Last year, my immediate family didn't go on a summer vacation. Instead, faithful readers of this blog know my husband and I crazily drove from D.C. to Tampa with a four-month-old, 3.5-year-old and 6-year-old, so I could spend three weeks visitingMami at my sister's house. My siblings and I knew the end was near, so my sister Diana and brother-in-law Larry generously allowed all of us to crash at their house for 20 days.
This exact weekend marks the penultimate visit I had with my mother, and the final time my husband and older two children ever saw her. I'm so thankful, looking back, that my sister and I have the kind of relationship that made that trip a possibility. Even though it was difficult to be away from my husband for 15 days (he drove us down, took a flight back to DC, and then flew down to drive us back home), those three weeks provided me with some beautiful final memories ofMami with my children and me.
It was, after all, an Olympic summer, so Michael Phelps' glorious gold streak shall forever be strangely linked with my last summer withMami. It was a summer of buying her Pollo Tropical and Colombian take out, because neither my sister nor I could adequately prepare a proper a Latin-flavored meal -- at least not toMami 's rigorous standards. It was a heartbreaking summer, when I began to do my anticipatory grief work, preparing my heart as best I could for the eventuality ofMami's death.
But it was also a joyful summer, with young cousins flapping in the pool, camping out every night in the playroom, making mini-movies on my Flip camera, and playing Rock Band over and over again. Every day, the kids spent time with theirAbuela -- bringing her ice in the Bubba Keg, talking to her briefly, and giving her hugs, kisses, and coos. The kids would have a decade of more traditional family vacations, but last summer, that trip toAbuela's was absolutely the best thing we could've done.
This year, we are going on a summer trip. We're headed to Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks for a week, and we're all looking forward to unplugging (a bit) and relaxing on the beach. As we make our way down, I can't help but remember, with tears and a smile, how last summer's vacation began with a similar road trip. And I wish, more than anything, that we could take that trip again -- just to seeMami one more summer.