Why I’m vacationing one more week
Just before I left on a western road trip with grandson Patrick, 11, my husband did me the favor of getting my car’s oil changed. When we returned eight days later, Kevin was a little surprised to find that I already was 300-plus miles over the next recommended oil change; a little more mileage than he expected when we set out for The Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and Yellowstone….
Because Patrick and I are two peas in a pod in many, many ways, and went off into the sunset together without my husband or daughter along to worry about reservations and clocks, we pulled off I-90 whenever the mood struck us. And so, in addition to our planned stops, we saw Dakota, The 1880s Town, the Little Big Horn battlefield, mountain goats, elk, and Sturgis, and we scaled a mountain summit via Beartooth Pass (which frankly scared the hell out of me; I know this because of the fervent praying I did along the way). On a whim, we also climbed into a chairlift, and then, the same day, we descended the equivalent of five stories into the bowels of a crystal cave. Which meant, down and up, I climbed the equivalent of 10 flights of stairs, and so earned my #1 Nana badge. Again.
We also were inadvertently pulled off our route due to a fire (and invited to follow a pilot car out of the mountain timber area), but during the detour, we learned how to ride a horse over fallen rocks, logs, and into mountain streams. We got too close to a mother bear with cubs and earned a righteous scolding by a forest ranger. Shortly afterwards, a bison stepped right out in front of our car and turned us around with his threatening snorts. We held pythons, tracked a wolf, avoided rattlesnakes, and laughed at a prairie dog who gave me holy heck for stepping too near his hole. Sorry there, little buddy, no offense meant. I sank up to a knee in a bog, but then somehow managed to get both of us out of that area without ranger intervention, thank heavens. I didn’t need a second public lecture in front of my grandson….
But the best part (for me) wasn’t what happened outside the car, it was the long car ride with Patrick. During it we had philosophical discussions – (“Nana, every word you speak is written on the paper of your soul and when you die, you get to read it”) – and jokes (“We’re going to see Old Geezer. Get it? I call an old geyser a geezer!”). We listened to two books on tape. Little Bee was the tale of the British deportation of a Nigerian woman who then was killed by Nigerian soldiers. We followed that story with The River Is Wide, Pat Conroy’s memoir of teaching illiterate black children on a sea island in South Carolina. Patrick liked and discussed them both. He also appreciated the music I put on an iPod playlist for him, and was grateful that I knew to include Bon Jovi, disco, the Black Eyed Peas, and LMFAO.
Patrick is on a seesaw swinging wildly between childhood and young adulthood. He lost a tooth. His mother swears he grew an inch. He bought a life-sized stuffed toy alligator and then shared his thoughts about the “facts of life” talk given to the boys by his fifth-grade teacher just before school’s end. He’s discovered his own attraction to “hotties” and wanted the Sturgis souvenir magnet with “the beautiful babe” on it. But he still prizes time with his old Nana. I know this because he hugged me every morning and snuggled with me at the end of a long day when we stayed up late to watch Dances with Wolves on our DVD player.
I was smart to have taken two weeks off this vacation round, but not for the reasons I thought. I believed I’d need a week to recover from the hassles of a long road trip, and to prepare for the coming weekend, which will be spent in the Dells with two younger and equally adventurous grandchildren. Instead, I need more time just to savor the experience of spending time with all of them before returning to my other life.
Not my “real life,” mind you … my real life is with them.
To see pictures of Jody and Patrick’s western road trip, visit In Business‘ Pinterest page.
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