Friday 15 December 2017

Family Guy: We left the teens in charge and lived to tell the tale

Dave expected to be met with scenes like those from the movie Project X when he returned home
Dave expected to be met with scenes like those from the movie Project X when he returned home

It's not so much a 'leap of faith' when my wife and I, seemingly against all odds, manage to pull off a trip to see the eldest at his college more than 8,000km away, leaving the second-eldest, a first year college student in Dublin, in charge of his siblings.

It's more than just one giant leap, like we grabbed each other's hand, looked each other in the eye, grinned and took a running jump into the unknown, Thelma-and-Louise style.

Doctors had said I might be unfit to travel after two left feet conspired successfully to put me in hospital with a broken skull for eight full days, almost until we'd been due to fly, 10 stitches and a titanium plate nailed to my dumb head suddenly overshadowing all we'd looked forward to.

But my lengthy convalescence, during which my long-suffering wife had to make the considerable journey in to keep me company each day, proved good practice for the kids in the esoteric art of running a household without us.

And the seriousness of my injury, in many ways a bolt out of the blue, also made us re-examine our priorities, to better look at seizing opportunities as they come our way, despite fears or obstacles.

"There's never a good time to do these things," my wife said, quite unexpectedly, in the middle of all this," - which means it's always a good time."

The day before our flight, with great relief, we got the 'all clear' from the doctors to go and 10 days of central Californian sunshine beckoned along with the chance to reconnect with a few old friends and to see and spend quality time with our, by now, long-absent eldest son.

Parking all our hopes up to this point meant final preparations had to be done in a flurry, like buying 10 days of groceries to supplement the precooked meals we'd stockpiled in the freezer, withdrawing funds to tide everyone over and running over last instructions again and again.

"One of you cooks, one does laundry, one walks the dogs. You all do dishes," chanted my wife.

"Just go," said the teen in charge wearily.

"We'll Skype every night," called my wife, as we dragged suitcases out to the car.

"Just log on to the news," he teased, "I'm sure our 'Project X'-style party will make headlines."

"Not even funny," glared his mother.

And so we leapt, consciously uncoupling our shackles such as they are, and in doing so, miraculously becoming a couple once again for what seemed like the first time in years.

How long, since we'd walked down a street holding hands, or touched each other on the face at a restaurant table? Was it distance? Divesting responsibility to our newly responsible teens? Or was it my recent, serious injury that was our sudden inspiration to feel so alive in the moment?

There's never a good time to do these things, which means it's always a good time . . .

So 10 days went by, as if a dream, and we never stopped pinching ourselves, except to Skype, even then marvelling how technology could bring us face-toface with home in a heartbeat whenever worry or the desire overcame us and the time difference allowed.

Once, we called to find out the youngest had organised herself to go on an overnight scout camp in the mountains, meaning the teen in charge must have signed the consent form in loco parentis.

"They're doing so well without us," said my wife, almost tearfully, though with each of these calls, all entirely without crisis or incident, our pride and confidence grew exponentially.

Touching down in Dublin again is a bit like how an astronaut must feel returning to gravity. A certain heaviness returns to our feet. We're conscious of the March chill; simultaneously excited to be home, but heartsick for a weightlessness which who knows when we'll feel again?

The dog stands in the armchair in the window, waiting as our taxi pulls in. The youngest skips to the door to let us in and the other two lope in from various rooms, quickly losing interest after hugs.


"No disasters then," says my wife. It's not a question. "I'm very proud of you all!" she calls after them up the stairs.

"Whatever," comes a distant reply from above.

The teen we left in charge re-emerges holding cash. "I have €40 left over," he says, handing it over.

"Any big parties?" I ask him.

"No 'big' parties," he grins.

We sit down to dinner, a family of five again. "I suppose it's not entirely awful to be home," jokes my wife.

"You're welcome to go away again any time," deadpans the older teen. It sounds less of a wisecrack than an invitation and I catch my wife's eye.

"It might be a while," she says.

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