We just got back from a week of vacation, so of course the first thing out of everyone’s mouth when they see us is, “how was your vacation?” It seems natural, and since there are a lot of people we still haven’t seen since we lost Alexander, it feels safer than “how was your summer?” or “how are you doing?”
So, the short answer is this: our vacation was exactly what we needed it to be, and at the same time very different than what it should have been.
Because, in a perfect world, this vacation would have never happened. We hadn’t budgeted for another trip this year after going to Nashville and Gatlinburg back in May, because we were not planning to travel for a while after Alexander was born. We should have been at home enjoying life as a family of three, and a beach vacation should have been the last thing on our minds.
But, nothing about our life is the way it should be anymore. It is the way it is.
So, in true Scott and Erin fashion, we loaded up the car for a week-long road trip including stops in Birmingham, Alabama, Destin, Florida, and a very out-of-the-way detour to St. Louis, Missouri before coming home.
We spent the first couple days of our trip staying with some high school friends in Birmingham who we hadn’t seen in just over three years. We have known MG and LG for a long time, MG was a groomsman in our wedding, and Scott was in their wedding. While I still get nervous about seeing people we haven’t seen since long before our lives changed so drastically, it was actually a really good weekend. It included just enough distraction from reality mixed with plenty of opportunities to share and talk openly about Alexander and what our life has been like since losing him.
While we were in Alabama, I also got the chance to see SV who I literally hadn’t seen in over 10 years. SV and I worked together as camp counselors back in the day, and once took a weekend road trip from Ohio to South Bend, Indiana just to visit some of our camp friends. We stood in Barnes & Noble for an hour and a half catching up. I talked a lot about Alexander. I love it when I get to say his name and tell his story, and I am so grateful when people ask about him. It was beautiful. We also caught up on other life stuff, and shared some hugs, and laughed about how silly and simple life was back when we were camp counselors.
For dinner Saturday night, we went to one of those Japanese hibachi places where a guy comes out and cooks your dinner in front of you. Our very dear friend AH drove over from Tuscaloosa to see us. I think I missed most of the theatrics of our chef because AH and I were deep in conversation. Again, talking about Alexander. She asked about him, and again, that is one of my favorite things these days. She’s one of those special people in our lives who can see through the cloud of our grief to the immense love we have for our son and who opens the door for us to talk about him by simply asking.
From Birmingham we drove down to Destin, Florida, where we spent four days soaking in sunshine, sticking our toes in the sand, and watching sunsets while the waves crashed onto the seashore. We rented Kayaks on our anniversary and paddled around the East Pass and Destin Bay. We went on a sunset dolphin cruise and got to see so many dolphins and a beautiful rainbow. We sat on the beach with our toes in the sand and just tried to recenter ourselves and find a little bits of relaxation. We wrote Alexander’s name in the sand on every beach we went to, carrying him with us to the beauty of the gulf and on this vacation that we never should have been taking.
So, you may remember that we had tossed around the idea of meeting up with some new friends on the way home, via an out of the way stop in St. Louis. Well, I think it was Wednesday (after e-mailing and then texting throughout the week) that we finally said, “what the hell, why not?” and booked a hotel room for Thursday night in St. Louis. So, instead of driving 11.5 hours to home on Thursday, we drove 11.5 hours to St. Louis, which would require an additional 6 hours of driving to get home on Friday night. But it was so worth it.
So, on Friday we did one of the things that our parents always told us as kids to never ever do. We met up in person with strangers we met on the internet. And, not only that, but we went to their house. The visit on Friday and the story leading up to it really deserves a blog post of its own, but to make a long story short: We didn’t get mugged or kidnapped, and we lived to tell the story. In fact, we came out of it with a new connection to some really great friends–some people who, though we wish we had never had to meet, we are so thankful to have on this journey through life and loss. We spent all day at their house sharing stories and talking about our sons before we hit the road to head back home.
So, there’s a snapshot of this vacation that we never intended to take but needed so badly. I’ve been answering people who ask by simply saying that it was just what we needed right now.
It was what we needed in that we came back relaxed and refocused. It was what we needed in that we had opportunities to talk openly about Alexander, and to find some of the language for verbalizing where we are at in life these days. It was what we needed in that we were able to smile and laugh in between tears. It was what we needed in that we were able to embrace the weirdness of our lives right now and make the most of the opportunities in front of us.
And yet, every day we wrestled with wishing that it was a vacation that we hadn’t needed to take. Every day we wished that we were home taking care of a healthy baby boy instead of on vacation trying to find some healing from such a devastating loss. Every day we carried the weight of unimaginable grief and tried to find some peace and balance.
Every day we missed and thought about our precious Alexander.