Vacation is springboard for great new memories and a few regrets

Family matters took up the last week of May for me.

My youngest daughter graduated from high school, and I flew back home to visit relatives I hadn't seen in a year, including a handsome, adorable new grandson.

My daughter was, of course, the most beautiful, talented and intelligent of all of the graduates. I can't imagine why, despite pulling less than As in some of her classes, she wasn't named valedictorian/salutatorian; I guess not everyone shares my insight into my daughter's infinite abilities!

Back home, I got to do some catching up with my dad and step-mom, three of my four children, three of my five grandchildren, my son-in-law, a cousin, an aunt and a bunch of friends who feel about as close to family as you can, without sharing a genetic pool.

I'm happy and relieved to report all of the family seems to be in fine fettle, as the old saying goes. Some of the friends aren't faring as well health-wise, but we had a lovely time reminiscing and going to a movie and even out to karaoke once.

At least we thought we were going to karaoke. As it turned out, it was open mike night, and two local rock bands took up most of the stage time, much to the disappointment of those who had come out to stretch their vocal chords.

I stayed with my second-oldest son, who left for a mission trip to the Dominican Republic the day before I flew back to Arizona. Bless his heart, he loaned me his snappy Chevy 4-by-4 truck, with the warning that "It's a gas-guzzler," so I wouldn't have to rent a car.

That well-intentioned favor cost me $148 in gasoline for the four days of running around to do the visiting I needed to do.

I think I put about 400 miles on that truck, along with giving my daughter a few bucks for her chauffeuring services to and from the airport. You do the math. It probably would have been more cost-effective to rent a little fuel-efficient car. But there are some memories that are worth the expense.

Still, I'll probably rent a car the next time, and my son won't have to hold his breath until I return his truck safely to him.

By the way, Son, I was stopped at one of those Memorial Day checkpoints, only to discover that you need to put an updated insurance card in the glove box. The state trooper was very nice and let me off with a warning, and an admonition to remind you about the card. So here's your reminder, with thousands of readers to witness it.

Other small snafus found their way into my itinerary, but nothing that caused any real damage. There was the day my daughter, son-in-law and three energetic grandkids wanted me to spend the day at the beach with them. I wanted to go, but I wanted more to break a pattern that has developed during my vacations over the past several years.

Every time I take a vacation, I come home badly sunburned because I invariably spend the day at the beach with loved ones. This Irish skin just wasn't made to tolerate the sun.

I always have a wonderful time and have to pay for it days and days later with pain, peeling and an increased risk of developing skin cancer down the road.

This year, I gritted my teeth and turned down their invitation. It was hard not to give in to those adorable little girls' faces peering at me from the backseat of their mini-van. That same disappointment was mirrored in their mama's face, and I imagine I wore the same expression.

There are times when we have to weigh risks against rewards. I think I lost out this time, and I won't make the same mistake again. I believe it would have been worth the risk and a gallon of sunscreen just to have been able to spend the day with them. I have the feeling that if the opportunity presents itself next year, I'll be sunning myself, slathered in protective sunscreen and surrounded by giggling, splashing little grandchildren.

Now it's time to plan my next trip. I'd like to make it to Texas to see another son, his beautiful wife and adorable toddler, and their new baby. She's due to make her appearance in August.

I just have to tighten my budgetary belt for a while, catch up on bills and then see if I can carry out those plans.