It has been five months since my husband’s passing. Our kids and I have spent the past few days at Spring Training in Scottsdale, Arizona, watching our favorite MLB team play baseball. The trip was in part a gift from a dear friend who understands cancer and caregiving. She made me promise not to spend her monetary gift on college tuition or bills, but to take the children on a trip.
This trip was the first vacation the kids and I have taken since 2011, the last time we were here. My husband could not join us because he was dependent on IV medication. Somewhere in the course of 1,000 plus consecutive days. Being tethered to an IV pole limits what you can do as a family.
I remember the stress and strain of being away from him in 2011. The worry of him getting another infection. How badly he must have been missing us. The guilt I felt being able to travel when he couldn’t. The grief I received from some who disagreed with my traveling with the children without him. The prevailing sadness because he couldn’t be with us. We were a family on a trip, minus one, Dad.
This is nothing unique to families when a parent is ill. There over 2 million children in the U.S. today living with a parent with cancer. I have no idea how many minor children have lost a parent to the horrible disease. I suspect the number is growing. I do know it changes many things for these children.
Traveling on this trip has been different. We learned in 2011 how to include my husband. Photos. Texts. Live time chats with him. Game recaps. Even though he wasn’t physically with us, we tried to include him as much as possible.
This time he was with us in a different way. Guiding us, making the trip seemles, and making sure our son was able to get the one signing he most hoped for, from his favorite ball player, Joe Panik. After signing a couple of baseballs for other kids, Panik turned and walked over to our son, as if he were being directed to include the boy on the end. It was the exchange of their smiles and momentary pause when I felt my husband telling me we did the right thing back in 2011. As emotionally difficult as it was then to take a four day vacation while he was struggling with cancer treatments, the experience brought us a profound sense of family this time. The five of us, still together.