How to Ruin a Vacation

In Personal by Allison Byxbe

That way? No, a little boy sleeping in a hospital bed  doesn’t ruin a vacation. Just delays it. But it’s my heart that reduces a gracious gift to an ash-heap of unmet  expectations.

A week counting down through crayons, glue, and  decorations meant to land us at the beach but instead we  were washed up in the hospital. His three year old lungs,  struggling through asthma, couldn’t get the breath they needed. And so for two long days  we lounged in a sterile pediatric ward instead of on sandy beaches. I watched pictures  post on Facebook of my family playing, lazing, eating up the sunny rays. And a soured haze settled over me. We were supposed to be there.

I started counting up how many hours we were missing for building sand castles. How many minutes were dwindling away hooked up to monitors and medicine. How many seconds could never be recovered for splashing in the waves.

So you would think when we were finally released, that my disgruntled disposition would have evaporated. But there’s ingratitude’s lie. It sees less rather than enough. It demands instead of giving thanks. It overlooks instead of believing.

So the demanding, lessening, disbelieving trickled out even once we finally made it to the beach. The boys were waking at 4 a.m. The sun peek-a-booed behind the clouds. Our boys cried and whined for the first two hours we spent on the beach. (For the love of all things good, whose children cry at the beach?) I got sick the next to last night at the beach. My one year old cried unless I was holding him. Relatively speaking, the hospital kinda sounded better.

Present gratitude would have staked her flag in the sandcastles that were built, the peek-a-boo sunshine that made an appearance, the tremendously amazing food that was shared, the hilarious and endearing family shenanigans, the decadent homemade ice cream, the bay shore breezes, little boys’ hesitancies that turned to playful digging and toe dips in the water. Because all these things happened, too.

Vacations (life, really, too) aren’t ruined by what didn’t happen but by our sometimes unwillingness to let go of what we expected, for instead, what is.