This weekend the kids and I embarked on another first without Tony. Two years and three months after his passing I accepted an invitation to go on a camping float trip.
Tony loved the outdoors and for him all the prep work to camp was worth the effort. I went along for the ride because I knew how much he craved that quiet wooded space and a good firepit with Eric Church playing at the end of the night. I also saw how much the kids enjoyed hiking and fishing with their dad. So, I went for the four of them. In hindsight, it’s that the epitome of love? Finding someone who loves you enough to indulge in your passions and poop in a bucket in the middle of the woods if required.
This time, all the prep was on me. I spent Tuesday napping and recovering from the Camp Widow crash. Then Wednesday, it was off to the races. I gathered all the supplies I could find, digging out his camp/BBQ box, air mattresses, chairs, fans, and the tent. Then I prepped all our food so we had easy heat and eat options, figuring whatever I could do in advance would help at the camp site. Friday, I played Tetris and packed the car as best I could, and we were off.
Once we arrived at the campgrounds, I was pleasantly surprised to watch my oldest take charge of tent setup. He worked with his brothers to erect the tent with minimal infighting. The boys continued to pitch in while we made our beds and unloaded the car. I looked at what we accomplished in wonder and thought how proud Tony would have been to see them.
Saturday was our day to play. We hit the river around 10:30am for a meandering 5-mile float in our rafts. Tony and I hadn’t been on a float trip in 15 years, but we had each been on float trips every year since we were 18. There isn’t a float trip I don’t remember Tony having a Ziploc bag full of cold KFC chicken. Before we were ever a couple, I remember bumming chicken off him on the river when my sandwich just didn’t cut it. So, there was no question as to what we’d be packing for our main snack. The kids were happy to go along to honor Tony. My heart warmed the few times I was stopped by strangers asking in shock and awe if I was indeed snacking on fried chicken.
After a long day on the water, sleep took over immediately as we hit our air mattresses. Sunday brought the reverse of our arrival Friday. The kids once again pitched in to help take down and reload all our camping supplies. Although a bit more reluctantly because they wanted to stay another day.
As we pulled out of the campgrounds my heart was a mix of emotions. I was thankful my friends invited us to join, and they didn’t count me out as a solo mom. Plus, their presence gave me the confidence to pull it off knowing if I needed help with any of it along the way they would be there. It was fulfilling to share the float trip experience with our kids and see them enjoy it as much as we did. I felt pride and a sense of accomplishment at pulling the whole thing off without a hitch. Lastly, woven in between it all was the love and sadness I felt. I remembered the trips Tony and I had together and the ones I’m building for our kids without him, grief weaving its way forwards and backwards into it all.