The Downside of Military Life: Dealing with Aging Parents and Travel Limitations for the Holidays

The hubby and I have been on this military journey long enough that are parents somehow have gotten old (which somehow may mean Hubby and I have aged as well, but I’m not ready to admit that just yet).

grandparents

When our kids were just babies, we established with the grandparents the expectation that they come to us for the holidays, wherever we might be. Typically, travel for two seasoned travelers is easier and cheaper, instead of one frazzled supermom alone with two young’uns or, when the mission allowed, a family of four.

Since entering military service many years ago, we have never been stationed anywhere close to either set of parents. The best-to-date distance has been 300 miles, one state over. In my younger days, when I had more energy and seemingly more disposable income, I did not find the distance an impediment. Sure, I didn’t see my parents and in-laws as much as I wanted, but I know it comes with the territory.

Since having kids, I am much more wistful about the distance and the infrequency of which we see our family. It takes a lot of time and energy to maintain any relationship, but maintaining family ties is the salt of life and so worth it for generations of family to know each other. I have driven all over these great United States, mainly the Midwest, for some face time with the great grandparents, grandparents, extended family, in-laws, and friends over the years, but usually just in the summer. For the holidays, the family comes to us.

Until this year.

This year marks the switch for my parents.

After their last visit which involved direct cross-country flights, they announced that their flying days were coming to an end. They would not be traveling to us this holiday season. They just can’t do the flying thing anymore, and driving is not feasible with the current distance apart. Health issues and the inability to travel light make flying a difficult and intolerable experience for them. Quality time with the grandkids is no longer enough of an incentive. The time has come that we travel to them.

Traveling with my children doesn’t seem quite as daunting since there are no more diaper bags involved. And yet now that I am considering this new change, holiday travel does seem overwhelming, namely the logistical challenges involved and the necessity of a revised travel budget. (Yikes!)

I’m coming to realize that Life is changing again, that my family and I are entering into a new season, a new stage of life, which requires flexibility, redefined expectations and new traditions.

So, I will continue to choose my family, even if it now involves four airplane tickets for an adventurous, packed-like-sardines, cross-country trip during the most wonderful time of year. (Choose love. Budget. Breathe. This is an Adventure!)

What about you? How do you maintain family ties while in the military? What are your family expectations on visits and holidays?

Valerie

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