Last week the kids and I went to Fort Walton Beach for a week of fun and sun. This vacation was one I planned with two other families that we are friends with. In total, we had 5 adults and 10 children. Each family rented their own condo at the complex and we managed to book our units in a row. We essentially picked up part of our neighborhood at home and relocated it to Florida for a week. At the end of the day, the kids played freeze tag in the grassy area outside; while we adults shared a drink from the patio. Not that different from home but with the sound of waves crashing nearby.
I always miss Tony. However, we were so busy and tired at the end of the long days, I didn’t have much time to sit and actively miss him. I think it also helps these are couples I hang out with regularly. They have never made me feel like the fifth wheel.
In some ways, their lives were irrevocably changed on a daily basis too. They can’t look outside and join Tony throwing cornhole in the driveway anymore. Tony doesn’t send out the call to make bloody mary’s on the patio and watch football. There are no evening firepit chats with an undercurrent of Tony singing every song he played by Eric Church. My neighbors understand how weird the driveway looks without his white truck parked outside, even after two years. So, it makes sense that I would be comfortable on this big family vacation.
The other two wives and I decided to book a photographer to take family photos on the beach while we were there. I was never good at booking family photos. Like many, I let my insecurities take over. The last time we had any photo’s done was because someone else in the family booked a session and our youngest was about two. I thought we had more time.
I knew part of these photo session was going to be hard. My family is no longer complete in the ways I want it to be. So, I don’t really want to capture us without him. However, our kids are only ours for so long and I do want to capture that. The other piece of emotion for me, was that I was going to be present to watch my friends capture their families whole.
In the end, I didn’t have any major emotional crashes that day. I had played out the scenarios in my head a hundred times. Maybe that mental work helped prepare me. Before we even left one of my friends acknowledged that she knew this could be hard for me, making me feel seen.
As I racked my brain on how to include an ode to Tony in our family photos, I had an idea. I carry a small glass blown yellow heart in purse that I received at my first Camp Widow. I tucked that heart into my baggage and carried it to the beach for our session. Our photographer was very approachable, so while we were waiting for the sunset to hit its peak, I found the courage to make my request. The boys and I gathered in close, placed our palms upward, and cradled the heart that now represents the man we love so much.
In the end, it’s another hard thing we did in our own time and in our own way.