She called one night in December and asked “What do you think if we surprise mom and dad with a trip to Florida?” I thought it sounded like a grand idea, so I didn’t hesitate with my answer. “Sure, let me just check with Nick to see if he can get the time off.”
Karin: “Noooo…actually, I was thinking just the four of us would go. No spouses. No kids.”
And just like that, my siblings and I—Mark, Karin and Jeff—began a weeks-long effort to keep under wraps plans to surprise our parents at the place they winter in Florida.
The four of us left on a Thursday night in early February. By the time we got to their place in Bradenton (in a souped-up brand-new Dodge Charger my brother couldn’t resist renting) it was after midnight. My dad came to the door in his go-to sleeping duds—a V-neck undershirt and flannel pants. “What the ….???” he asked, scratching his head before flashing his half-grin. As for my mom, she came into the living room in her nightgown, hands clasped in front of her face as she asked, “Is this a dream?” It was the best kind of surprise.
And then there we were—just the six of us—in the car together, at the breakfast table together, playing cards together. Never in my 30 years have we all taken a vacation like this, so spread out are we in age. Decades have passed since the last time it was just US gathered in a room—no sons or daughters in-law, no grandchildren present.
We went to the beach, ate seafood and barbecue, slept in, went antiquing. I woke up in bed one morning with my chin tucked on my sister’s shoulder. I got picked on in the car by my brother, the way I used to when I was six and he was 15. We teased each other and laughed a lot and made adult jokes about how we’re turning into our parents.
It was only three days, but time enough to remember how much I love being able to call them all my family.