I always look forward to our Michigan trips like a child looks forward to Christmas. I plan it out, day dream at work about the idyllic vacation to be had in the prettiest state in the Midwest.
But much like Christmas, there are highlights (like presents) and low points (like being stuffed from too much dinner). You don't day dream about the low points and you forget about them soon after the holiday has passed. Our Michigan vacation felt much the same . . . like a good and overstuffed Christmas.
The trip started with the Phee visit. This was the weekend of the 4th spent in the home of Tom & Elaine. Rich's sister and her husband (and their son, Aidan) all camped out at the house together. While the guys were building fires or out on the town or just "plain visiting", the gals were chasing toddlers, prepping food for a BBQ and catching up on some gossip.
Robin and I are both pregnant, 8 weeks apart. Our sons are nearly the same age, 9 months apart. So there is a kinship and comfort in being in her space. We are dealing with the same things. Which, right now, is extreme fatigue with the aforementioned toddler chasing and excitement in anticipation of our growing families.
Monday afternoon rolled around, Rich flew back to L.A., Charlie and I headed up out to start the Cunningham side of the visit.
My Dad blows me away with his sobriety. He'll be 1 year sober (and cigarette free) on July 31st. He put a lot of thought into getting ready for our visit. His house, my childhood home, is mostly back in order. Last year it was not a home. Not somewhere I wanted to be. Just a structure that used to have life and a family. This time, it felt like a home. He had everything cleaned, top to bottom. He had the front "blue room" prepared for Charlie and I. It was soothing, decorated exactly as my Mom had instructed just before she passed away, pretty.
I cried. I don't know what's harder. Being in a house that feels like a shell of something that once was. Or being in a home that felt like my Mom had just passed through the rooms, putting everything in its exact place.
My brothers are wonderful and helpful and good Unkies to Charlie. We took a day trip to the John Ball Park Zoo in Grand Rapids. Charlie liked the monkeys and the camel ride with Kayle. I didn't like the chasing him down - literally chasing - every moment he wasn't in the stroller. By this point in the trip, Charlie started his steep decline into defiance and aggression.
After a day visit to Janet's home and plenty of big tractor riding with Uncle Dave, we spent the rest of the trip at the lake. This was the part of the trip that was similar to how you feel after too much Christmas dinner. Don't misunderstand, I love the lake. I love seeing Grandma Cunningham, Margaret & Greg, the cousins. I love it that Charlie can float in the lake, ride around on four wheelers, get dirty like a little boy should.
But this time, this trip, this experience felt broken. I won't go into details as I'm sure they wouldn't appreciate them posted here, but part of my family is moving in a different direction, taking a different road. And they are handling it with grace and civility and friendship (for which I am so grateful). But it doesn't change how it physically felt to be there without the entire clan. It felt less, it felt broken. I know, like everything else, it will get easier with time. I'll get used to the new normal.
By Sunday night, I was physically exhausted. And Charlie was testing me beyond any test he's ever put forth. I was craving home and rest and Rich and routine.
Clearly, we made it home. We quickly fell back into our daily life, and Charlie came off his high of defiance and aggression. It still rears its ugly head from time to time but its manageable.
And just like dreaming of a white Christmas, I'm already thinking about our next trip back to Michigan to introduce our little baby girl to the family. The fun and touching and comfortable moments with my family (both blood and married) far outweigh the exhaustion and the broken ones.