5 nights, 6 days in a 4 star resort on a sandy, white beach in Cancun. Heaven? Maybe. Now add two sets of sisters; 13 and 14, 14 and 16. So that makes five women and one man who came down with the flu the day before we left. The story sort of writes itself, doesn’t it?
I have often said that before a couple considers marriage, they need to wallpaper a bathroom and take an extended road trip together. David is an over achiever, so he upped the ante for both. He sailed through the bathroom remodeling challenge with flying colors, despite my total nervous breakdown on Superbowl Sunday. If you haven’t read that blog entry: https://howhardcoulditbe.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/premarital-counseling-remodel-a-bathroom-together-instead/
Back in February, we realized that our daughters had the same Spring Break. “We should take a trip together!” he said with reckless enthusiasm.
“Like Glenwood Springs?” I suggested. It would be a three hour drive into the mountains and an overnight or two at the most.
“No,” he replied. “Somewhere with a beach!” I didn’t want to get too excited.
“Corpus Christi?” I haven’t spent much time on the beach in my life, having been raised around lakes and rivers. I was trying to suggest something close and less expensive than the obvious choice. He recoiled at the suggestion. “No, no. I’ll ask my girls, but I already know what they’re going to say. Let’s go to Mexico.”
I have to admit that I was a little wary of the thought of a vacation of this magnitude. I mean hey, I know my kids. I love them, but… they can barely stand being in the same room with each OTHER, much less two younger girls that have their own family dynamic issues brewing. But wow, he was offering to take me and my daughters on a stellar holiday. How could I turn down that opportunity?
So this is the story I formed in my head: “This is going to be great! We are in love and our kids will see that and this will be our first of many family vacations together. The girls will bond and become great friends as they come to see all that they have in common!” Really. I was really that delusional.
So we booked the trip and got an awesome price. Everything was looking great and the girls were all excited. My daughters had never been out of the country before and they couldn’t wait to hit the beach.
The day before we left, David developed a cough. He swore he was NOT going to get sick. He NEVER gets sick, and he will force his body to be well because he said so. I brought over some extra Defend and Resist tablets to help him win his war.
The next day, we met at the airport. He was most obviously losing the battle and completely in denial. We survived the flight, but were pretty tired by the time we got through customs. A man with an official-looking badge pulled us aside as we made our way to the taxis. “Hi there!,” he said cheerfully. “Welcome to Mexico. Let me give you a few tips before you leave the airport.” I must say that he was quite helpful and cut us a deal on several excursions we had planned on doing on our trip. The only catch: We had to go to a “vacation club” presentation at a neighboring hotel the next day. Of course we didn’t realize that was what he was pitching, but between the fatigue, stress, confusion, David’s illness and official badge, it didn’t raise any alarms. We were getting $850 worth of excursions for $150. We were in.
When we checked into the hotel, there was another sales pitch. We hadn’t chosen the “all inclusive” package because we didn’t want to feel stuck at the hotel. We wouldn’t be drinking alcohol, so we felt we’d be better off going “ala carte”. The desk clerk convinced us to get the breakfast only plan ($20/person per day) that also included coffee/sodas in the afternoon if we went to the most remote corner of this very large hotel.
The first morning, I went down and saw the breakfast buffet. It looked like a $20 breakfast, but I asked an employee, just to be sure. When David arrived, he checked with the front desk to be certain that we were eating in the correct place. Yes, they assured us that this was the place to get breakfast on our plan.
The rest of the day went smoothly, we went to the presentation and stuck to our guns despite the arm-twisting. 3 hours later, we finally got the passes for the events and were persuaded to spend more money on events that weren’t included in the first package as we’d been lead to believe. The girls spent the day at the beach. My older daughter admonished my younger to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. This (naturally) evoked the “You’re not the boss of me” response. By 4:00, she was a lobster.
David was now clearly getting sicker by the hour. While he slept, I took the girls into old Cancun for dinner and shopping and we mostly had a good time, though one or two girls always found something to gripe about. This invariably ticked off the other girls, though they all took turns at this role. Everyone came home with goodies, and that made them happy. Throughout the trip, this “cranky/happy/cranky/happy” rhythm repeated with the regularity of the waves crashing on the beach. His youngest daughter was the lone exception; she is a peacemaker and just wanted everyone to get along, bless her heart.
