How Was Your Trip?

We went away for the weekend – and got stuck.  On our way home, something weird happened to the car and it stopped working.  It’s a fairly new (2012) minivan, and the problem turned out to be minor, but it happened on a Sunday in Middle-of-Nowhere, Pennsylvania – so we ended up stranded for the night (in a cushy hotel with a pool).

The original plan was to stop at some caverns and enjoy a quick visit at the halfway point of our 8-hour trip.  But a few miles from the caverns, on a curvy mountain road, the car just lost power.  We crawled to the caverns, called for help, and ended up skipping the cave tour altogether in favor of crawling 20 miles to the nearest car fix-it place.  Being late in the day on Sunday, they couldn’t even look at it until Monday, so we crawled to a nearby hotel (with a little help from Yelp) and hunkered down for the night.  My parents were traveling with us, and were immensely helpful in the entire Save-the-Car process.

The caverns were supposed to be the highlight of our trip.  Instead, the boys played in the fitness center.  They went swimming (twice, with some inventive suits).  We had pizza delivered, and they watched TV for two hours (NOT allowed at home) before finally going to bed … and missing school the next day.

At breakfast, Shane drew on the table with his finger.  “This is how good it can be,” he said, drawing a line up above his plate, “and this is how bad it can be.”  He drew another line well below his plate.

“And this is how our trip has been,” he said – making sharp roller-coaster-like marks on the table, showing that the trip had fluctuated from very high to very low and back again – several times.  He explained that missing the caves was very sad, but having fun in the hotel was unexpectedly good.

I wanted to tell him: Yes, Son, this is LIFE!  Life is always exactly like this.  There are highs and lows.  Things are good and bad.  One minute you’re up, high as a kite, and next minute you’ve plummeted to the ground – but you always get back up again.  

The line he drew reminded me of a heartbeat monitor, keeping track of a beating heart on a machine in a hospital somewhere.  It’s a scary thing watching that line.  When it goes up, you know everything’s going to be okay.  When it goes back down, you just pray that it goes back up again.  The dreaded flatline means there is no more hope.

Same as life.  Without the ups and downs, there’d be only the dreaded flatline.

I wanted to tell him this, to prepare him that a car emergency and a swimming pool are only the tips of the iceberg for what will follow in his lifetime: the rest of fourth grade, middle school, high school, college, work, family, kids, grandkids – LIFE.

Instead, I laughed and said, “Yep.”  That’s just how this Trip has been.

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