Our second son (I'll refer to him as 2 of 9 since he doesn't always like to be named) has been in Georgia for a year, and we all miss him. In February Jamie and I decided that we would take a road trip to visit 2 of 9. Our first thought was to just take Dante, Leif, and Micah- leaving the girls with family, but that was not a possibility. We went back and forth for a few weeks trying to decide if the van would make the trip (it has over 200,000 miles!), and if we would survive a 17 hour drive with 6 kids, then doing the drive all over again to get home. There were also the logistics of finding someone to feed and care for all of our animals while we were gone.
We arranged for a housesitter, packed our clothes and prayed for our van to survive!
The drive was beautiful, and blissfully uneventful. Kimberly did not always appreciate all the hours strapped into her carseat, but in the end we were all thrilled to arrive at the campground.
We were reminded how much Dante absolutely loves to swim. He was so mad every time we had to tell him swim time was over. In one hotel on the way home again he screamed so loud and long about getting out that I was surprised no hotel staff came in to check on us. (Although maybe they had security cameras and saw it all? Or maybe someone had experience with Autism and knew Dante was fine?)
Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan. Something went very wrong for 2 of 9, and we were given very little time with him. We were supposed to be together from Monday morning through Wednesday morning, and instead we saw him for a few hours on Monday, a few minutes on Tuesday, and not at all on Wednesday.
I was torn between anger at the military system, grief for not seeing my son, grief for my kids not seeing their brother, and grief for 2 of 9 not getting to see us. It took a lot of effort for me to put that aside and make sure the children were still having a good time, running around, swimming, going to the little playground, and roasting marshmallows.
Honestly, I'm still a bit frustrated about the whole thing. I know I should have just been grateful for the time we did get. Clearly from these photos it can be seen that the children still had fun. We did not go to the beach as planned, since we were hoping our Sailor would suddenly arrive, but a day of waiting at the campground resulted in only a 15 minute visit. I feel cheated, and I feel that my kids got cheated, and the timing of the situation could not have been worse. And my poor boy is still suffering the consequences of someone else's actions. That really angers me.
I know that some day we will look back and this will have been a small blip in the big picture, but at the time, and still now, it is hard to rejoice in all circumstances.
Since Leif barely saw his big brother and we never made it to the beach (or anywhere!), I am saving tip money and hoping to fly down with him for a weekend visit in the Fall...too soon to drive again!
Next April we will likely make the trek again, Lord willing and van still working, and next time will be different, or at least the way I handle the any frustrating turns of events will be different.
In the end, it was a good trip if I look at it as a family vacation and not a pointless drive to and from Georgia. We spent some time with good friends, spent a few hours with a son we had not seen in a year, and we learned that the children-- Dante included --can not only survive a road trip, but enjoyed all the different hotels and eating out. The weather was beautiful, a nice change from the cold of Massachusetts, and everyone we met in our travels was pleasant and friendly.
God is good...even when I have a tantrum and ask him "WHY?"