Family Vacation

Several years ago as our children were beginning serious relationships, I had a dream. I wanted to set the third week in October as our family vacation. Jeff and I would make the arrangements, of course it should be on a beach. The kids and their families would come for as many days as possible. This would become our Thanksgiving and perhaps our Christmas.

When our kids were small we lived a thousand miles from Grandpa and Grandma’s. This allowed us to created our own traditions. It was our family’s time. As they grew we made a few trips home and eventually moved closer and lost some of those traditions. To this day the best holidays we have are when it’s back to just us. This idea of family vacation took any pressure and guilt away from trying to figure out where to spend the holidays. By keeping our family activities a distance from the holidays we would be able to spend time together and when the holidays arrive, be where you want to be, not where you feel you should be.

October 2007 was the first time it really worked. We had rented a place in Florida and everyone could come. Plane tickets purchased, week’s rental on the condo paid.

The breakup occurred the week before the vacation. Not only did we have questions about the wedding but what about Florida? Raun would come alone which meant fly alone, something he had not done. Not only was he dealing with the break up but had been experiencing panic attaches for the past 9 months, this much change and the anticipation of the vacation only enhanced his sense of panic.

With a few flight changes he would arrive earlier and spend the majority of the week with us. Austyn and Brian would arrive mid week. This year we had invited my side of the family to join us. We had people flying in and out daily. The week was full of great conversations, cousins getting caught up on each other’s lives and a ton of cooking. It was great.

On Friday afternoon as we sat by the pool, I realized that Jeff had been on the phone for quit a while. Who’s he talking to? No one knew for sure. As he made his way to the cabana I noticed an unusual expression.

“Well,” he said as he stood next to me, “the company’s been sold.” The company Jeff had been employed with for the past 18 years was struggling and we knew that there needed to be a change or there would be no company at all. This could be a good thing, however it would require a move.

All that was going through my mind was the fact that we have a wedding; I don’t think we can handle a move. I was finding it difficult to breath.

“It’s either Nashville or somewhere in California”

Well isn’t that exciting? It was getting more difficult to breath. Jeff loved living in Chicago. We had moved downtown almost 4 years ago and he felt as if he had found his home. We had a small 2 bedroom condo in a 100 year old building. It was a three story walk up and we had joked that we would be there until we couldn’t take the stairs. A move was not anywhere in the plans, but neither was being jobless.

The following week there would interviews and discussion with the new company. We would have to wait until then.

The Break Up

Austyn’s wedding party consisted of two, a boy and a girl. Her only bother and sibling Raun would be her bridesmaid and his girlfriend of 3 years would be her maid of honor.

Raun’s girlfriend and Austyn had become very close. They were sisters already. They shared the same creativity, ideas and even thoughts. When the two were in the same room it was a burst of energy that lasted for hours. They became best friends quickly.

Mid October the relationship came to an end. We were all effected, Raun most of all. For him this was the rest of his life. This was the one. For Jeff and I we as well had fallen in love. We thought this was it and we were not at all concerned. They seemed perfect for each other. For Austyn it was very complicated. She was loosing the person she had thought would be her only sister, she was loosing her best friend and she was probably loosing her maid of honor.

A decision could not be made for several weeks. Emotions were all over the place and everyone needed time. As the dust settled it was very apparent to Austyn that she also needed to sever that relationship. Raun was dealing but it was painful and Austyn knew that her relationship and involvement in the wedding would continue to infect those wounds. The outcome unpredictable, Austyn and Brian made the call. There would only be one attended for each. Raun would be the Maid of Honor. Austyn would be the only girl in the party and way down deep she found that to be exciting.

Wedding Plans

Our vacation at Holden Beach, NC
Our vacation at Holden Beach, NC

Austyn is very creative. She also is very sensitive and the two were at war in her mind. She was having a very difficult time with all the questions and suggestions she was being inundated with. She felt some sort of responsibility to listen to everyone and felt helpless when it came to thanking them and walking away. I learned early on how to balance the two. “Tell me what you see for the reception?” I would ask. That opened the door to her creativity. She would rattle off the picture in her mind to the smallest detail. She knew exactly what she wanted.

Holden Beach, NC would be the place. We were to have a family reunion there several years ago, however the family part kept decreasing to my parents, my elderly aunt and uncle and Austyn and I. The entire week we were there we looked at each other making comments about our choice of vacation spots with the elderly. Austyn fell in love with the beach and proclaimed that she would get married there. Several years later it was still at the top of her list.

We knew that this location would prevent family coming for just the day. They would be making a vacation out of it or not come at all. We could schedule the wedding anytime during the week.

“I’ve always wanted to get married on a Tuesday,” Austyn commented. Really? Tuesday? It took me a while but Tuesday seemed to work just as well as any other day.

Tuesday, June 24th 2008. Receptions were the next topic. A small reception following the wedding for the family who were there and two later in the summer; one in Colorado and one in Chicago. We had time to make those arrangements.

