By Bruce Stambaugh
I’m a planner. So is my wife.
When we arrange a trip, like we did for our 40th anniversary that we recently celebrated, we share completing the travel details. We also recognize that not everything can be foreseen.
We have come to expect the unexpected, especially in our travels. The motel room doesn’t look half as good in person as it did on the website. Highway construction forces us to take an alternate route. A storm cancels our scheduled flight.
Those examples of inconveniences can be amended. Add in the human factor, however, and unanticipated events can throw a real curveball into the most detailed itinerary.
Robert Burns immortalized this phenomenon in his poem, “To a Mouse,” when he wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.” That’s what happened on our anniversary trip.
Our 11-day Virginia vacation seemed simple enough. The first couple of days we would watch our grandchildren while our daughter was away and her husband had several business meetings. We would then escape a few days for our anniversary, and finish up the trip back at our daughter’s place.
We devised all sorts of ideas to occupy the trio of grandchildren, ages six, four and one and a half. Before we left Ohio, we knew the oldest one was ill. By the time we arrived, the youngest had a double ear infection.
Obviously our activity scheme had to be altered. Baby-sitting now included health care. I did squeeze in some individual playtime with the middle child. But even that was limited due to the raw, dank weather. The south had had a harsh winter, too, and although spring had officially arrived, winter still held its heavy hand on the Virginia landscape.
On our anniversary morning, we awoke to four inches of fluffy white snow and the third grandchild also sick. Things weren’t going the way we had hoped.
With reservations made in the historic Charlottesville area, we reluctantly headed out, but only after the temperature warmed enough to slowly melt the snow. Knowing our son-in-law would be home to help a couple of days lessened any grandparent guilt for leaving.
We enjoyed our time away, visiting just some of the several significant places in the history of our country. The weather cleared for our visits to the architecturally amazing University of Virginia campus, picturesque Montpelier, Thomas Jefferson’s masterpiece, Monticello, and James Monroe’s estate.
Then it was off to quaint, revitalized Staunton for a night before returning to our daughter’s place further up the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. At Staunton, our plans were again derailed. The flu bug caught up to my wife, and when we awoke the next morning snow was again flying. On top of that, I wasn’t feeling the best myself.
Fortunately, the snow didn’t reach the forecasted amount. Unfortunately, our daughter let us know that she was on the way to the doctor with the four-year-old.
By the time we arrived back at our daughter’s, the kids were playing and glad to see us. Our granddaughter kept calling my name, Poppy. Poppy just wished he had felt well enough to answer her call.
Instead, after a bowl of chicken noodle soup, it was off to bed. Like much of our time away, that’s not what I had wanted or planned, an all too personal example of what poet Burns had penned.