That is the most commonly asked question. There is an alternate phrasing, usually posed to Ellen – how can you let him do this?
Her answer – do you think I could stop him?
And then there are those people who ask straight up if my wife thinks I am crazy, to which I reply, as does she, that this has been known for quite some time.
I’ve been talking about this trip forever. Any time Joe comes to visit or we see him for any reason references to the summer of ’78 come up. It was an opening up to the world for both of us. And as I’ve watched the world change in these many years, I’ve always wondered if it was still possible to take such a journey. This I know for sure – I couldn’t do it without such a supportive partner.
Ellen and I have been together for 20 years. We’ve raised three kids and rebuilt an old house and cared for our dogs and our parents and traveled quite a few roads together in that time. We’re also pretty independent by nature. We travel in very different ways. In recent years, she has mostly taken trips with our daughter, Dia. They’ve gone to Zanzibar and Botswana, to Italy and Puerto Rico, and most recently, spent a rolling week in a camper van crisscrossing Arizona’s Sonoran desert. Dia was in the Peace Corps in Botswana in southern Africa, and we both traveled there to see her and to experience, among other things, waking up in a tent in the midst of elephants, lions, and hyenas. So she has an adventurous side. Earlier on we took two of the kids to Costa Rica for school break.
We each have different styles of travel, and when those meet up, like at a beach hotel in the Dominican Republic or a week at Cape Cod in the summer, it’s lovely. But there are places she knows better than to take me – and vice versa.
Her response to this hitchhiking adventure was that it’s fine with her – just don’t ask me to come along.
Most people seem concerned with the danger, but she doesn’t go there. She thinks it’s more likely that I’ll spend stretches of time bored and possibly sunburned (see Omaha) but the axe murder scenario doesn’t keep her up at night.
She’ll be happy when I get home. She’s a practical and hard-working woman. Her one limitation is that she doesn’t quite get how awesome and beautiful she is (as much as I try to tell her).
She paints and teaches high school students to paint and draw at a very high level, better than a lot of college programs do (my comment, not hers). She is much more a homebody than I am, and she is a master gardener. Her gardens now cover more than an acre and we eat veggies plucked from the yard for much of the summer.
I’ve watched her idea of love play out over two decades now, and it comes down to something like this – “why would you ever keep someone you love from doing something they feel they have to do?” Watching Dia leave for the Peace Corps was no doubt the hardest thing she has ever had to do, but she made sure that Dia knew every step of the way that she supported her.
This particular journey is not merely as noble nor as arduous as Dia’s sojourn in Africa, and it’s a matter of weeks, not years. But Ellen adopts the same attitude. She likes me to be around (mostly:) But you do what you have to do.
And when you come back, that will be good.
She did have one request, not really a condition, but a request. It’s not easy for her to ask for things for herself. Before you go, just make sure the lawnmower is working. I can do that. I got the old machine out, fiddled with it a little, and cut the grass a couple of times before I left, made sure it was rocking and rolling.
I hadn’t made it to Ohio before the machine crapped out. Oops. Sorry sweetie. When I get back, I’ll get you any mower you like. Here’s to the road we share. 🙂