It started out like any other camping trip. No serious problems really. Day 1 both propane tanks turned up empty, so we had no hot water or refrigerator cooling on the road. Day 2 was a quick stop for propane, then we had our obligatory flat tire on the way to the airport to pick up grandson Shawn. (Grandson Mac was already with us.) That makes about five flat tires we’ve had on camping trips now. It turned out to be a blessing though, as we were able to limp into the airport, and Gramps was able to get the tire changed there in the time we waited for Shawn to arrive. Perfect!! (We are actually getting pretty good at changing flat tires after all those previous flats!!) Like I said, no real issues!!!
So on Day 2 we had two 13 year old grandsons in the back seat of the truck. Now that was an issue! I’m talking entertaining two teenage boys in a vehicle for 8-9 hours. Yeah! (Thank goodness for I phones, Netflix, earbuds, video games, chargers and just plain sharing of devices.) That turned out to be a long day, facing an enormous thunderstorm all the way to Iowa City, but we didn’t reach it. Arriving at 11pm, we were fortunate that the one remaining spot in the campground was ours – reserved.
Next day was shorter, and after setting up camp near the Mississippi, we enjoyed a great day with relatives, but only after Shawn fell trying to spin the bicycle in the RV campgrounds and gouged his left knee. Who says thirteen year olds are coordinated? But the boys were lucky enough to see a river barge pass through the locks in Dubuque. When out tour continued at the riverfront, our wine-tasting was made more memorable by a severe thunderstorm and a tornado warning. The boys held the restaurant door closed! Perfect ending to a perfect day!
How about keeping enough food and milk to feed said boys in a refrigerator the size that would fit in a Barbie Doll house? Uh huh! And then there’s keeping enough sun screen on two teenagers at a water park, so I don’t have to explain to their mothers why I am sending home two crispy fried critters. Now that is a real problem!!! Can I get an AMEN to that?!
Day 4 – we arrived in the Dells and chose a list of activities. First was the famous water skiing show, so we didn’t spend much time not having fun. That night we started a rousing game of Monopoly that wouldn’t end, so we put up all our individual holdings to finish the next night.
Of course, I have to mention here that our RV space was right next to the railroad tracks. Now I personally love the sound of a train going by. The rest of the family, not so much. Some sleep was lost due to the frequent passing of the loooong trains carrying grain south.
Day 5 the two boys spent the morning testing their Go-Kart skills. Pretty good actually! They sped around passing each other, waving each time they went by and smiling from ear to ear.
The rest of the day was spent at the Mt. Olympus Water Park (Just so you can get an idea of its size). Now I’m talking in the sun, in the wave pool, being buffeted by a 9 foot wave every two minutes for 5 ½ hours!!! Who can do that?!! Well, two thirteen-year-olds can! And of course, Gramps and I in chairs with cameras taking pictures of both boys the whole time.
What a day! We all looked rosy and sunkissed, were exhausted and starving. Back to the RV for dinner. Now just so we all understand . . . “starving” to a 13 year old means eating while dinner is being fixed, eating dinner and then snacking all evening until bedtime. No kidding!!!
In the evening, while snacking, we resumed the Monopoly game from the previous night. Tension was high! No one had a monopoly! Trading was about to begin! Everyone had a plan! Everyone was determined to win! Then the dice rolled – cut-throat Monopoly began!
But, as usual, Gramps had the best properties, the most money and won by a huge margin. He always wins- we can’t figure it out. This is a game of chance, right? So how come he ALWAYS WINS!?! Ah well, we had a great time. I found being in Jail to be the safest place – no rent to pay to Gramps and his many houses and hotels!
Day 6 started out slow, We slept in, late breakfast. Then took the boys to a hands-on science laboratory. Lots of interactive fun there and we even learned a thing or two. Took a video of Mac on the Gyrotron, spinning around. He did fine – I got a little sick just watching him turn every which way but up.
We ate lunch while watching women’s soccer on TV. We hit the proverbial tourist’s wall about then and came back to the RV for some rest. As my Dad used to say, “Having that much fun can kill you!”
