Friday, March 20, 2015

Curmudgeon takes a vacation -- Part I -- Curmudgeon's Bluff is Called

We don't take vacations often in the Curmudgeon family -- at least not Long Suffering Spouse and myself -- as this essay, from 2006, makes clear.

Here's a link to the story I wrote about that last vacation, nine years ago. The story has 'matured' in the retelling, over the years, as all good stories should, to the point where (the way I spin it now) there's a Shoot On Sight Order posted at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix in case I should ever return again during Spring Training -- how we left Arizona in March 2006, one jump ahead of an enraged committee of the Chamber of Commerce, all decked out in parkas, and carrying pitchforks and torches, bundles of feathers, and buckets of melted tar.

Well, it really did snow as far south as Scottsdale, when I was in Arizona for Middle Son's first Spring Training. That's not exaggerated in the least. And my wife and I and Youngest Son and Younger Daughter wore every stitch of clothing we'd brought with us, all the time, all at once, because it was so darn cold there in the so-called Valley of the Sun. (Meanwhile it was in the 70s and sunny in Chicago.) The hotel didn't have heat -- who needs to heat a hotel room in Phoenix? -- so the only place we could get warm was in the rented van.

We spent a lot of time in that van in 2006.

That part of the story's not exaggerated either.

In the nine intervening years, I believe my wife and I have been out of town overnight on only three other occasions -- once for Older Daughter's wedding (in Indianapolis) and another for Oldest Son's wedding (in San Antonio). We did get to tour a mission on the San Antonio trip and, of course, we remembered the Alamo -- it's right in the middle of town, so you can't forget it, even if you try -- but I don't know if that counts as a family "vacation." And the third trip, to South Bend, for Oldest Son's college graduation, was certainly not a vacation (I offer this as proof) -- and we'd spent the night before the commencement ceremony sleeping, at least occasionally, in a dorm room. Most of the parents did -- there weren't nearly enough hotel rooms, so this was planned in advance. It's just -- well, you've heard of getting a mint on your pillow at a nice hotel? The pillow on my dorm bed was as thick as a mint, and not nearly as soft. I was still recovering from surgery at the time, and was terrified that the only available bathroom was down the hall. Still, we survived.

And time passed.

This spring turns out to be Youngest Son's last Spring Training as a college baseball player. He's a senior already at South Janesville College (the name I made up instead of using the actual school's name) and this year, as in the past three years, Youngest Son's team would be journeying to Central Florida, midway between Tampa and Orlando, for a never-ending 'tournament.' Most tournaments, in my experience, have winners and losers and such. But this tournament is just a way to get as many teams from as many places as possible to play each other. My son's team played a lot of teams from Pennsylvania -- and one from Illinois. Go figure. So it's not really a 'tournament.' Still, it's an opportunity to play in reasonably warm weather, without having to first shovel the field (they do that often in Youngest Son's league), and it may be the actual last time this spring where the kids can play in nice weather.

Anyway, Youngest Son's team has gone down there during the school's Spring Break each year. The very secular South Janesville College does not concern itself with Easter in determining when Spring Break will come -- so it's not surprising that his trip has never coincided with my wife's Spring Break.

But, one night at home, somewhere around Valentine's Day, realizing this was the last time we could see the boy pitch in Florida, I said something to Long Suffering Spouse about how I wished she could get the week off anyway. And -- and this surprised me -- she said she'd ask.

And this surprised me more: The school said, sure, go ahead and go.

I must have been working from home the day all this happened. Perhaps I had a deposition somewhere out here and I didn't want to drive downtown. I have most everything I need to work at home anyway. I know I had gone to the store to buy a box of copy paper for my office -- I was going to be driving downtown at some point, obviously -- because I remember that I was in the parking lot of the store when my wife called and said (a) she needed something she'd forgot at home and (b) she had permission to go to Florida.

I went home and got it and brought whatever it was into the school and, who should I meet on my way to my wife's classroom but the retired teacher who'd already agreed -- just that morning, because everything happened just that quickly -- to substitute for my wife while we were away. "I'm so glad you're going," she told me, and I thanked her.

It wasn't long after that that it hit me: Everyone had called my bluff. We were really going to have to go to Florida, weren't we?

To Be Continued

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