The honeymoon, and why vacation matters

Before we discuss the newlyweds week on Hilton Head — and the privilege we four in-laws had chaperoning them — a nice review of the book, used with permission from

The book is about life, unconditional love, heartbreak, overcoming challenges, making the best of the hand you are dealt, and breaking down preconceptions. It is also about pausing to savor an accomplishment instead of looking ahead to the next challenge. It is much more than a book by a local sportswriter about his daughter. It could be one of the best books you read this year and deserves to be on a national stage. You will be a better parent for having read the book. You will definitely be a better person for having read it.

Vacation is a state of mind as much as an excursion. It’s the one week of the year we gather as a clan with the only concerns being the weather and the restaurant choice, When life is stripped temporarily of its burdens, living ensues.

We’ve spent every summer for at least 20 years at a beach somewhere, with one or both of our kids and, for the last seven or eight years, their significant others. It’s gotten so I can’t imagine a beach trip without them.

This year was different. Jillian married Ryan June 27. We needed a spot where the newlyweds could be alone, yet close enough to us if they really needed something. We settled on Hilton Head Island, SC. The happy couple got a week in a resort hotel. The four in-laws rented a condo maybe half a mile down the sand.

Jillian and Ryan have lived together for nearly two years, so self sufficiency isn’t an issue. All we had to do was set them up: Rent them an umbrella and two chairs, tell them about the hotel’s courtesy shuttle to local attractions, remind them that sunscreen use wasn’t optional.

We barely saw them all week, and when we did, it was on their terms.

When you plan for your kids’ independence, it’s no surprise when it actually happens. Jillian takes four Metro buses daily, from their apartment to her job. Managing a courtesy shuttle? Not hard. She and Ryan are naturally gregarious. Both spent four years in college, on a big campus. They were encouraged to ask for help when they needed it. So, navigating a sprawling resort hotel wasn’t an issue.

“We have lots of friends here,” Ryan remarked the day before we left.

In most ways, they’re already like an old, married couple. In others, they’re delightfully not. Since their wedding day, Jillian and Ryan seem to have a renewed appreciation for what they mean to one another. Ryan has always said to me, “I always take good care of your daughter, sir,” so much that when he doesn’t, I remind him. But the honeymoon took that to a higher degree. Ryan spoke of caring for Jillian’s sunburned shoulders. Jillian wanted nothing more than to snuggle.

This is all Pollyanna stuff, sure. But it’s also an affirmation that our kids with special needs are capable of so much. They express love freely, and without guile or agendas. No worries there. They are capable of being selfless and romantic. They appreciate the need for mutual respect and tolerance, maybe better than the rest of us. They know they’re in this together.

The week went instantly. The memories will remain.

Expect. Don’t accept.

Thanks for reading.

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