As I look around the room now, everyone is on their mobile device, in a reclining position. One is playing a game with a scowl on his face, another is watching a movie, laughing out loud and the third is playing solitaire with a look of satisfaction. Does it get any better the this? Surrounded by my family, feeling such contentment and love, and so completely ignored by everyone!!!
I’m going to end this now and check in with you all later when I have recovered my dignity.
We are planning more activities, July 4th fireworks, a Drum Corps performance and of course, daily trips to store for food.
Check in later for the rest of the story.
In this year of celebrating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and remembering all the years in our past, I have been thinking a lot about my parents. They have both passed on now and I have so many questions I wish I had asked them while they were still able to give me the answers.
My parents knew each other their whole lives. They were born in the same town four days apart. My mom was the youngest of all girls and my dad the youngest of all boys. My two grandmothers were in the hospital together and joked about how they should trade babies so they would have a different-sex child in the family.
And those two babies grew up and got married (I always thought that was a great premise for a movie). So where are all the stories of growing up together? Going to school together? Seeing each other around town? Knowing each other forever? I wish I had asked.
And I don’t know exactly how they got married. They didn’t date in High School, so it must have happened during WWII. I wish I had asked how my dad proposed and how they planned the wedding. Did they have a honeymoon? What did they wear? How did they know they were right for each other? I wish I had asked.
I wish I had asked what prompted them both to enter the service. My dad tried to enlist and found out he was color-blind, which meant he could only go into the Navy Seabees – Construction Battalion. My mother, believe it or not, was a Marine. I think she enlisted because of her sister Irene, who also joined the Marines. But why the Marines? I wish I had asked,
I wish I had asked them how they felt about the war. Were they ever afraid, confused, proud, ashamed or conflicted as an American? Were they glad to be in the Military? Sorry they joined? I wish I had asked.
I wish I had asked them how things were after the war. They were married and started having children right away. My dad was in college on the GI Bill. I think they were living in a mobile home park. Sounds like an “I Love Lucy” segment, doesn’t it? That couldn’t have been easy. But how did they manage? Was being a veteran a proud thing? How did they feel? I wish I had asked.
I wish I had asked them about their thoughts of early parenthood. My mother had three children in three years while my dad was going to school. And she had no family nearby. But I never heard the stories. Were they too horrible? Just forgettable? What? I wish I had asked.
How I wish I could sit down with both of them and ask these and other questions. When I had the chance, I didn’t think of it or it didn’t seem necessary. Now that it’s too late, I’m thinking of so many things only they can answer.
My advice to others – ask the questions NOW!! Don’t wait!! And if you are the elder in your family, write down all the stories for the younger ones. Don’t wait to be asked. Don’t wait until someone else thinks of it. Don’t wait for the perfect time. Just don’t wait. Do it NOW. Because then it will be too late and they will say – I wish I had asked.
I have spent the last week talking to each of my grandchildren for various reasons. I found myself complimenting them for their good work and encouraging them to continue to do well. These words are important to hear whether the grandchild is 22 or 11, as mine are.
I know sometimes words of encouragement don’t easily flow out of our mouths, so here are some suggestions for you. Practice them and use them as often as you can. Kids cannot hear them often enough from their elders.
1–That was so good of you!
2–Great job! I’m so proud of you!
3–Thank you for doing that on your own.
4–That was so kind of you!
5–Fantastic! Thanks for obeying the first time!
6–You know what? You are a great kid!
7–I really appreciate what you did!
8–Look at what you’ve accomplished!
9–Thanks for doing that before I asked!
10–What a great decision you made!
11–Tell me more about that.
12–You figured it out! That’s awesome!
13–One step at a time – you’re doing it!
15–Good for you! You were really listening!
16–I know that was hard, but you kept trying.
17–I love how creative you are!
18–Keep going! You can do it!
19–Thank you for sharing with me.
And don’t forget the all important . . . . . .
20–I love you!