Life Lesson: Vacation Part II No Place Like Home

Today, we are featuring our Aunt Lisa’s second installment of Vacation 2017. To read last week’s blog, click here:

The following is an excerpt from our family vacation.  I attended a reunion in Vermont with my husband, Cleve, his family, and my 21-year-old son, Brendan, who is on the autism spectrum.

Tuesday, Brendan and I went to Montpelier to shop. We located a store called “Old School Cool” that I had found online just on the edge of town. They had everything you can imagine: old books, clothes, toys, dishes, you name it.  After browsing there, we shopped the very quaint downtown, had lunch, and went to the wine shop. Upon checking out, I realized I did not remember where I parked the car. I described what I remembered about where I parked to the clerk at the wine shop and he directed me to a lot behind city hall.

We walked across the street, checked both parking lots but did not find our car. I saw another parking sign and went to that lot; our car was not there. Brendan was getting upset and the 4 large bottles of wine were getting very heavy so I had Brendan sit on a bench while I continued looking. While searching, I saw a meter maid, explained that I had lost my car and she walked with us to three additional lots and we finally found Subaru Ziva. With another successful journey and adventure under our belts we drove back feeling proud.

Wednesday, we relaxed at the house on the hill and went to the cabin that evening for dinner with Cleve’s family. Monday and Tuesday had gone so well, I didn’t think about Brendan having problems at the cabin.

More people had arrived and everyone was involved in conversations when we arrived. I started chopping onions in the kitchen and Brendan began wandering around outside. By the time he came into the cabin, he was brooding about the baby. Cleve’s cousin had a poppin’ fresh 7-week-old little girl who was crying. Crying babies are a trigger for Brendan; need I say more?

I directed Brendan to the screened porch where he would be alone, promising we would leave after I finished the onions. And then it happened; I looked up and saw Mom and infant crossing the porch, heading inside. I dropped the knife, voiced an expletive and told Brendan we were leaving.

He gladly left the cabin and was headed down the hill as I grabbed my purse. Cleve was helping a friend set up a tent and yelled to Brendan as he passed by. Brendan never broke stride; simply flipped him the bird and continued to the car. As I ran by I mouthed, “baby” to Cleve and he nodded his head.

We drove for a couple of miles before I expressed my dismay at how he had handled the situation. At one point, Brendan had his fingers in his ears saying, “lalalalalalala” so that he couldn’t hear me. In my anger, I missed my turn and ended up on a steeper, bumpier hill that led us to a dead-end. Backing up was not an option and I needed to turn around to safely get down the hill. Brendan was a bit car sick and I was a bit panicked about how we were going to get back down the hill.


I backed up to a spot that gave me some wiggle room and started the process of backing up, going forward, backing up, going forward. I hit something that didn’t move and hoped I had not damaged the Ziva. After several minutes of inching forward and backward, I got the car turned around and headed down the hill.  We were both relieved and calmer.  I apologized for getting angry and Brendan apologized for his reaction at the cabin. We talked about how he could let me know when he needed to leave a situation before it escalated to a point that he embarrassed himself and me.

Years ago, Brendan would say the code word, “popcorn” if he needed to leave ASAP.  We discussed that scenario and a couple of others as we drove to a nearby town to get pizza.  Then an amazing thing happened: when we arrived at the pizza place to order a pie to-go, Brendan took charge. He informed me he would order and pay for the pizza. When I answered a question the counter clerk asked, he told me I should not interrupt him when he was talking. HA!

On the drive back to the house, we talked about the options he had while at the cabin: go to Gus’s tent for some peace and quiet; (Gus is his 20-year-old step-brother); take his iPad and headphones to listen to music; or tell me quietly that he needs to leave. We reminded each other the tools we both needed to brave this new frontier.

Sometimes we need to get through a rough patch in order to continue moving forward.

It turns out that  the Ziva’s rubber bumper was dented, as a result of Wednesday’s mishap but did not sustain any major damage.  On Thursday, we took off for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory about an hour away from our house on the hill.

Ben & Jerry’s was crowded but lots of fun. We toured the factory, bought T-shirts and some other items and took a selfie in front of an ice cream sign.  I missed a turn but got back on track for a safe, uneventful return.

Thursday evening at the cabin was a catered dinner so all who gathered could tell stories about Jean, Cleve’s mom, who died in November of last year. We all got a T-shirt with her 1980 county commissioner campaign photo and slogan “Vote For Jean” printed on the front.  It was a great dinner and Brendan enjoyed himself.  Everyone made a special point to greet Brendan when he arrived, which made him feel very welcome and special.  He used his headphones and made one brief trip to the tent.  He was proud of himself and rightfully so.

Friday’s memorial was a true tribute to Jean, her life and her love of the annual family week at the cabin.  After her ashes were scattered and various family members spoke, we had brunch before departing for Syracuse. Now all we had to do was remember to reclaim Brendan’s suitcase! We exchanged hugs and well wishes and said our goodbyes.  As we drove away we received the customary “mooning,” another family tradition.

We gained an extra passenger for the trip home so I sat in the back seat to Sycracuse to give the tall ones some leg room.  Even with short legs, it was not a comfortable spot in the middle and my hip was hurting. We picked up the suitcase, had dinner and called it a night.  Unfortunately, the AC unit was noisier than Cleve’s snoring so sleep did not come easily.

After a very long drive, we arrived home Saturday night to our happy dogs, Hobbes and Ernie. Thinking the refrigerator was bare, it was a wonderful surprise to find my sister had stocked us with food for dinner and breakfast. Everyone slept well and we regrouped on Sunday preparing for the week ahead.

There was laundry to wash, suitcases to unpack, and house cleaning to do. As I was getting ready for bed I bumped the box fan and it fell, landing on my little toe. I was squealing and cursing so loudly that Cleve thought Ernie was yapping to come in from outside. My throbbing toe made sleeping tough and my restlessness was waking the dogs. It was a little before 5am and I was holding Ernie so she wouldn’t jump down and wake up Hobbes when I heard Hobbes throwing up in the hallway.

Dorothy was right…..there’s no place like home.

Sunshine & Sarcasm,

Lisa Fry

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