My parents were married on December 18, 1965. Since my dad was a teacher, they went on their honeymoon during Christmas break. They took the scenic route through South Carolina, but eventually ended up at the Three Crowns on Lido Beach in Sarasota, Florida.
What started as a honeymoon became a tradition. My parents returned to Lido Beach for a few years, but as children came along they found a little motel with efficiency units in Venice. It wasn’t until 1980 that they returned to Lido. The motel had changed things and they were looking for something else, so they came to look at a timeshare. I can still remember looking around on a hot day, wanting nothing more than to go swimming. Long story short, my parents liked the place—and the fact that they would always have the same room—so they bought in. It was literally right down the beach from where they honeymooned.
We never missed a year. Each Friday when school was done we would load into the family vehicle and drive straight through. It wasn’t long before we knew many of the people who owned the same weeks as us. As Michiganders would ask how we could leave at Christmas time we would simply smile. Over the years the relationships grew more and more with our friends on the beach. Dad met one of his best friends there. He and Kenny were double trouble, whether on the golf course, the beach, or out on the town. We would spend all day on the beach or at the pool and then regroup for dinner. it wasn’t uncommon for 20 or more of us to go out together.
As I moved out and married my husband, I began an every-other-year plan for Christmas in Florida. However, after cancer entered my life it became clear that this tradition was one we wanted to pass on to our children. We picked up the yearly ritual again and this tradition continues today.
WHEN THINGS CHANGE …
Families change. The generation of kids when this all started—now is a generation of parents with kids of our own. We fill more and more units at our timeshare and our kids look forward to football games on the beach. Those are the good things. but as we all know there is bad with good. Now neither Dad nor Kenny are able to make the trip. Their health won’t allow it. Each year it is a question as to whether or not we should go and leave Dad behind.
Should we continue the tradition that he started or forego it in order to be at his side?
We have chosen to continue the tradition of Lido Beach in honor of him and our best family memories being made there. You can feel the excitement build in the same way it did when I was growing up. Once we have arrived—everywhere we go is accompanied with a story about Dad. We go to his favorite breakfast spots, and his dinner places, too. I love that my children can know a place that Dad loved. They don’t have the pleasure of having a healthy GrandPaul (or Pops) like many other kids their age. But, it seems right to share his spirit and love of this vacation.
Guilt travels with us too. We always wonder if we made the right choice. This is not easy. We took him with us for as many years as possible, until the enjoyment of it was gone for him. I think he would want us to continue. I really do.
Traditions bring joy, but they can also bring pain as they change without us wanting them to. This time of year, we all have dozens of traditions that cascade down around us like the winter’s snows. They’re stressful; they’re delightful; they’re emotional. And when a loved one at the center of that tradition is gone, or perhaps is so disabled that they can no longer fulfill the tradition … Then, what do we do?
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By HEATHER JOSE …
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