Saturday July 27th, 2019
Merely hours before we reach our destination we are told, by the owners, the house we rent is not how it usually is. Tired from being on the road I receive images from my sister-in law but I am less than interested in viewing them. I know she is attempting to psychologically prepare us for the horror. What she fails to recognize is that Kunal and I walk into the unknown every year so how is this any different? Every year we make the long trek to Virginia Beach knowing that the success of the vacation is out of our hands. It always depends on how Keyan is going to fair. There is a direct correlation between Keyan’s behavior, anxiety level and sleep disturbances that dictate whether or not my family is able to have a good time in Virginia Beach.
Last year things got off to an incredibly rocky start. In fact, I wrote about it in a blog that served us very well when we referred back to. We couldn’t quite remember why Keyan wasn’t good last year and so I referred to “A Mama Bear” blog to find out the answer. Reading through the blog I had written helped us decide how to approach things differently upon arrival – to ensure Keyan’s vacation would start off on the right foot. My husband is the type of person who wants to make sure everyone is taken care of (a tall order in a house of 15 people). In the past he would focus on everyone and I would often say to him that he needed to focus on his children most. It took him time but after last year’s traumatic experience he was able to internalize that above all Keyan needed him/us the most.
That is the beauty about the children aging – they can now contribute to every aspect of the vacation (picking up and putting away, meal prep, dishes etc). That in turn gives us more time to focus on Keyan and to read his non-verbal cues. When Keyan feels heard it helps alleviate a lot of his anxiety which decreases the chance of any kind of outbreak. The children are now recognizant of the fact that Keyan needs us and will always need our attention above all else. When we ask the children to assist us in any kid of way they are more then happy to oblige. If I ask someone to fetch Keyan’s towel or find his iPad they are more than willing to help. I strongly feel that everyone now wants to contribute to ensure he has a good vacation too.
I have to admit Kunal went above and beyond to ensure Keyan was always in “a good place” – taking him for drives, going inside with him when he wanted out of the sun, feeding him when he was hungry or simply because he wanted ice-cream, showering him after time spent in the ocean and ensuring his morning grooming was on par. In taking such good care of Keyan I was able to breath easier. I managed to run over 50 kilometers while on vacation – something I have never been able to do – always worried about what was going on back at the house or feeling guilt. This time I could feel the air of change and I laced up and headed out unburdened.
So back to the photos I ignored. Once we reach the house we are immediately drawn to the scene outside and it’s not pretty. There are backhoes and bulldozers right in front of the house. In essence, our direct trajectory to the beach is cordoned off with orange safety fencing and we have to trek about 500m around it to get to the water. My family is horrified and concerned about how Keyan is going to react. The other major concern is for Nicole, my mother-in-law but I will get into that a little later. They are dredging the beach. That means there is a huge pipeline connected to a ship that is transporting water and sand from the bottom of the ocean and adding it to the beach. Erosion from the harsh winters over time recede the beach putting both the beach and the homes in danger. We are informed that they are working around the clock to get the work done. This also means sleep disturbance; flood lights, backup signals and the revving motors. Kunal is totally discouraged as he lists off how this will affect the vacation in a negative way; we will have to walk along the beach to be able to get into the water, Keyan might not accept the fact that his path has been altered and to top it off we have the room closest to the beach – a nightmare because on top of our son getting up in the night we have to deal with the outdoor noise. Argh – he registers total defeat.
Then we move to the concern for Nicole who has been absent the last two summers due to a hip replacement surgery. The first year she was waiting to be called up for surgery. The second year it was post surgery that kept her away because it took her a long time to recover and get to walking where she felt strong enough to brave the 14 hour drive to Virginia Beach and walk on the uneven sand. We were so excited to have the family back as a whole unit. The grandparents making more memories with the grandchildren. What a gift!!! Upon seeing the beach Nicole resigned declaring this would be the last time she would make the trip. She surrendered any hope of hitting the beach telling us that it was okay she would set herself up on the deck under a parasol for the week. All of us felt her disparage. We talked to the workers to try to get a grip on how fast or slow things were moving along. It seemed like we simply had to wait it out. For me personally I kept fighting the urge to be negative. Actually I kept telling myself that it would move quickly and somehow it would all work out in the end. I guess I felt that way because every year Kunal and I are subjected to things out of our control and we deal with it. The only difference was that this year it would affect the whole family and not merely the four of us.
I guess we were tired from the drive because despite the noise outside we slept. In the morning we were happy to see the pipe was extended and the crew was no longer directly in front of our house. It would only be an hour or two before they moved the fence over too. So on Sunday morning the kids went off to what we refer to as the big beach (which is in fact Virginia Beach) and by the time they got back we could move fluidly from the deck to the water without any obstruction (other than the pipeline for which they built a ramp made out of sand and that stayed there for the duration of our trip).
When I sat beside my sister-in-law Sujata she talked about a planned she had schemed with the children to pat down a path to make it easier for grand-maman to walk down to the water. We decided once she got down to the pipe she could sit on it and we would swing her legs around so she could make the rest of the journey toward the water, where the sand is compacted by the in and out of the waves. Although I was onboard with Sujata’s idea I knew it would take the kids forever to craft a good enough path. I decided to go back to the house to get a drink to quench my thirst. Making my way back to the beach I thought hey I have an idea and nothing to lose. I walked towrds the construction workers – fully expecting a “no”, I asked the if they could make a path for my mother in law who has waited 2 years to come back to the beach with us. Explaining this was our week's vacation, a 12 year old family tradition. I asked if they would do us a favor and create a path for her to get down to the beach. There were only two men working the machines and without hesitation the foreman said “yes” and within minutes they made a path for my mother-in-law to walk from the stairs of our rental home to the pipeline where we would assist her the rest of the way. All observers on the beach were in awe particularly the Saha family. So amazed that these guys would help make our vacation better. So touched by their generosity we had tears in our eyes declaring that there are still good people in this world. When I walked up to the deck to tell Nicole the path was made especially for her she was overcome with gratitude. Thank you Audrey was her response. She knew in that moment how much it meant to me and all of us that she didn’t get left behind on the deck. She felt the love and my deep affection reserved for the family. In that moment my mama bear side reveled the fact that I would do anything for my tribe- the Saha family tribe! It was a special moment I don’t think I will ever forget. One of the biggest lessons I hoped to pass onto the children was the notion of “ask and you shall receive”. I totally expected a “no” and was elated when it turned out to be a “yes”. Take a chance and ask for what you want. The worse that can happen is that someone says “no” and if they do don’t take it personally merely simply move to plan B.
So our family vacation started to turn around. My mother-in-law got to the beach and within a day was walking it alone – insisting she didn’t need our assistance. It was a beautiful sight to see someone who was apprehensive do a total turn around and go from dread on a deck to joy in the sand. I was happy Nicole could fully participate in our time on the beach that includes; reading books, bathing in the sun, soaking in the water, walking on the shore, enjoying the beauty of the sunset and observing the family go out to meet the dolphins. My in-laws now 77 years old have the capacity to basque in all of the glory of this experience – making memories with all of their children, including Nafzal and myself as their children (after 30 years of being part of the family I thought it was time they include us when talking about their chidren).
Albeit the vacation didn’t start how we pictured. Throughout the week we ALL experienced moments beyond what we could have imagined. Keyan was a good boy cooperating to the best of his abilities. All the children helped with dinner preparation which was amazing. It seemed as though every waking moment we spent together on the beach. We shared a few glasses of wine and had plenty of laughs. Before leaving I told Kunal this could potentially be our last trip to VB but after having such an amazing week I have definitetly changed my mind.
The family tradition lives on...