an email my husband sent from his phone while he and our daughters were off on a vacation adventure and I was at home with the boys: our own sons, our good beagle. . . and our newly-adopted beagle. One of the four was a bit of a trial while his master was away. (Being Beagle Quarterly-cover boy handsome gets him a lot of mileage.)
It was a given that during even a routine three-day absence for a medical conference, things would fall apart at home. I would get embroiled in something and forget to turn off the tea kettle until I smelled something burning (even though this was expressly the reason Jim had presented me with an eardrum-piercing high-frequency shrieking kettle; it only has so far a range, and sometimes I think deeply.)
Invariably at least one of us would get sick as soon as there was not a doctor in the house.
Jim’s clothing would turn shades of pink (a particularly hideous muddy pink if it started out green) because I wore a lot of bright red and am not discriminate in tossing in loads of laundry. (He would later look at his formerly-white socks curiously, but never said anything critical.)
He once returned to a broken window pane through which wind and rain were whooshing in and asked what happened. I told him I had swatted at a fly. With a stapler. He nodded thoughtfully, in that way of his. I see.
A car battery would die because I had left on an interior light while searching fruitlessly for lost keys, or a car would be rear-ended by a Massachusetts driver, or an essential and shockingly expensive vehicular part would fall off in traffic.
More than once, I managed to lock myself out of the house with the beagles in an ice storm after the children were off at school.
Food would burn and spoil. Pots would irrevocably be encrusted with black starch, requiring the strength of ten men to scour them, and I would leave the clattering mountain to soak in the sink until Jim returned.
The printer would jam or run out of ink when I was on a deadline to file something; electricity would short out somewhere crucially important to my work; the electric fence would get chewed through by wildlife and I’d have to search through the woods, pitifully calling out “treeeeaaaaat” (always, but always, in a downpour) as I looked for the beagles; something in the house would overflow in epic fashion. (In this instance, the latter turned out to be the newest canine family addition.)
And this time he was going to be gone not for a three-day conference but for ten days, which we all assumed would heighten the domestic chaos by an order of magnitude.
Ten whole days.
Attached to Jim’s email, of course, was one of his amazing photographs, and I smiled because I knew he would be bringing home thousands of images.
I had given him my enthusiastic blessing to go because it was rare that any of our children’s school vacations overlapped and I knew how much he wanted to make a trip to Central America. And of course I also was petrified of flying, although I no longer am.
Like our son the Eagle Scout, Jim was always prepared. He taught himself enough Spanish to embarrass the girls by speaking it during their trip.
I cannot say I wish I were there because the dynamic of this trip was so special for Jim and our daughters, just as it was when he had a chance to make a trip with our sons at the beginning of the year when he would be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The two of us thought we would have a chance to travel to both places together some day.
But oh, how I wish, wish, wish you were here.
(c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon