Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Reflections on Florida

It was the last day of our Florida vacation. We had a few hours to kill before boarding our evening flight back to the Midwest. Caleb discovered a nature preserve minutes from the airport and so we spent those hours gazing at albino raccoons, bald eagles, and ball pythons. As we meandered among the displays, I noticed a white-haired gentleman eyeing our brood. He seemed amused by the boys and finally used his cane to hobble over to our family.

"Are all these boys yours?" he asked.

"Yes," I smiled, noticing the twinkle in his eyes that burst through his leathery skin.

He beamed, "I was one of four boys too." Then, he recounted a litany of childhood antics and memories of his brothers, never once losing his smile.

I asked, "Are you still close to your brothers?"

His face still glowed even as he admitted being the only surviving brother. He then divulged that two of his children had passed away as well. My heart broke for this man. How much heartache he must have endured! I wondered how he kept his glow after so much loss.

It got me thinking about my boys and about our trip. The vacation was amazing but not without hiccups. As the week progressed sibling bickering and pre-adolescent whining rose as my frustration level and patience waned. Chris and I began to question whether a vacation with kids was truly a vacation for the parents. We concluded it was a "working vacation" but that the benefits always outweighed the challenges and hurdles.

During our vacation week, I watched the boys work together to erect elaborate sand castles. I gazed at their "sleepovers" where three little boys slept on the floor inches away from their brother. I listened in on their stuffed animal parties. I watched them frolic in the pool and splash each other senseless.

I wonder one day how they'll look back on their childhood and brothers. Will they smile as they remember those memories? Will they share with a stranger about their vacations to Florida? Will their eyes twinkle as they reminisce?

Someday, I can't wait to hear what they say.

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