Today marks the end of an era in our journey of life. In retrospect, it seems as if the era ended a long time ago. We were just reluctant to embrace it and wanted one more dance. This morning our 19-year-old son put a lid on the coffin and unapologetically hammered the final nail. You see my wife and I are going to Dallas Texas for a three-day conference/vacation. So I had asked my youngest son the only child at home now to join us on the trip.
At first, he politely declined and gave me several reasons why he is not interested in joining us. When I tried to persuade him to come with us he uttered the words that many parents dread to hear. “Dad, I am a grown up now. I want to make my own decisions”
Miami Beach 2007
Although those words are not new to me having raised two older kids who are their own man and woman now, this one hurt more because it truly marks the end of an era. This is the last one – the baby of the house coming of age.
As if that was not enough sign of the end of the season, my neighbor stopped by our driveway to tell us that she and her family are preparing for another road trip. I told her to enjoy it while it lasted because very soon her 16 and 14-year-old won’t be excited about road trips or any trips with them at all. She said, “I know because the 16-year-old is not as excited about this trip as he used to be. He has other plans with his friends and apparently this trip is getting on the way”
Before you feel sorry for us, let me say that we had our chances and we took our chances. For over 16 years we crisscrossed the landmass of United States every summer and travelled to Africa by road, air and sea. From Galveston to Minneapolis and from Texas to Florida I can count only a handful of pristine beaches and tourist sites that we did not visit. I dare to even say that we had a hell of a ride! We travelled rich and travelled poor; had spontaneous and planned vacations. Sometimes we stayed in 5-star resorts and at other times we squeeze into tiny motels. It was not about hotels or restaurants; it was about family and fun and family fun we had.
At that time all we had to do was announce to the kids that we were going out of town before their excitement and anticipation filled the air. They never asked how or where we were going as long as we were together. When they became older we voted on whether to go by road or by air. Traveling by road always won. One of my most memorable vacations was the two-week vacation we had in the summer of 1999. My wife and I had always wanted to see the United States so we rented a van and headed north on 1-45 through Dallas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Des Moines until we got to Minneapolis (the land of a thousand lakes), stopping by cities and places of interest to rest and see interesting places. We spent three days in the twin cities before heading south through Wisconsin, Indiana, Chicago, Atlanta, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and final back to Texas. My mother-in-law was visiting at that time so we travelled with her.
These are the priceless memories of their childhood that we have as my wife and I transition into our new normal – the empty nest and the second honeymoon. In retrospect, this phase of life ended in 2013 the last time we had a vacation. First, it was difficult getting everybody to commit to the vacation because of conflicting schedules. Second even though we were visiting the Grand Canyon, one of the wonders of the world, the excitement was not there. Everyone had their own agenda, schedule, and interest. We could not agree on when to eat lunch, where to meet for lunch and what site to see. We even drove down to San Diego for a night hoping to reignite the tradition but the fun was not there. That was the last time we took a vacation as a family. Fortunately for my wife and I as that era was ending a new season of ministry that requires us to travel started. Now we travel alone adjusting to the new normal.
Indeed, there is truly time for everything – a time for full house and time for an empty nest. When the children were young we enjoyed them. Now the original Victors have to move on. After all, we were here before they came. The general and the vice general will do what we do best – have a heck of a time for the rest of our lives! Goodbye vans and SUVs, welcome coupes and convertibles.