My great-aunt, who is 80, and her husband, 70, finally feel well enough to travel after a myriad of health problems over the last few years. (Back surgery and a broken arm for my great-aunt, bladder cancer for my great-uncle.) They tested the waters with a trip to Vegas a few months ago. Auntie has ‘the touch’ and always manages to win enough to pay for the trip. Now they’ve decided to go to Germany and Austria to visit relatives, a spur-of-the-moment trip because “you never know what’s around the corner” said my aunt.
My mother called me last week to brag that her aunt and uncle had invited her to go with them. Mom was all excited about going, and told me I should call my great-aunt to ask if I could go too. So, I hang up on her to make the call. I get my uncle on the phone and after the usual pleasantries…
“Mom tells me you’re going to Germany and Austria. Do you think I could go too?”
“No. Sorry. Not this time. We discussed it already and thought it would be best if it were just the three of us this time around. We told your mother that.” Hmmm… apparently mom was so excited she wasn’t listening to them. That or she was setting me up.
Deep breath. “Why?”
“We don’t think it’s a good idea for all of us to travel together. Someone has to stay home. What if we all got into an accident, who would take care of things?”
I’m musing… is this how old people think? “My brother?” I offer, knowing what the reply will be.
In my family, I’m the “responsible one.” This is because I have a business degree and half a clue about the financial, legal and taxation consequences of property ownership, wills and investing. My brother, who is a very smart guy with a master’s degree in engineering, is an athlete training to get into the next Olympics. Not really an effective use of time as far as my aunt and uncle are concerned, at least not at the age of 36. Thus, as the older, business savvy offspring, I’ve been elected for the job of dispering assets when the time comes. (My mother, my brother and I are their only close relatives.)
My uncle half-snorts over my suggestion and puts my aunt on the phone. She reiterates their position, then tells me that they’ll take me someplace nice in the spring if they feel up to it. She quickly moves on to other subjects and then hangs up. I’m crushed. They’ve never, ever said no to me before.
I phone my mother to tell her they said no. I reminded her they’d already told her it was just supposed to be the three of them.
“How come you didn’t tell me that?”
“I never expected them to say no to you, I figured they’d say yes if you asked.”
“Well, they didn’t. The reason they gave could be easily overcome.” I added, explaining what they’d said. She agreed it was a pretty thin reason.
“Did you tell them you’d pay your own way?” she asked.
“No. I never thought they would think I was asking them to pay my way.”
“Did you tell them you wanted to go because of the genealogy?” Mom knows I’ve spent a lot of time tracing this part of our family back to the mid-1600’s.
“No, I never got that far. I wasn’t gonna argue… they seemed pretty clear about it.” I’m still trying to think of a more plausible reason, then it hits me.
“Maybe they don’t want to impose by having the relatives put up four of us when she has already told them it would only be three.”
“Well, let me talk to them.”
At this point, I’d had enough. “Mom, just let it go. Whatever the reason, they don’t want me to go.”
Of course, my mother ignored this. She later explained to her aunt that I had expected to pay my own way, that I really wanted to meet my relatives – especially my grandfather’s brother who is now 91 – and that she (my mom) really wanted me to go. My mother also reminded my aunt that many of those relatives have come here through the years, in large groups (6 or more) sometimes, and that she (my aunt) and my grandfather had always put them up. My aunt relented. My mother says she didn’t realize how important it would be to me to go.
My aunt and my uncle are traveling from Detroit. My mother and I from Toronto. Even if I weren’t going my mother wouldn’t have gone to Detroit to travel with them. We made our arrangements around theirs, to coincide with their arrivals and departures so as not to put anyone out. The airfares worked out such that it was cheaper for mom and I to tack on 4 days in London at the end of our trip. Mom’s never been to London, so she’s pretty excited about it.
I really, really wanted to go on this trip. We’re traveling separately and I’m paying my own way. Even though my aunt has told me it’s okay with her that I’m coming along, I still don’t feel that great about it. Aside from her having to ask the relatives to put up a fourth person, I can’t think of any other reason my going would be a problem for her and my uncle. I’m just hoping I have a good time and that my aunt isn’t snarky on the trip. Just in case, I think I need to learn a little German, like “Where is the closest hotel?”