Lisa and I were at home a week ago, having exchanged our Christmas gifts to each other and listening to freezing rain and sleet coming down. I had just called Dad and Mom to let them know that we weren't traveling to Whiteville after all.
That was the second time we changed travel plans in two days.
We originally planned to go see them this week when the kids got here from Indiana. I talked to my ex's partner on Wednesday night, and she told me that they intended to be on the road to North Carolina on the 27th, returning home on the 30th. I checked the Weather Channel web site and saw a great deal of snow in their forecast. That made me believe that they would not be able to make the trip, so I told my parents that Lisa and I would see them on Christmas Day.
That was the first time we changed travel plans.
I got a call in the middle of Christmas afternoon. It was Gigi, with welcome news. They had already started their trip south, expecting to stop overnight in Ohio and get to Greensboro on the 26th. This was most unexpected, given the forecasts, and I felt like I'd gotten the best Christmas present since I was a kid. I called Dad and Mom again to let them know that the kids were going to be here for a couple of days after all and to that we were coming down for a day trip on the 28th.
That was our third change in travel plans, and the most pleasant.
Dad was grilling inch-thick steaks when we got there, along with seasoned potatoes in foil. Lord, but we were all stuffed! We exchanged gifts after lunch, I played tech support for Mom's computer -- Internet Explorer was giving her problems, imagine that -- and my cousin Denise and her daughter Alex stopped by. Alex is 10 months older than Gigi, and they're thicker than thieves. I got to enjoy just sitting and listening to two or three other conversations for a while.
After Denise and Alex left, we went to visit Aunt Mildred, Dad's oldest sister by 10 years. She has a bad back, can't hear very well, and is a bit forgetful, but she's getting around better than Dad these days. She always makes coffee when I visit, even though she doesn't drink it anymore. And what coffee does she have? Decaf Fresh Market Christmas Blend. We gave it to her a couple of years ago, and she keeps it in the freezer. It still tastes fresh, and she's just a joy.
At home, we watched a lot of TV on DVD that the kids either don't usually see or were quite behind on: Seasons 1 and 2 of The Big Bang Theory (Everyone loves "The Saturnalia Miracle" episode!), and Season 1 of Better Off Ted (Who wouldn't want to work for Viridian Dynamics?).
Since they were departing for Indiana very early on the 30th, I took them back to their aunt and uncle's house the evening before. On the drive home, I felt, as always, the emptiness they leave behind. It doesn't persist quite as long as it used to, and why should it? My children are growing up well, and they have reached ages where it's natural for them to make their own ways in the world. Time has caught up with the changes in my role as a parent.