Thursday, May 3, 2012

Travel Plans

So, last night at the friends and family performance night, The Boy and I had a "dry run" for the trip to Ireland. My current plans have him coming with me for the chorus' week-long trip to Ireland, which includes some rehearsal times and 3-4 performances of approximately 30-45 minutes each. The dry run, in terms of dealing with him, was a spectacular failure.

Understand, the blame comes from the lack of a plan, not from The Boy acting like... well, a boy.

For the first part of the night, while I was rehearsing with the chorus, he stayed in the auditorium and ran around, drew some pictures, and played with the iPad. No problems, there. For the fifteen minutes that I was rehearsing with my quartet, he made a beeline outside for the pond behind the building. Not good. Although he's taking swimming lessons, he's not nearly good enough to be able to keep his head above water while fully clothed. Thankfully, one of the chorus folks grabbed him before he made it to the pond.

During the actual performance, he was inconsolable. Thankfully, N was there, to sit with him and to take him outside to play for a while, although it took a few minutes to get that organized and going. He kept trying to come up to stand with me, which was really, really distracting to the audience and performers, definitely out of place for the evening. That's not good. He sat with me quietly enough when the other groups (quartets, etc.) were performing, and he sat quietly while my quartet sang. Just, when I was directing the chorus, he wouldn't take no for an answer when it came to being with me.

This, of course, begs the question about the Ireland trip. If he was to come, we would need to arrange someone who will sit with him and take him out of the performance if need be - and it probably will be necessary. That's a pretty big deal, as most of the people I'd trust with that are going to be performing.

The easiest answer is, of course, to not take him. I don't think I can do that. The Wife and I talked this through a couple of weeks ago, because Grandma - and The Wife, honestly - was quite curious as to why I was so gung ho about taking him along. Truth to be told, I hadn't done a lot of introspection about it. It's just something that occurred so naturally to me. If I'm going away for a week, I want to take at least one member of my family with me.

The reason why stems back to November and December of 2009, so let's enter the wayback machine. At the time, we were in the most difficult stretch of The Boy's treatment. He had been in the hospital continuously, for infections and similar, for around six months at this point. My supervisor at school had told me that I wouldn't be returning to my job the following September because of my non-relationship with the then-high school marching band director. (Side note: he was let go at the end of last year. Two years of finishing dead last after finishing second, and of declining numbers in the entire program, will do that. Looks like it wasn't my fault after all, although he'll never believe it.) I was also being systematically harassed by her and my building administration and by my union - the story that sticks was getting written up for taking a sick day (family sick day) because The Boy was in intensive care with a blood pressure of 60/30.

We told Grandma that we were moving to Pittsburgh, and I gave my notice for January. I wanted to get through half a year and to give them an opportunity to find a qualified replacement. I brought the family and our belongings to Pittsburgh at Thanksgiving, and then got in the car by myself and drove back to New Jersey to finish the work on the house before I left the job and our house. I was home for about three days by myself before I caught the flu, and was laid up for the next three days with a fever around 102 degrees - extremely high for a person with a normal temperature of 97,1, who never gets fevers. Three days after that, the bomb dropped: they found spots on the ultrasound & x-ray and needed to bring him into surgery as soon as possible to excise what was - most likely - another tumor. I'd done enough reading to know what that meant.

What was left unsaid was that, most likely, a third tumor during this chemotherapy was a death sentence.

The next week was a blur. I honestly don't remember most of it, except for the generousity of my friends and family and a bunch of strangers. More than 50 people came through the house to help, even if just for an hour. I finished the concert to rave reviews, and 12 hours later, was on my way to Pittsburgh. The fallout from my three week absence from the family was fairly severe, and it took a long, long time to repair the family relationships and the family dynamic. The good news, we know: the spots were merely scar tissue, which never happens, and we were given a new lease on life.

There's some other baggage that I carry around, from earlier in life, where there were some significant family member health issues that results when I was away from them. My brother D, my mother... where, suffice it to say, I'm not eager to leave my family behind for any length of time. A night, maybe, but that's not willingly or easily done. Again, my issues, but it's one reason why I don't travel well.

Again, the basic interpretation here is that, when bad stuff happens when I'm away, it affects me more severely. I guess that's true for everyone, but I've had a plethora of Bad Stuff happen.

So, how does this relate to Ireland? That's an awesome question. What I know is that I have a deep, negative, visceral reaction to being away from my family, by myself, for a period of time. As a matter of fact, I'm really, really struggling with staying away two nights at next weekend's contest - I'm giving serious thoughts to hitting the road after dinner, to get home for the second night, for that same reason. Being away for a week? Can't do it. I actually feel a little bit ill, thinking about it. My first gut response is to turn down the trip because of that.

So, what can we do? The times when I'm not performing aren't an issue. If I'm there, things are okay, for the most part. It'll be challenging, but not insurmountable. It's the times that I'm rehearsing / performing that are an issue. He's very little. He's not old enough to sit by himself in a public place, and he's not old enough to keep himself out of difficult and dangerous situations (read: the pond). The choices, as I see it:

1) Keep him home. Stay home with him.
2) Keep him home. Go on the trip and deal with it.

These two are likely the easiest choices. Both have consequences. The first has political consequences in the chorus and greater Sweet Adelines community. I'm honestly not sure what the general reaction would be, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be good. The second has consequences at home - mostly making a really, really difficult week home alone with three kids for my wife. Hopefully, by then, we'll be settled in our new house, so it won't be devastating; but, it will be hard for her. From further discussions with her, she has made sure to remind me that I have her blessing to go; the decisions are mine and my neurosis alone.

3) Bring him along, Duct tape him to the bus seat when we're performing.
4) Bring him along, work with a couple of non-singers to walk with him when we're performing.

#3 is okay, but I'm not sure about the child-duct taping laws in Ireland. The latter has the difficulty of finding and training that person and The Boy to stay together during the performance. This kind of makes it difficult for whomever - or whomevers - to enjoy the performances. The Boy is cooperative, but he likes to wander and explore. Again, he's little. I'm honestly not that uncomfortable about asking someone else to help with that. It just means that we're going to need to work at it a little more and find someone who's willing to work with me on that.

Again, those have consequences. I'm honestly not sure what the general reaction is going to be from the Ireland attendees if I ask their significant others to help with my kid, but I'm pretty sure it's not going to be good.

Hmmm... Reading that back - I'm typing in between calls at work, which means I get about two sentences, then a call, then a half hour of steady work, then another minute or two. I guess I'm feeling really good about the trip right now. Last night kind of shook me up a little more than I expected. I honestly thought that The Boy would sit and watch the show - he was right in the front row, had some paper to draw with and an iPad to play with. I didn't expect him to wander as much as he did, and I didn't expect him to cause the fuss and distraction that he caused. I know it's not intentional - he's a good boy, but he's little. At the same time, I am scared out of my mind (perhaps irrationally, but there is some history there) about being away from my family for any length of time.

I'm not sure what to do, here. On one hand - trip to Ireland. On the other hand - I have enough psychological issues. If I went away by myself and something happened, then I'd never, ever be able to forgive myself. Gripping hand, I can't go away and have me perform without help. Any advice?

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