Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What I Learned On A Weekend Getaway

by Amy Ruhlin                

Sea Oats
My husband and I are crossing a bridge to a resort island for a fall weekend getaway.  It’s just the two of us in the car and we take in the sight of salt marshes stretched out beneath us and sailboats on the horizon.  It is a familiar beauty, this road to the beach; we have taken it before. There were summer family vacations here. There were getaways like this one; weekends without the kids. But this is the first time that we cross this bridge in our fifth decade. It is the first time that we cross it as parents of children who are grown and are no longer at home awaiting our return.  It is an unfamiliar road.

As the bridge ends and connects to the main road that runs through the center of the island, I wonder how the weekend will go. I am surprised at the lump in my throat as we pass the mini golf course  where we spent evenings as a family happily whacking a small ball through plastic windmills and artificial waterfalls. It was only a game, but small pleasures loomed large then; our children made it easy to stay in the moment where the real treasures lie.  The reality that those days are gone hits me hard here in the car on our way to the hotel.

We check in at the front desk and take our luggage to the room.  We buy a newspaper and two coffees and head out to the pool. There are mostly adults here, absorbed in books and distracted by cell phones.  To the left of the pool I see a small grassy area with striped hammocks surrounded by sea oats.

 I sit in a lounge chair and beside me, my husband sits in one too.   We read the newspaper and sip our java.   And then, off in the distance, I see a small boy. He is on the beach with most of his body immersed in sand and he is giggling with delight.
“Let’s go sit in a hammock,” I say to my husband.

“Together?” he asks.
“Well, yeah,” I answer. “We can both fit.  Come on.”

We leave the newspaper on our chairs and walk through the grass.  I am careful to sit  on the hammock first and then my husband joins me; we are afraid it might tip over.  We stretch out on our backs and stare up at the autumn sky.
“Look!” my husband says. “That cloud is a face.”  I can see a silhouette:  crooked nose; sharp chin; white, wispy hair. 

 My husband puts his foot on the ground and gives us a push. The hammock tilts steep to the left and then with a swoosh we bank hard to the right. We are swinging; back and forth we go between the sea oats.  We look for more drawings in the sky. 
The afternoon is hot. I step  out of the hammock and  slip  into the deep end of the pool. Soon, my husband jumps in too. “Race you to the bottom,” he says.
Sunday comes and we are back on the main road heading towards the bridge.  We are driving back to our house where we raised our family; back to a familiar beauty.  And though our children will not be there, we will. And we are able still, my husband and I, to experience real treasures in the moment and  small pleasures that loom large. The reality that those days are not gone gives me comfort  here in the car on our way home. And this road is not so unfamiliar after all.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Did You Get A Text Today?

by Amy Ruhlin                                 

Today I decided to watch college football with my husband. I actually don’t much like football. I don’t even fully understand football. But my daughter is in college and my son soon will be too so watching it seems like the appropriate thing to do. My husband has a competitive spirit but I don’t. While he screams things like, “You idiot, you missed the pass!,” I select my favorite team based on who has the best color uniforms. 

We sit on the sofa in front of our flat screen TV with our cell phones and laptops nearby. I tell my husband that I have selected the team that I want to win and he tells me that he is pulling for the other team. This will at least make it interesting.
I find the game entertaining for about ten minutes so I decide to ask my husband a question that I have been asking him daily for the last two years since our daughter went away to college. It is a question that I never imagined I would be asking so frequently. In fact, when my daughter was in high school, she told me about a college friend who always made sure that if she texted one parent she would also text the other because if she did not, one parent would feel left out. I remember telling my daughter that I thought this was ridiculous. I would never indulge in such silly behavior.
“Did you get a text today?” I ask my husband.
He smiles and says, “I got two.”
“Two?" I haven’t gotten any in days!,” I tell him. I pick up my phone and check my messages just to make sure.

“And I’m Skyping at 4pm,” he says with a grin.
I look at the TV and I see that his team just scored a touchdown.

Skyping ?”   “Who set that up?,” I ask.
“I did,” he says.

“Why’d you do that?” I ask.
“Well, it’s been a while since we’ve seen her,” he says.

“Hmpf”, I think. He could have consulted me first. Am I not included in their little Skype party? I am feeling left out.
“Well, I got a facebook message from her yesterday. And she sent me the opening paragraph of that big paper that she’s been working on,” I tell him.

“She did? I’ve been wanting to read that paper!” he says.
I glance at the football game and notice that my team just intercepted the ball.

"Well, I think she sends me the things that , you know, are  important to her personally, and she contacts you for the financial and technical stuff," I say.

I see that a football player is limping off the field with a hurt foot.
My husband says, “Nah, she texts me personal stuff too.”

“Well," I tell him, "I’m going to Skype with you.” I actually don’t like to Skype. I hate seeing myself on screen.
“That’d be great,” my husband says.

The games end at 4pm. I look at the TV and I see all of the players running onto the field, both teams, together. I look at my husband’s laptop and I see our daughter’s beautiful face filling the screen. And in the bottom corner of the screen I see myself, nestled into the crook of my husband’s arm, a middle aged mom and a middle aged dad , happily talking to their 20 year old daughter, together.