One of my sisters has lived in Australia for about 40 years. I’ve never not missed her, but she and her husband visit regularly. The trip from Australia to the US is long and difficult though, and as a result when they come here, they usually plan an additional trip…often to Europe. It makes sense given how far they’ve come, to to tack on what they can while they are in this hemisphere.
This sister knew how much my husband I wanted to go to Ireland. We’d tried to plan a trip a year earlier but it didn’t work out. So last fall, as they scheduled a visit to the US for August 2015, followed by a jaunt to Ireland for a wedding they'd been invited to, they asked if we wanted to come.
Here’s the thing. My husband’s work is built on stress and schedules, and there are (many) times of the year he can’t take time off…including about every single school vacation our daughter had growing up. A long time ago, I got used to not taking vacations when it was convenient for the rest of the world, because he never could. Years ago, I stopped asking, because I knew it added to his stress, and made him feel bad.
But darn it, I really wanted to go to Ireland with my sister. So I broke my rule. Last November I said, “I know the answer is probably no, but shame on me for not asking. Can we go to Ireland with S. and B?” Now, I KNOW, of all of the bad weeks, the worst two are the last week in August and the first week in September, which is when the proposed trip would occur. So, when, after hemming and hawing and calendar checking, my husband said, he’d talk to his boss, that in itself was a victory. I kept my fingers crossed and my mouth shut after that.
By mid-December the subject remained open, and my mouth remained shut. As long as I didn’t know for sure, there was still hope, but it wasn’t fair to keep my sister hanging, so I gave us a deadline. I told her if I didn’t say yes to her by Christmas, they should make their plans without us. Then I told my husband what I’d said. He said he was waiting for the right time to broach the subject at work.
Christmas Day came, and I didn’t think of Ireland. It was a non-issue. Since my husband had never said yes, I accepted it wasn’t happening. We had a wonderful dinner at our house with a crowd of family and some later drop-ins. We sang and danced, and the day went very late. At 11:45 PM, my husband beckoned to me from across the room. When I got there, he leaned over and spoke in my ear. “Merry Christmas. How would you like to go to Ireland?” My answer? Something like Yeee haaaa! Depending on the time of year, my sister is at a minimum, fourteen hours ahead of us. I bolted to the computer and emailed her. “It’s still Christmas here. We are in!”
I know the poem in my last post was reflective and sad, perhaps even grim. But our trip was anything but, and three weeks later, I still go to bed picturing what we did and saw and ate, and on top of everything, in love with the man who, 31 years later, can still delight me with a late-Christmas surprise.