My oldest child is away for a few days. Not away at college or anything like that. Away on a mini vacation kind of thing. 3 days, 3 nights in Lake George, New York. Lake George is a town in New York’s vast, protected Adirondack region of mountains and old-growth forest. The town sits on the lake of the same name.
On the shore, the Fort William Henry Museum & Restoration is a restored British fort, built in 1755. Visiting it always excited my inner history geek. Nearby, Million Dollar Beach has picnic areas and a boat launch. There is fishing, and there are water sports, steamboat rides and outlet shopping. The Tiki dinner show had been running for a long time when I was a little kid, and from what I understand it is still going strong.
It’s an area I have been to more times than I can remember.
There is the 6 Flags Great Escape and Hurricane Harbor. Across from that location is the great escape lodge, which provides a walkway bridge of sorts to cross over to the amusement park. My husband and I stayed there with the kids multiple times over the years. The Looney Tunes characters were always in residence at the lodge – iconic cartoon characters like Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird, then it became mostly Scooby Doo. We would stay with the kids in a large room that had a child size log cabin built into it, complete with log cabin bunk beds.
Since she hit the road early Wednesday afternoon, I have wrestled with 2 things:
1. I am afraid she’s going to get into trouble on the road. She is a good driver, who has successfully navigated big storms she’s been caught in on the road. She’s handle driving in Manhattan multiple times, which is a very stressful experience.
She drives a very safe vehicle, which I insisted she have checked over on Monday. After new brakes, new wiper blades, and an oil change, I am out of a good deal of money but I gained some priceless peace of mind in exchange for it.
But I am aware that the driver of any vehicle is typically only one part of the equation in a collision. Yes, I know there are one-car crashes; I help minimize that by making certain my daughter drives a good car, in good condition. It’s the other drivers on the road that I am completely powerless to do anything about. And that is so frightening.
You just don’t know who in what car around you is having an argument on the phone, is juggling food, is smoking a cigarette, is putting on makeup, is reaching for something they knocked on the floor, is reaching behind them to comfort or swat at a child. You don’t know who had one too many alcoholic drinks with dinner, or had a liquid lunch, or smoked a joint ( medicinal or recreational), or is taking pills that clearly advise on the bottle that they are not to be taken if operating heavy machinery.
If you read this blog or follow me on social media at all, you probably remember that my husband was killed by a DUI driver. He had no way of knowing that coming down the road at him from another direction was a driver who was drunk and using cocaine, and who would stop him from ever making it those last 5 blocks home.
I don’t worry about my daughter driving. I worry about the other people on the road with her. I assume every parent has that worry, but it is extra sharp when you already live with the worst that can happen, and even the vaguest thought of it happening again is more than devastating.
2. The second thing I am wrestling with are my memories of all the good times I’ve spent in Lake George. Everybody wants to look back on happy memories with a smile. I do often smile about those memories, but now there is an underlying burn to it.
It burns that Chris and I should have had more years to make memories there with our kids and then with one another.
It burns perhaps even more that MS has stolen my ability to go on a vacation with my kids. I would do most anything for the chance to have the 3 of them and me pile into the car and drive a few hours to get to Lake George. Some things there would be different, and some things would be the same. We would be making new memories there. Not to replace the old ones, but to add to them.
That’s just not the way it is. Instead I have to try to make completely different types of memories with them, and given my considerable limitations, it’s much tougher than it would sound I think.
My Daughter’s Call Today
Today I received a phone call from my daughter, who is still in Lake George. She told me that they drove by the Great Escape Lodge. She saw the signage for the Johnny Rockets franchise they have there, and it became very emotional for her. Obviously, it was not the restaurant itself that brought forth a tide of feelings. There is a Johnny Rockets in the mall that my family goes to regularly. The only feelings that location brings forth is perhaps a craving for a chocolate milkshake or a snack.
The location in Lake George though, that one holds a lot of family memories. We would have breakfast in there almost every morning during our stays, stop down there at night before closing for ice cream and more laughs. Chris would be in his element, joking and horsing around with our kids. I’m glad my oldest daughter remembers the totality of that experience there, and I worry that the younger kids were still too young to really have held on to that.
Creating New Memories
Making memories is so important to who we are as human beings. Time passes relentlessly. Inexorably. Even the best memories may become fuzzy over time, but I think we hold on to the feelings that were attached to them. So, we may not recall the details of memories we have from childhood, and yet still recall the way we felt in more general terms that are still special and worthy of keeping.
And therefore I deal with my own uneasiness when my kids go places, and my own sadness that I cannot join them in their explorations while they still might want me to … Because the older they get, the more our kids don’t really want parental involvement, except maybe in special circumstances.
I have to find a way to be satisfied with knowing that the little family tradition of visiting Lake George that began with my parents and my husband’s parents, and continued with us, is now starting to be enjoyed and continued by our firstborn. I have to keep trying to find ways to make new stationary memories with them, while also finding ways to give them new memories out in the world that will not include me and the anchor chains of my MS.
Chris and the kids in front of Lake George