Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

Cape Week

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that the only constant is change; the only thing in life on which you can depend is that things will not always ever be the same. An important corollary to this is that all things, good or bad, will come to an end. So it appears to be in my little slice of the world. While it’s not quite clear exactly when, it is clear that a very important part of my adult life is near an end.

This is the weekend when Beth and I digest the latest iteration of the annual White Family Cape Cod vacation week. For 23 consecutive years all, or almost all, of my family has congregated in the same 2 cottages across the street from the ocean in the idyllic little town of West Dennis, MA. After that comes 12-14 hours of driving home, a rolling debriefing and decompression from a full-immersion experience into my family. For 8 years or so both vacation and the drive home have been fodder for my “Sunday musings”, some of my best. Although some aspects of the vacation were as immutable as Bill Murray waking up in that hotel room every day in Groundhog Day–a seeming violation of my “everything changes” dictum–each year has actually turned out to be a truly unique story told exactly once. For 23 years. It’s really been a remarkable streak when you think about it.

The genesis of this annual odyssey was my youngest sister’s wedding and the addition of a fourth set of in-laws to the family Holiday dynamic. Beth and I are both first borns. We were the first to marry and the first to bring members of the next generation into the family. We have always lived a mutually disagreeable distance from both families, in the backyard of neither, and no closer to either. Both families were equally unhappy with our zip code. Really a compliment, when you think about it.

As part of this it was clear right from the start that there would be no winning and losing when it came to family visits on the big 2 American Holidays Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nope, it was gonna be all War of the Roses, just degrees of losing. My proposed solution? We would declare a summer White Family Holiday and we would all convene in one place for a week together. Thus began 23 years of “The Cape Week.” When we began my caboose, Randy, was 6 weeks old, the 5th of what would become a gaggle of 10 grandchildren, the youngest of whom is now an 8th grader. Somewhere there’s a picture of him dwarfed by a 15 lb. lobster at dinner in year one.

For 23 years we distilled each year’s visits into a single week. We laughed and we cried, whispered and screamed. We loved and not-so-loved over each week as my generation fell into and out of our childhood family roles. It’s kinda like draft slots, right? You sit at the same place at the family dinner table and its even called “Beth’s seat”, or “Darrell’s seat”, or whomever. Whatever your place was in the family (agitator, comforter, achiever, slacker) at some point in the week you fell right into your allotted space. Triumphs and tribulations were tabulated as we offered each other all manner of advice and support. Some of it even solicited! In some years we single-handedly kept the vintners of California solvent with our dinner-time consumption.

So why now? Why is this summer the year that the end is nigh? Ah, it’s that old bugaboo, change. The younger couples and their children were paying attention and they have seen what it takes for the grandchildren to attend as they get older; this has (rightfully) given them pause. It’s hard, very hard, to make a week like this happen every year. As the kids get older, move through their school years and into real life, getting them to the Cape becomes ever more challenging, even when they truly want to be there. More than that, though, is the inexorable change wrought by time in my parents, Gram and Gramp. Soon, much too soon, the trip will either be too much for them to handle, or they’ll not be with us to handle it at all. All things come to an end, after all. Even something as unlikely and wonderful as a family of 20 meeting for a week on the same beach for 23 years.

The lessons are as obvious as they are at once joyous and sad. Good things are worth the effort it takes to keep them alive. My family, led by my brother, will likely try to do just that. Even good things, or the best of things, will eventually succumb to change and perhaps even come to an end. These realizations are bittersweet in our case for they bring along the dread for what this proxy for ultimate change portends. Late one night Mrs. bingo was awakened to the sounds of my muffled sobs as the end appeared before me. This year? Next? Change is the only constant. Everything comes to an end.

As I turned to leave, not knowing if I would ever return, I bent down to kiss my beloved beach goodbye.