Several months ago, my sister and I decided to schedule a weekend getaway together. We took advantage of a Groupon (who doesn’t love a good Groupon?!) and booked a weekend trip to Galena, IL – an almost halfway point for both of us. Last weekend the time arrived for our mini vacation.
As the date approached, my kids became anxious. This was the first time I’ve been away from my kids in I don’t even know when! It’s been at least three or four years since I’ve been away from them I think. The last time was a week spent at the Mayo Clinic (“Mayos” as my relatives like to call it). It was a scary time as Mark was having surgery to remove colon cancer. It was a scary time for our family and the beginning of even worse times. Although the kids have gone to one-night sleepovers at friend’s houses, this felt different.
Lolo wouldn’t stop hugging me and telling me how much she loved me. Over and over again she told me how much she would miss me. (I was going to be gone for TWO days, not two weeks). Gman was subtler at first. He asked a lot of questions about my trip. And then the night before I left, he asked, “What if you don’t come back?”
There it was. What was on all of our minds out in the open. I can usually count on Gman to say what we’re all thinking and he did it again. “What do you mean?” I asked him.
“What if something happens to you and you don’t come back?” he asked me.
I miss the days when I could make promises that felt honest but weren’t. I can no longer guarantee that nothing will happen. They’ve lived through unintentional broken promises. They know this life is fragile. They know parents die before they should. This reality makes them anxious sometimes. It makes me anxious sometimes too. This is all the more reason it was necessary for me to leave. We all needed to be apart so we could be assured I would return and we’d all be okay.
I reassured the kids that I would be careful driving. I told them both they could call and text me anytime while I was gone. I reminded them how much fun they’d have with Grandma. (They had cookies for breakfast Saturday morning, so that turned out to be more truthful than I imagined). Before they headed off to school Friday morning they seemed better, less nervous.
So I headed out the door Friday afternoon with my weekend bag packed, my podcasts queued up and ready to play, and a bag full of mud masks, nose strips and under eye treatments for SISTER WEEKEND!!! WOOHOO!!!
About an hour from my destination, the skies darkened and it started rain. It was a heavy downpour that would last most of the weekend. We didn’t let that stop our fun though! Our Groupon allowed us a “Villa” rental for the price of a normal hotel room. The Villa was a 2-bedroom, 2-bath townhome with gorgeous views of rolling hills of the Galena Territory. Even though the leaves have just begun to turn, it was just enough color to be magnificent even in the rain.
My sister was so excited about the 80’s vibe in the Villa. It was clean and nice, but it was dated…in a good way. She made me take a picture of her on the corded phone on the wall. It was just like old times circa 1985, except we weren’t fighting over the phone.
The setting launched us right into discussions about our childhood. We reminisced about the different houses we’d lived in while growing up. We talked about funny memories, sad memories, angry moments and beautiful ones too. That’s what is so great about siblings. They share the experiences that form you and have stayed with you as you’ve collected adult memories as well. Although my relationship with my husband was special, my siblings knew me even longer than my husband had. I’m so grateful to have them.
The first night we settled into the 80’s Villa, laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe and then headed out for dinner. Although the townhome had a full kitchen, this was a Mom’s getaway. NO COOKING! We enjoyed an interruption-free dinner, with appetizer. Do you know how great it is to sit and talk with your sister without 8,000 interruptions? Glorious!
After dinner we had a sister spa night with the mud masks, lotions, cleansers, moisturizers, nose strips and more I had packed. We found a Harry Potter marathon on TV, cracked open some wine and reeeeeelllllaaaxxxxxed. Aaaaagh. So nice.
The next morning we woke to more torrential rain. Shopping was on the agenda for the day, and we weren’t going to let the weather stop our fun. We spent all day walking the crowded Main Street in Galena, taking our time exploring each and every adorable boutique and specialty store. I fell in love with expensive Polish Pottery, bought a few small Christmas gifts and relished the time with my sister.
We stopped at Galena Brewing Company for lunch, noting how remarkably friendly every storeowner, wait staff and fellow vacationers were. Since we were at a brewing company without our normal Mom duties, ordering a flight of beer to share seemed like a no-brainer. (The Oktoberfest was my favorite!)
After lunch we hit the stores again. At every turn I found reminders of Mark.
The saying we used to repeat after each new episode of bad news, a giant sign for bread pudding (his favorite!), and dumb science-themed socks I would’ve loved to buy for him for Christmas. There’s nowhere to escape the memories, and I wouldn’t want to anyway. Those things make me smile more lately, instead of only making my heart ache. I’ll always miss him. Every day I miss him so much. But I’m doing better.
We shopped until we felt like our feet couldn’t take us any further. We headed back to 80’sville to rest up for our fancy dinner reservation later that night. We enjoyed more drinks, I ordered a steak (because VACAY!), sister ordered lavender pheasant (she’s fancy like that) and we enjoyed more hours of laughs and tears as we talked about our shared past, the joys and frustrations of our present and the dreams of our futures.
I feel so blessed to have the sister I do. Both of my siblings – they’re better than best friends. They were and still are “home.” They witnessed all of my awkward phases, every moment of uncool, and yet they still think I’m awesome. That’s love.
The rain finally stopped Sunday as we hugged goodbye. It was a relaxing, healing, restful, spirit-lifting weekend. I wish we could do it more often. I wish our kids could grow up together too. I’m sad that too many miles separate us. But we’ll gather together again for Christhankmas 2.0 in Kentucky next month. We’ll add our brother and all the kids and spouses. The laughs will be even louder, there will be even more memories shared and lots of new ones made. I am so thankful for my family.
If you’re in need of a short getaway, I hope you’ll find a way to make it happen. Pushing through our anxieties… giving ourselves permission to take time to recharge is so important. We have to find ways to fill ourselves up so we can pour more into the relationships we value.
On the way home, my phone’s navigation became confused and led me off the busy highway. This is where it led me.
Rather than turn around to head back to what felt safer, I decided to follow where it led me. Soon the paved road turned to gravel and I couldn’t help but laugh because it felt like a metaphor for my life. I was no longer on the road I planned. I didn’t know where I was headed. There wasn’t anyone else on this road and it felt a little scary and lonely. But then I noticed astounding beauty off the intended path. Look at the splendor I might have missed if I had stayed on the planned route? So here we are, all of us, on a path we hadn’t planned. It’s sometimes a barren path, but perhaps if we stay the course, we’ll find a peaceful, beautiful view and we’ll find our way eventually.
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