Between Austyn’s school schedule and my work schedule we did not have much time off together. We found a free morning and headed to a bridal shop. Very overwhelmed, we selected a few dresses and Austyn tried them on. In the next three weeks we had looked at all types of dresses from evening gowns at the department store to catalog wedding dresses. Austyn made an appointment at a little boutique. The night of the appointment (which had actually been rescheduled several times) we made our way over. Both of us thought this was one of those fun events that brides and moms were expected to do.

We walked into the boutique. The sales person was finishing with another party and we began looking through the dresses. She selected a few and made her way into the dressing room. The first dress was beautiful but too big for a beach wedding. Back in the dressing room for number two. As she exited the dressing room she was beaming. This was it. I had never believed in the idea of the perfect dress. A dress is a dress and most important factor is that it is comfortable. But this one shouted something completely different. Austyn danced around the room.

We were given the important information; price, timeline, etc. We wanted a few more opinions before we made the decision. We made a few phone calls; one to her maid of honor and one home to dad. We would be back at 7:00 with the crew.

We ran home, had a bit to eat, put our coats back on and headed out the door again. Jeff was a bit reluctant. At one point he asked, “Do dads do this? Should I be going?” I had decided early on that this was not my wedding and I wasn’t carrying the load. We would share this experience and at no time did I want Jeff to feel like he was out of the picture.

I cringe when I hear dads say, “I don’t know what’s going on, this is their thing.” This was going to be our thing and I wanted his input and support the entire way. No, I don’t think that all dads do this. I don’t even think that most dads do this. I do think that dads who don’t miss out. I also think that most daughters would be thrilled to have their dads take the time to be a part. Writing checks is easy, investing time is an entirely different realm.

The dress transformed her again. As she danced around the room the audience of 4 was caught up in the moment. It was perfection.

We had the date, the place and the dress. This was going smoothly. 2008 would be a full year.

The Engagement

Tuesday July 8, 2008

It’s an on going contest in our family to see who will have the biggest paragraph in Mom’s Christmas letter. The good, the bad, the traumatic will somewhere along the line get measured to all the other events that have occurred. The biggest, the worst, the most fun, it’s inevitable that you will hear someone say, “this will definitely get you the biggest paragraph”.

This year in my small family of four deserves much more than a paragraph. This past August I received a text message from my daughter’s boyfriend asking for my husband’s cell phone number. Austyn was in Colorado visiting her boyfriend Brian. She would be there for three weeks, the longest they had been together since they started dating. There could only be one reason why Brian wanted to talk to Jeff.

I text him back and immediately emailed my husband to inform him that Brian was looking for him. Hmmmm, what could this be? A short time later I happened to answer the phone at work, it was Jeff. I quickly transferred him to my office and ran back to catch it. This was it. Brian had asked permission to married Austyn.

“So what did you say?”, I asked. Jeff laughed. “I’m not sure what all I said. Except I did tell him I would ask you and if you had any objections I would call him back.” It was the first time in 27 years of marriage Jeff had ever used me as the escape goat.

We had no objections. The relationship was solid and from outsiders looking in we watched Brain watch Austyn and it was meant to be. He was everything we could wish for in a partner for her.

Austyn had taken a year out of school to attend Bible school in England. She had registered at the last minute and was accepted to Capenwrey, a Touchbears School. The plan was to be in England until spring and on to Austria for the last quarter. While in England she became friends with a young man from Colorado and had a chance to meet some of his family members as well.

Austyn called me one day to inform us that she had a change of heart. She had already been looking into the possibility of finishing the year at the Estes Park campus. Everything seemed to work and before we knew it she was on her way home to repack and head to Estes Park. The connections she had made in England gave her a family to be with on weekends and holidays. During these family visits Austyn and Brian were introduced and over the next year they relationship grew.

Brian called on a Monday but did not purpose until Wednesday. When we finally got the call from Austyn she could not get the words out fast enough. All I remember of her conversations was “Brian asked…..but you knew all that already”. Jeff and I made plans to join them in Colorado the following weekend, meet Brian’s parents and celebrate.

The wedding plans began. A date, we need a date. School was the only issue. Austyn was attending Harrington School of Design in Chicago and would finish the end of April and Brian was in an Aeromechanics program in Boulder, which would end in June. June seemed to be perfect. I emailed our oldest son, Raun. He was a senior at DePaul University in Chicago to ask when classes ended. His reply “DePaul’s graduation is June 15th.” I was shocked. His graduation was June 15. How did I forget that?

Raun had attempted collage 3 times and four years ago when he enrolled at DePaul it worked. He successfully stayed on the Dean’s List all four years. He would be graduating after 4 years with a double major; Biblical Studies and Catholic Studies. This was a huge millstone for him and it could not be over shadowed.

End of June would be perfect.

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