For the last 15 years or so, this weekend – just around the last weekend in January – has been the one where Ellen and I headed off for our much-anticipated winter getaway weekend at a nearby resort town. The town has a busy summer season but both pace and prices reduce significantly in the wintertime, and it's not far away so travel isn't a big issue. We started this when all the kids were still at home but had gotten old enough to leave, and the pace of parenting was nonstop. We started heading off for just a weekend, but the time proved so therapeutic that we started extending our stay until we were heading over for five days.
It's hard to convey just how much this time has meant to us. To have just a few days to ourselves, without any time pressure, was like a renewal for us and for our marriage. To be free from the relentless, 24/7, always-on-call responsibility of parenthood was such a relief that we took to calling the time “depressurization”. One of the reasons we extended the weekend was that we found that it took a full day or so after we got there just to slow down. We'd so look forward to this that, at random times throughout the year (particularly if the pressures were mounting), we'd look at each other and say “five” or “nine” - that being the number of months until our getaway. It never failed to elicit a smile and a rush of calm.
This year, though, we weren't able to make it. We had to call and cancel our reservation. The finances just wouldn't bear the cost. Now, it would be easy to get all caught up in the disappointment of this, and mope about grieving over what we might be doing if we'd been able to have our winter getaway, etc. But there are a few things different this time. One is that the pace of our ordinary life has slowed considerably. All the kids are really, truly out of the house, so usually it's just us living at a more sedate pace. Sure, we appreciate the chance for a responsibility-free long weekend, but we hardly need it in the same way we did ten years ago.
But another thing happened during the Christmas season. My son and daughter were on their way across our state in the wintry weather, hit a slushy ramp, and rolled the car. Thankfully, they were both securely strapped in and walked away with nothing worse than bumps and scrapes, but the event was an ugly shock for us all, and especially for my son who had to go through the hassle of replacing his totaled car.
Obviously, that's the sort of thing that makes you stop and think about what's important in your life. Having your children came frighteningly close to major injury or death sweeps the trivial things to the fringes in a big hurry. We celebrated our “all-together” Christmas – which was what they were coming for – with extra appreciation for the fragility of life and the preciousness of loving relationships. I've spent a lot of time being extra thankful to the Lord for sparing our children.
I'm not suggesting for a moment that I think there was some kind of cosmic trade-off here, that somehow the “price” of our children's protection was our foregoing our getaway weekend. That's not how God works. What I am saying is that life-rattling events cause you to step back from situations you're too close to and look at them in the broader context. Sure, a decade and a half of special couple time is a great record, and would be a wonderful one to continue. But nothing dire is going to happen if it's missed for a year. Having a child seriously injured or killed in an automobile accident – now that would be dire.
At this point, I've no idea what the future holds. Maybe we'll pick up again next year (when I canceled the reservation, I made one for next January), and this will just be the “year we missed”. Maybe we'll be able to only do it sporadically in years to come. Maybe we'll never have another such weekend, because the time for them in our lives has passed. Whatever the outcome, it's in God's hands, and I'm much more comfortable leaving it there. Special things like getaway weekends are wonderful gifts, but He has so many other blessings, everyday blessings that we tend to take for granted and even forget are blessings.
Sometimes we just need something to remind us of them.