It's 9:30 in the evening and I haven't had a bite to eat.
Because, you know, Christmas.
Let me explain. Our family has a long-standing tradition of going on a family trip instead of giving Christmas presents. Since we live in Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, we usually go north and splash around in some cool, clear water.
Depending on how far north we go, it can be a little bit more than cool.
A few years ago, Granddaughter One said, wistfully, “Just once I would like to swim in warm water.”
I'm honestly not much of a beach person. I get a sunburn after five minutes, I don't swim that well, and I have way too many wrinkles where sand can accumulate. But because my world pretty much revolves around what One through Five want to do, I said, “I promise that before you graduate from high school, we'll find some warm water for you to swim in.”
I didn't start researching right away, but for the last year or so, I’ve been aware the clock was ticking. This year I started checking water temperatures around the world and found many options. For instance, flights to Iceland are pretty cheap in the winter, and they do have a lot of heated springs. I thought that might fulfill the letter but perhaps not the spirit of the request. Since they'll be the ones picking out where I live in my declining years, I thought I should try to avoid causing ill will.
I finally settled on the Dominican Republic. It's a place I'd never been, the flights are usually pretty cheap, and the water is warm. All I needed to do was find a six-bedroom house, on the beach, that I could afford.
That was easier than I thought it would be, but fleshing out the rest of the plan was quite a bit of bother. Four families, with all the adults and some of the children gainfully employed, school, basketball games...it turned into kind of a thing. Then, in early December, my father died. Between trying to manage the sadness, making arrangements, and figuring out how to get a far-flung clan home for a funeral, I thought I might never get a restful night's sleep again. In the end, the only time we could go AND afford it was between Christmas and New Years, and literally the only flight we could take was left at 6:01 a.m.
On Christmas Day.
Oh, well. A deal’s a deal.
Christmas morning, I got out of the elevator at 2:55 a.m., ready to take the 3:00 a.m. airport shuttle and saw my entire family, bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to go.
My people may have some flaws, but by God, we can all tell time.
It's funny how at 4:00 Christmas morning there are very few airport restaurants open. As in, none.
We did get two crackers on each leg of our flight, along with some ginger ale. Filling, but not exactly our traditional Christmas dinner.
So, Minneapolis to Miami, Miami to Santiago de los Caballeros, an hour and a half drive through the mountains and we were at our rental house in time for the kids to take a quick splash in the ocean before dark.
One phone call and a nice young man brought us three pizzas and a dozen Cokes on his motorcycle and the whole place very quickly settled down to sleep.
I guess I can't prove that. I know I settled down to sleep pretty early and got in a solid ten hours.
This trip was very much a learning curve for me. When my wife and I travel, we go to museums, take long walks, and sit in cafes people-watching. For some reason, the teenagers didn't see these activities as fascinating. Instead, horseback riding, deep sea fishing, surfing lessons and much, much, much wave splashing took center stage.
But on the other hand there were hours of watching the surf crash onto an endless empty beach under a full moon, children laughing hysterically at their grandmother and I getting tumbled head over heels by breaking waves, Number Five, in a burst of sweet generosity, giving away his Twins cap to a tiny horse wrangler, and Number Three tipping a Haitian waiter all of his spending money.
It’s too soon to tell if everyone is having a great time or not, but my grandchildren know I keep my promises.
And that's not nothing.
Copyright 2024 Brent Olson