Vacation. She smiled when she said the word out loud. Uttered it again into the breeze, tasting the word as it floated back in her direction. Vacation. So much potential in one eight-letter word. Ice cream. Sand. Taffy. Long walks up the hills and down again. Bullfrogs at the pond. Grilling on the patio and pontoon rides on the lake. Red sunsets. Purple sunrises. Black night skies. Vacation. She could almost feel the heat of the sun’s rays against her skin as she loaded the van, tucking napkins and snacks and chargers and water into any crevice she could find. Vacation. Glorious wonderment. It’s almost time . . .
But then . . .
“What? He needs to go to the ER? For what?”
And she listened to the news. That her father had fallen again, that his legs were weak, that he had numbness from ankle to hip. She stood on the porch of the cottage less than twenty-four hours after arriving. She glanced up and down the street, taking in the quiet morning light, the birds flitting from branch to branch, the wily black cat that darted up the walk.
“Do I need to come home?”
But she might as well have. For each day of vacation was filled with phone calls, texts, and emails with subjects like blood sugars, nerves, and endocrinologists. Between trips to the city with her family, she fielded the news: He’s feeling better. He’s not feeling better. He might fall again. Of course, he didn’t tell us about the numbness.
Anger, fear, and disappointment flared in her father, her sister. And in her. After over a year of being on-call all the time, overwhelmed by her own life and those who depended on her, she needed a little bit of peace. She deserved that peace, that solitude, that time away from life. Didn’t she?
“You know what I think?” she said to her husband on their last day in paradise.
“I think I need a vacation.”
She didn’t smile this time at the word. Instead, a slight frown marred her face, and she clenched her teeth. Vacation. The breeze had picked up, sending the word hurtling in her direction, slapping her face this time with cruelty. Maybe next year.