What I Did On My Summer Vacation

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

It all started when I drove eleven hours straight to visit family. We gathered at my brother and sister-in-law’s comfortable yet cozy townhouse. My niece, her husband, and their three children were there too, having arrived two weeks earlier. Pandemonium was in the air. My niece’s husband was away, leaving her alone with both girls; one had a tooth coming in, the other a tooth coming out. Lots of gospel-predicted “wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

My sister-in-law works full-time but found time to take the kids to the zoo when my niece just had to sleep. My brother did the cooking and his wife ran the washer and dryer almost all the time and gave the kids their baths, something their father usually does. My brother kept adjusting his hearing aid, trying to filter out the piercing shrieks only kids can make. With the kids in bed, the adults sat stunned and exhausted before we fell into bed ourselves.

When my niece’s husband got back, the frenzy hit warp drive. At home, I live alone in glorious, self-indulgent silence. Amazingly, I enjoyed the activity.

All this reminded me of something the late American novelist David Foster Wallace said: “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is true freedom.”

Amen and amen.


Image: freedigitalphotos.net/Danilo Rizzuti


About the Author

Joe McHugh is a spiritual director, retreat leader, teacher, and writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the National Catholic Reporter. His book, "Startled by God: Wisdom from Unexpected Places" is available at catalog.franciscanmedia.org. He can be contacted at jjmch1300@gmail.com.