Some people hit the beach in the summer. Some may take to the high seas on a cruise. Some may go big and go to an entirely new continent. I, however, decided to go to an entirely new world . . . Arkansas. Arkansas, you ask? I would not have chosen that spot for pure vacation delight, but my sister lived there, until about last week.
In about the middle of May, I started dreading the summer. I didn't want every day to feel like we were just making it. As much as I love our pool, I cringed at the thought of waking up every morning, going to the pool, coming home, missing Dave, going to bed and then starting it all over the next day. Planning our Arkansas/Oklahoma trip, really gave the Aldridge Four, something to look forward to, which I have come to realize, is a very important part of living right now.
Before I left, I seriously visualized myself pulling over next to the "Six Legged Steer - Next Exit" billboard and falling apart in tears, wondering what made me think taking a trip with two four year olds and six year old, was a good idea. I full on expected to have at least two near mental break downs and I prayed fervently to escape any mechanical break downs far from civilization. I'm still not sure how we all pulled it off, but the drive wasn't bad. Of course, my mom ended up driving out there with me, at the last minute and then she flew home, which was a huge help. I'm still not sure how a 20 minute trip to Target can unravel the entire family, but a two day trip across country is no big thing. We did have a DVD player, but we also had music, legos, coloring books, fashion scarves and make-up, which kept them relatively busy, not to mention, looking like gypsies.
At our first overnight stop, we stayed with a friend, Heidi, who I haven't even talked to since college, but thanks to facebook we connected and I ended up staying there. Her stepdad lived next door and I had an interesting talk with him. He lost his wife and two teenage kids in a plane crash many years ago, right outside the town that Dave is from, in fact. It feels good when someone who has walked in similar shoes can tell me that things are going to be OK. I can kind of believe them.
When we arrived at my sister's house, it was like arriving at a resort, complete with two young cousins that are just about babysitting age. Everything was so clean, comfy, tasty and the kids were off being kids for most of the time. Of course, when it came time to do a dance party, they had to show their moves to an audience. Suffice it to say, I was a little surprised when Maci and Leah knew all the words and motions to every tween song out there. Thanks Monet!
The second day in Arkansas was Father's Day. For some reason, I kind of thought that my kids might not notice. I just didn't feel like making a big deal out of the day, like I normally would have. Everyone was having fun . . . we were on vacation . . . we were far from reality, and I just didn't feel like going there. About half way through the day, it was apparent that Spencer was a bit blue. He kept withdrawing from the activity at hand and he just seemed sad. I almost tried to get him to believe that he was upset about something else, so I started guessing. "Are you upset that it started raining and you had to come in?" "Are you upset that the girls aren't playing with you right now?" And so on. He finally said, "It's Father's Day, and I miss Daddy." There we have it. Really big feelings in seven direct words. I explained that sometimes I feel better when I write about him and that we should try to do that together. Ten minutes later, I went downstairs and he had already started a masterpiece drawing with the words, "I mi Dade b kus I mi reslen." Which is interpreted as follows: "I miss Daddy, because I miss wrestling." UGHHH! As heartbreaking as that was, it was also good to see that his demeanor changed after we all sat down and talked about some memories of Daddy and drew some pictures. We all just have to get it out somehow and sometimes. I'm just so thankful that Spencer knows how to express his feelings and they don't just get stuck. I can see where he would be if he couldn't let those thoughts out.
The rest of the time in Arkansas was really great, until we had to leave. I have, literally, never seen Leah so sad. Usually, her sadness turns to madness, but in this case she was just so so so sad to leave. She cried big fat Ethiopian tears, that she must have borrowed from Maci, all the way to Tulsa.
The next few days, we spent in Edmond, Oklahoma - another hot spot on the tourist trail in the USA and when I say hot spot, I mean temperature wise. Holy hotness! I ingested more Sonic drinks in those three days than the last three years put together. On this portion of our trip, we did the more standard touristy type of things. We went to the zoo, the Science Museum, the "Sound of Music" musical, and of course laughed and cried with dear friends from college. While every night was special, one night was set aside to see friends of Dave's. I knew all of them in college, but I wasn't quite in the cool crowd like Dave. I tried to be, but it just never happened. Just kidding, but it's true. It was exactly what I wanted on the 6 months anniversary (one day before actually) of his death. I just wanted to be near people who knew Dave. I just can't tell you how much I loved being with people who Dave had talked so much about when he talked about his college days or his Oklahoma post college days. It was perfect and it was healing and all these pretty people are still so amazingly beautiful. Dave had some remarkable friends that I just love, love, love.
It was sad to leave my friends and I wasn't anxious to get back at all. Fortunately, the drive went well again. I ended up stopping in Kansas for the night. Partially, because I didn't feel like driving 4 more hours that day, but also because I had such a great trip, that I was starting to dread getting back to being home. I was glad that I stopped, because after being around so many people, it gave the Aldridge Four a good chance to be with just each other. The whole trip was not only just a great trip, but a great exercise in continuing to redefine our family. Oh my, I love my little family.
|Cutie picture of Maci|
|Our first official family photo with the Aldridge Four. Wishing there was a Dave in that picture.|
|Movie time with the cousins and Beary.|
|Spencer's picture from Father's Day.|
|Friends of Dave's Night|
|A couple of future astronauts.|