I took a road trip last week. The occasion was a sad one; my older cousin had lost her battle with cancer, and the family was gathering to lay her to rest in her hometown in northern Pennsylvania.

I took a road trip last week. The occasion was a sad one; my older cousin had lost her battle with cancer, and the family was gathering to lay her to rest in her hometown in northern Pennsylvania. My sister and I packed our bags in Boston and headed west.


Although we’d have preferred other circumstances, Chris and I were looking forward to a little sister time in the car. I, for my part, was almost giddy with the knowledge that I’d be off child-care duty for 48 whole hours.


The trip was an easy and comparatively fast one. Rest stops took five minutes instead of 20. We listened to my sister’s satellite radio instead of the sounds of bickering from the back seat. When we arrived, we decided what we would like to eat for dinner, instead of suggesting, cajoling, and negotiating with three little eaters whose ages add up to less than half of mine.


Chris and I had a good visit with our parents, with whom we were staying the night before the funeral. We caught up with my brother and his family, as well, and I cuddled my little niece and nephew when I could. It was nice, but it wasn’t the same. I missed my kids.


I called home at bedtime, and Earl let the kids talk while he set up a DVD for them. Timmy got on the phone first.


“Guess what, Mom?” he asked, expectantly.


“What?” I said.


“We’re watching ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!’” he announced.


“Wow!” I said. “That’s great!”


“OK, here’s Brian,” he replied.


“Hi Mom,” said Brian. “We’re watching ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!’”


“That’s nice,” I said. “How was your day?”


“Good. Here’s Abby,” he said.


I could tell they missed me as much as I missed them.


“Hi, Mom,” Abby said.


“Hi, pumpkin,” I answered. “How are you?”


“OK,” she said.


“How was your social studies test?” I asked.


“It got moved back to Monday,” she said.


“Oh, that’s good,” I said. “I can help you study when I come home.”


“OK,” she answered. “I’m going to watch ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ now.”


At least they weren’t suffering too much.


The next day, my extended family paid our respects to Lana and told her, “Goodbye, for now,” as the officiant said. We all enjoyed seeing each other at dinner afterward. I brought out the photos of my children, and marveled at my cousins’ families and how quickly they’d grown up.


Even in the midst of relatives I hadn’t seen for years, there was a hole in my heart where my husband and children should have been. How much lonelier must my aunt and uncle have felt, as they buried their only daughter? I couldn’t imagine their grief.


Even now, as I write, the tears fill my eyes, and I know how very blessed I am to be on child-care duty once again.


Julie Fay is a winner of the 2010 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. Read more at www.juliefaysblog.blogspot.com.