This was it. The trip I had been waiting for all year officially began when my plane touched down at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Chicago is where my dad’s side of the family lives, and it feels like home to me. Every summer, my entire extended family gets together and it is always the climax of my year, as I rarely see my cousins, who are some of my best friends in the world. Each year we have so much fun together, and I spend the entire school year looking forward to our summer reunions. Particularly this school year, as I had just endured an extremely stressful junior year. As my parents, my sister and I collected our luggage and hopped into a cab, I was so sure that these next two weeks would be nothing but fun, as always.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Boy, was I wrong. Our first day of vacation, we gathered at my grandparent’s home in Elmhurst, a suburb of Chicago. My grandma had been feeling ill for quite some time, but I suppose I was too wrapped up in my junior year to really think about the implications of that fact. Until now. My grandfather told each relative who entered the dining room “I think we’re loosing Mom.” That statement simply terrified me. I had never experienced the death of a loved one at that point, and our family would not be the same without my grandmother. I could not handle all my relatives acting so sad and strange, so I retreated to the basement, which was once a friendly childhood hang out, but that day seemed cold, uninviting and depressing, and began to sob. This was not supposed to happen. Summer family reunions were supposed to be nothing but fun. Yet, I was alone and crying while my older relatives were trying to figure out how to handle the inevitable death of their mother. The vacation was off to somber start for everyone, and I just assumed that instead of whooping it up as we had in years past, we would spend the time trying to hold back tears and make the end of my grandma’s life as comfortable as possible for her.
I was wrong about that, too. Later that day, my dad took my grandma to the hospital where the doctors performed some tests and admitted her. As the week went on, she began progressing and was ultimately allowed to go back home. Meanwhile, nearly my entire extended family spent the week at my aunt’s beach house in Michigan City, Indiana. It was beyond amazing to catch up with everyone after a year apart, and we had just as much fun as in years past: lazy days at the beach, delicious dinners at the Tree House Café in Michigan City, and wild nights at the basement bar. It was so nice to have everyone there for each other during this difficult time. I learned an important lesson on this trip: that I have the most amazing family in the world and would not trade them for the world. I always knew that, but I guess I took them for granted at times, which I will never do again.
Today, my grandma is doing much better. The fact that we almost lost her that summer could have been God’s way of reminding us to be thankful for every day we have together, and the love we have been blessed with. That is the single most important thing I have ever learned on a vacation.
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