Day two, David was horribly ill. He stayed in bed with the curtains drawn all day. My youngest was in misery, unable to move. I bought a $2 bottle of after-burn in the hotel gift shop for $19 and she stayed inside all day with his oldest and watched movies from the 70’s. The other two joined me on the beach. Later that afternoon, she joined us for a couple of hours of snorkeling on a “Jungle Tour”, while his oldest remained in the room.
That night, David worked up enough energy to join us back in old Cancun for another hour of shopping and dinner, much to his regret. He was such a good sport, but it was so loud with the live band and our waiter actually had a whistle and was blowing it like a crazy man, trying to get the whole place clapping to the beat. I thought David’s head might explode. My daughter was also feeling ill and this routine made her feel worse, too. The food was good and we escaped without anyone puking, so I’ll call it a “win”.
The next day was probably our best. The two younger girls stayed at the hotel watching tv and the rest of us went on the zip-line and rode horses. David was feeling better and that afternoon, 5 of us went snorkeling with an AquaWorld tour. His oldest stayed in the hotel watching tv and my oldest got sea sick on the boat ride home. The event itself was amazing though, I highly recommend it.
Our last day, tension was running high. Everyone was pretty sick of each other and we probably would have been better off going home if we’d had the choice. Of course, we’d saved the best excursion for last: Xel Ha, an ecological theme park. I had been there before and knew how incredible it would be. My oldest decided to stay at the hotel and relax on the beach, so the other five of us embarked on this all-day adventure.
Now before I get into this next part, I want to remind you that in the bathroom remodeling fiasco, I completely melted down and David was amazing and loved me right through it. This would come to be my payback.
David was still ill and trying hard not to be. He was tense and not himself. The sickness, bickering, complaining, and refusal to participate was getting to him, not to mention a dozen other small things that were adding to his frustration. I thought this would be a great place for him to unwind, but early in the day, he lost it. I took my daughter to explore the park and he took his girls snorkeling. She and I had a great time; it was probably the most fun the two of us had on the whole trip. We met up at check out and loaded up on the bus for our two-hour ride home.
In a tour bus, there are two high-backed seats on each side. On the way there, I rode by myself so David could sit with his daughter. On the way home, even his kids didn’t want to sit with him. The four of us sat together and David sat many seats away and slept the whole way. And that’s when it happened.
The entire trip, his older daughter had been rather poisonous, copping a major “I’m so tough” attitude. Here on the bus, we started talking about real stuff. We talked about her dad, and my daughter shared about her dad and we talked about the divorces, and change in the families and how that felt and pain and betrayal and recovery and even God. I listened to her and asked her questions and she gave me real answers. It was beautiful.
The next day, David was nearly catatonic. He was full-on sick and really upset about the day before. We spent some time together at breakfast and he laid on the beach for a little while. That relaxed him some.
He knocked on my door. “I’m going to take a walk on the beach after I check out at the front desk. Would you like to join me?” He managed a smile. We hugged and I whispered how much I loved him. The hug lasted a very long time.
“I need to finish packing. I’ll catch up to you if I get done in time.” I replied as we parted.
Fifteen minutes later, he was back, more livid than I had ever seen him. “THAT WASN’T THE RIGHT RESTAURANT! THEY CHARGED US $2,000 FOR ALL THE FOOD!” He was wild-eyed, ranting as he paced back and forth in the hall. This was the final straw.
He paid the bill so we could leave and we quietly loaded the van for the airport. No one was talking. On the flight home, he curled into a little ball on my lap (not easy for a man of his height). His fever was raging and we had to change planes and go through customs in Houston. He lost his $150 earphones somewhere in the process, but at this point, he was too beaten down for it to even register. By the time we reached Denver, I had to call for a wheelchair to get him to baggage claim.
He conquered the flu in another 48 hours, but it took nearly a week for him to recover from the trip emotionally. It has now been 5 days since we got home, and we actually had a little laugh about the whole misadventure last night. We still love each other, and I believe everything that happened on that trip was for a reason. I do believe I was able to bond a little with his girls, which would have been close to impossible to do without the intensity of the trip and his absence at many of the events. Our youngest daughters actually got along quite well, and my oldest had some time with David venting her frustrations. He’d listened to her calmly and I can tell she feels much closer to him now. I got to see what he looks like when he “melts down”, and I think I can live with that. We all have rough edges somewhere and heaven knows I have my own that he must agree to accept if this is to work for a lifetime.
I was looking at the photos as I loaded them onto my Facebook page this week. Everyone is smiling and having a great time.
I think that’s how I will choose to remember it.
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