It was late summer and my family all got together to take a trip, just like we used to do years ago. We traveled to somewhere east of here, some old unremarkable town, and we stayed at a bed and breakfast just off the main street. Our cars were all parked about a quarter of a mile away under a grove of trees out behind the football field of the local high school. In the dim and drowsy evenings we would take long walks down to this school to get things that were still packed away in the back seats and the trunks, swatting at the mosquitoes in the thick air and straying to the sidewalks whenever an approaching vehicle caught us in the beam of their headlights.
There seemed to be some concern over whether our cars would start or how we were getting home or perhaps even where we were. But the days just passed by in lethargic apathy, the smaller kids having settled in on loose mattresses in a spare room at the back of the house, the scattered socks and picture books and stale air, the adults all sitting around the living room, passing the afternoons amid newspapers and coffee cups as the sun tracked its course across the front windows and that endless paper strip of sky cranked from clouds to stars, another bright day giving way to another humid night, the proprietor’s dog curled up under the shadow of an end table, the crickets out there in the dark, no one really feeling the need to talk.
There was an older couple also staying there at the bed and breakfast, and on one occasion when we were all sitting around considering what to do about our cars, the wife told us, “The only real vacation is the kind where you’re not sure how you’re going to make it back. And you don’t care.” And so it was with them. The lady passed away the following night, right there in her bed. They took her out the next morning with the sheet pulled over her head, the ambulance waiting out at the curb. But there were no tears or regrets. It was just another thing that came and went.