When the boys were young, Rick was often gone for extended periods of time; first with school and then with the military. These were the days before GPS, and so the boys and I had many "adventures" together (read time spent being lost and trying to find our way). With three young boys in tow, I have travelled from coast to coast. The times that the four of us were left on our own and even left to move the household are the times of legend and laughter. When Hunter first learned of cars that had indicators in them that would indicate north, south, east or west (still not GPS), he told Rick that our next vehicle purchased needed that option so I could find my way. I think he breathed a sigh of relief when Rick finally gave me a GPS system for the car.
When Jon was a newborn, we moved to Petersburg, Virginia. Rick was often gone at night as he completed his Officer Basic Course and Airborne School. Hunter and Wil made it their mission to keep Jon laughing and they were very good at it. Our nights were filled with silly dances and songs. When Rick graduated OBC, we moved him from Virginia to Georgia for jump school and then the boys and I went back to our home in Virginia. I can remember stopping at McDonald's for food along the route home, sitting Jon in a highchair and giving Hunter and Wil strict instructions to not move from the booth and to yell real loud if anyone came too near them. I still see how these two big brothers continue to look out for Jon. I guess those patterns of behavior planted all those years ago remain deeply rooted.
Later, we moved from Virginia to El Paso, Texas via Utah. I drove our car with the boys while towing a Uhaul trailer with all our belongings. Rick followed behind in another car we were taking back to Utah for his brother. At one point I was approaching a stoplight when a car cut in front of me. All I could do was put on the brakes and pray. Rick told me that as he watched helplessly from behind, all he could see was his family being wiped out as he imagined me hitting the car in front and then the trailer's momentum continuing to propel it forward and crushing us. He said he watched smoke come from the tires and was amazed we were able to stop. By the time the light turned green, my heart rate had almost returned to normal. This was not the only time I know that the boys and I were protected as we journeyed together.
When the boys were older, we flew to Los Angeles to see Rick's sister. Lela was six months old at the time. The boys and I took Lela and headed west. Rick and his mom were coming on a later flight, but had sent their luggage with us, since they would be hurrying to make their flight and didn't want to worry about checking baggage. The flight itself went smooth as we were able to sit in an area that had two rows of seats facing each other. Upon arrival in LA, Rick's sister was not at the baggage claim area, so Jon (8) held Lela while Hunter (12) and Wil (9) helped me locate the luggage and load it onto two luggage carts, then push those carts into the main area of the airport to wait for our ride.
The four of us have always been a team. The boys will say that the girls have had a completely different experience growing up because Rick has been here with them and able to be more involved. The girls complain and call Rick the "No Dad" and I am the "Yes Mom", but the boys remember things different. They remember that when dad was home, things were fun and dad always said yes, while I always was the one to tell them no. I don't think either gender of children has it exactly right. Funny how perspective works.
So back to the last road trip: Wil has come home for a time from his service as a missionary for the LDS Church. This came as a surprise, but we have also found blessings from it. I do not think that when Wil left my sons recognized the significance of not being together for three years. At the time, Jon was still in high school and Hunter was newly returned from his own missionary service. Wil came home to Jon ready to finish his first year of college and then leave within the month for his LDS mission. Hunter is only a year away from graduating from Utah State University and then he will be off into the real world of job and his own home. But for this last summer, Hunter decided to come back home to Southern Utah during his break from school. Maybe it was because he knew I was having an extra hard time at the thought of Jon leaving. Maybe he just missed my cooking. Maybe he wanted to get somewhere that he could thaw out. Whatever the reason, I am glad he is here.
With the girls' school year still in session and the end of the year approaching with all the end of level tests, they did not feel that they could take time off to move Hunter. Also Rick had things at work that required him to be in the office, so he too felt that he could not make the trip north. That left Wil, Jon and I to go and help Hunter with his move from dorm to storage shed and then home.
We left late Sunday evening, knowing that we had a six plus hour drive ahead of us. When the boys were young, the car was filled with the sounds of Barney and Disney tunes. This drive we sang along with Bon Jovi and Billy Joel. I wasn't the sole driver as Jon took a turn at the wheel and instead of Rick following behind me in the second vehicle, it was Hunter. We spent Sunday night in the dorm with Hunter. I remember those beds being more comfortable when I was younger and when I mentioned that fact, Jon commented on how comfortable he thought they were. Oh to be 18 again!
How amazing it was to watch my three boys pack and carry boxes, wipe down shelves, vacuum and mop floors. My job was to open doors and then do a final check of the dorm before we left. Good thing too, since I found a pair of shorts in a bedroom drawer that Hunter had overlooked. After I had checked each room, I shut the door behind me. I remembered doing something similar when we moved from Virginia, only I did not lock the doors. During that move, we reached our hotel the first night to discover that Hunter had left his Pooh bear back in Petersburg. He had taken the bear back into his bedroom because Pooh was sad to leave and had hidden him behind the bed. Luckily we had an understanding landlord that shipped the toy to Utah and so Pooh arrived not long after us.
On the way back south Tuesday, we made a stop at Hogle Zoo. We have had a membership at the zoo for many years and it was one of our favorite summer day trips when we lived in Ogden. It might have seemed strange to the families with young children to see three young men lining up and posing for pictures right along with their children. I am glad my sons decided to humor me. They kept saying things about how it was beginning to sink in that this was probably the last time we would get to do this as just us. Lots of memories came flooding back, along with the acknowledgement that by the time these three are together again, there will probably be girls other than mom and sisters as a permanent part of their lives with their own children to follow.
Rick conceded long ago, that while the girls are ours, the boys have always been in the most basic sense mine. So it just seemed right that this last road trip be just the four of us as it had been so many times before.