Today one of my writing professors said that we should write about the things we don’t want to talk about. Here it goes.
I’ve never expected a vacation to be anything but fun. I’ve never expected a week on the beach to be anything but relaxing and rejuvenating. I don’t know very many people who are nervous or unsure about spending time on the beach and working on their tan. However, when I went to Florida this month, it was different than any time I’d ever gone before.
One of my favorite things to do is pack for a vacation. It’s so much fun to plan all of your outfits for dinner and to finally pull your bathing suits out of the drawer where they have been waiting patiently to be brought out again. I always look forward to the packing for a vacation, but this time I dreaded it.
Likewise, I find the airport to be a thrilling place. I always want to know where everyone is going and where they’ve been, why they were there. Business or pleasure? I like to make up stories for them, but this time when I entered the airport I was self-consumed with my own emotions. Where I was going and why. I didn’t think it was possible to not be excited for a vacation, but there I was considering not stepping foot on that plane bound for Miami.
You might be wondering where I am going with this and I’m getting there. I’m sure it’s curious for me to call this trip I took a vacation if I had these strange feelings about it. Now that I am back at home I can call it a vacation because it went much better than I expected it to.
Almost a year ago exactly, my uncle and aunt were “wintering” in Florida as they have done for several years now. Near the beginning of the trip my aunt had an unexpected heart complication and passed away at the hospital in Miami. I won’t delve too deeply into those details.
Fast forward a year and my uncle is returning to the condo he and my aunt shared and he has invited my parents and me to stay a week with him and his youngest son. Now perhaps it is understandable as to why I was unsure about how I felt.
I knew one thing though, if my uncle could be there then so could I. So I sucked it up, boarded the plane with my cousin and prepared myself to go to my aunt’s favorite place.
My aunt was an amazing woman. She was beautiful and strong and feisty. She was my mom’s best friend on top of being her sister-in-law and so as a kid I spent a lot of time with her. After having raised two boys, my sister and I were the daughters she never had. She never let her sons get too rough with us and I distinctly remember, when my cousins would give me a hard time, to tell them “I am woman, hear me roar!” Obviously, it didn’t work, but it was the thought and idea behind her words.
She was like a second mom to me. She came to tons of my sporting events even though she had already done that with her own kids and when she couldn’t make it I always got a “good luck” text. This was the woman my parents would have entrusted my sister and me to if anything had ever happened to them. That is how close she was to my family.
In the year since she passed, I had sort of been pretending that she was still in Florida. It was easier that way. That disillusionment, however, caused my reserve in traveling there. How was I supposed to continue to pretend if I was physically there and she wasn’t?
Our plane got in at night so I wasn’t able to really see the place before going to bed that, but when I woke up the next morning what I saw took my breath away. My words will do the sight no justice. The ocean and sky seemed to be one. The beautiful blue seemed to be reflecting on both surfaces and I couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began. It was simply incredible.
The condo my aunt and uncle shared had a balcony that overlooked the ocean and they loved to spend their evenings out there, especially when there was a full moon. The night that the whole family arrived, there happened to be a full moon and my uncle decided it would be a good time to spread her ashes. Everyone had been dreading that event, but we all walked out on the pier together in silence and held each other as my uncle tossed urn and ashes into the black ocean. It was so hard to watch, but at the same time I know none of us could think of a better place for my aunt to be. It was a hurdle we all had to get over, but in getting over said hurdle we received some relief and closure which allowed us to enjoy the vacation together.
The next morning I felt so much better about the time I would be spending there. While I wished with all of my heart that my aunt could be there with us, I didn’t feel completely separated from her. This will sound cheesy and cliché, but I could feel her there. I could feel how much she loved her winters there. From that first morning on, I was prepared to enjoy my week in the sun, knowing that my aunt would hate for me to not enjoy her favorite place as she had. By the end of the week I was sure that I had become just as taken with that beautiful spot as she had been. Even though that trip could never make me stop missing the woman who had partially raised me, it gave me a bit of the closure I had been needing.
Sometimes my boyfriend, who also knew my aunt, tells me that I’m like her; that I am who I am can be semi-attributed to her. Nothing in this world could make me happier. She was an incredible woman who I miss at the most random times. On the other end of the spectrum she can still bring a smile to my face when I think of all the times I got to share with her.