What do you do when you realize your dream will never come true?
When my husband and I were young, we dreamed of traveling the world. But there was one big problem preventing that from happening. We had no money. When we got married, we had just begun our careers and had some college debt to pay back and needed to buy a car and a few other amenities that freshly married couples need, so we were happy to honeymoon in New Orleans and take a few overnight road trips here and there.
Then, in 1973, we bought a house. How many nights’ sleep did we lose thinking of those massive $128-a-month payments we’d have to cough up for years to come? It was a leap, for sure, to take on that $28,000 debt. And of course, with a house comes a washer and dryer, lawn equipment, more furniture. You new home buyers know how it is. In 1974, though, a fellow teacher and I got the opportunity to sponsor a group of students and parents on a 10-day trip to Europe, free of charge. I wanted my husband to go with us, but the thought of accompanying a large group of teens set his teeth on edge, so he said, “Let’s go later, when it’s just you and I.” The trip was delightful…Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Germany…so many marvelous sights to see in so little time. And the kids were great! I loved travelling with them. There was only one problem. I fought exhaustion the entire time. One of our responsibilities was to do bed check before going to bed ourselves, but at the end of each busy day, I collapsed and left my poor co-chaperone to carry the load. I remember very distinctly, while on a tour of Paris by night, the sweet young man sitting beside me on the bus frequently touched my shoulder oh-so gently, whispering, “Mrs. Sisco, you’re missing the Eiffel Tower… the Arc de Triomphe…the Louvre…etc. etc.” Didn’t get much out of that leg of the excursion. Then, on our last full day, when the server delivered my daily café au lait for breakfast, I looked at that steaming cup of java and milk with absolute revulsion. The smell of it made me want to retch. My co-chaperone, watching me turn green, uttered one simple declaration. “You’re pregnant.” And I was.
So, as the children came along, and the smaller cottages were exchanged for larger, family-friendly homes, our travels became more family-oriented –the beach, the Alamo, museums, visiting relatives and friends. Occasionally, we escaped on a short trip together, to places like Las Vegas, New Orleans, or San Antonio, while my parents watched the kids. The extended trips that required a passport, aside from a Caribbean cruise in 1994…those excursions were put on hold till our kids were grown and out of the house. But that never happened. Through a series of events described in detail in my book, Another Cheesy Family Newsletter, our nest never emptied, because we became the caregivers of three of our grandchildren, born in 1994, 2001, and 2007. Thus, when our children became adults, we started a tradition of taking trips with grandchildren – the beach, Disneyworld, the Ozarks, NOLA, even another Caribbean cruise with the granddaughters when one graduated college, the other high school.
And gradually, the dream of world travel began to fade a bit. After all, I’d be 78 and my husband 80 when our youngest would graduate. Realistically, we knew, we’d never go to Sidney, or Shanghai, or Prague, but when I retired six years ago, we began to talk of using his air miles to go on an extended vacation to London and Paris in a few years. The boys would be old enough to get themselves ready for school and feed themselves, and surely we could arrange for someone to be at the house with them.
Then, last March, my husband landed in ICU because of a dangerous infection in his foot that had spread throughout his body. He was in the hospital for eleven days after his foot surgery, then in April another six days for bleeding ulcers resulting from the powerful antibiotics needed to fight the infection. The nine months since then has been consumed by doctor’s appointments, home health visits, antibiotic infusions, hyperbaric therapy…throwing ”everything but the kitchen sink,” as the surgeon says, at the wound, trying to get it to heal. And it has shrunk to a hole about the size of a pencil eraser, where once it was a gaping cavern. But it’s still a wound, and it still drains and must be carefully dressed, and it still hurts. So we talked about taking our dream vacation as soon as it heals.
Then, yesterday, the surgeon said, “It will never heal. Nothing we’ve tried has done the trick. You have diabetes and osteomyelitis – infection in the bone. So you have two choices: continue with the current protocol- antibiotics and wound care forever - or amputation if/when the dangerous infection returns.” I could hear sound of tinkling glass as the dream came crashing down. Of course, there are many things that might work – prosthesis or wheelchair, for example. But the miles of walking one does on such an extended trip, along with being away from the doctors and wound care necessary to stay healthy? It’s just not practical.
Yet we are, after all, so very blessed in hundreds of ways. So many friends our age are battling serious health issues, have had multiple hospitalizations and surgeries, and some have died. I’ve had no major surgeries and never had to stay overnight in the hospital, except for the birth of my children. The kids have all been remarkably healthy. We’ve lived in a great home for 35 years, and had
enough money to want for nothing, and we’ve had lots of short, memorable excursions and experiences. We’ve built water gardens, and written books, and collected stamps. and sewed slipcovers. We’ve celebrated hundreds of birthdays and holidays and outings with our family. We really couldn’t have asked for a better life, could we? In so many ways, our dreams have come true.
So… what do you do when you realize your dream will never come true? Simple. Get a new dream. Hmmmm…wonder if I could write a bestseller?