Nine days in a mental hospital; it’s time for our family vacation

image Welcome to Post Traumatic Sundays, which are posts written during my first marriage. None have appeared on this blog before, and only a couple were included in my book. What these posts aren’t about is venting or vindictiveness.

So what’s the point, you ask? Simply to offer reflections from someone dealing with an unhappy marriage in the best way he knew how: with humor. Eight years later, I am happily re-married to someone who inspires me each and every day to laugh for the right reasons.

It’s good to laugh with you for the right reasons as well…

* * * * * * * *

By the time you read this, our family will be on its seventh day of a nine-day road trip to California, which means that, by now, I will have been institutionalized somewhere outside of Fresno for almost a week. Yes, even with 11 years of marriage and seven years of child rearing under our belts, our combined wisdom wasn’t enough to save us from a plan that essentially locks us together with our children for nine days in a confined space roughly the size of an Altoids box.

Let me just say right now that this was my wife’s idea, and that she can be very persuasive when it comes to talking me into things I wouldn’t normally do without first consulting (1) a physician, (2) a lawyer, or (3) a micro brewery.

In her defense, I did have an opportunity to stop this whole thing by presenting my own better-vacation idea. And even though I think that my idea was better, her presentation — which included highlighted maps, visitor’s guides and a 10-minute virtual tour over the internet — was more organized and flashier than my stick-figure drawing of a man (presumably me) sleeping in a hammock.

After politely considering my idea for about three seconds, my wife added the word “alone” next to the sleeping, stick-figure man who, at which point, didn’t appear to be anyone I knew.

Preparing for a trip like this means determining your priorities. Obviously, our first priority was our children, and how to provide them with an experience that wouldn’t include the memory of their father leaping from the car and running headfirst into oncoming traffic along the Santa Monica freeway.

Doing this meant devising ways to keep our children happy and content during those long hours they would be spending in the back seat. I came up with some ideas and tested them during a mini, two-hour trip to Lincoln City a few weeks before our vacation — the thought being that I could take what I learned from that trip and apply it to our California road trip.

One of the things I learned, for example, was that sedation was pretty much out of the question. Even taken in measured doses, it affected my driving ability too much to be considered a viable alternative. I also discovered that keeping our children occupied by singing songs was not going to happen. The reason is because, after an hour or so, those songs have a mind-numbing effect that’s even more dangerous than sedatives. This discovery came halfway to Lincoln City, when I suddenly realized I had no memory of the last 40 miles and was absently singing what can only be described as a hybrid-nursery rhyme that included a man named Old McDonald who had a farm. And on that farm he a dog named Bingo that climbed into a waterspout after drinking 99 bottles of beer.

It is this song that I plan to sing in order to gain admission to that institution located just outside of Fresno, where my stick-figure pictures should go over really well.

And let me just say

Before I go

Eeye, eeye, oh.

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

45 thoughts on “Nine days in a mental hospital; it’s time for our family vacation”

  1. LOL, you bring back fond memories. Hubby and I always felt like we needed a vacation after the family vacation to try and recover. One thing I do recall, our kids were surprisingly good. At the time they drove me nuts, but when I watch other people today, I realize we had it easy.

    1. I guess it’s all a mater of perspective as we look back on things. I know I feel the same way about watching other parents and their kids. Then again, they were probably thinking the same thing about us!

  2. I swear, Young Ned, you can make ANYTHING funny. Even a vacation that clearly sounds like less fun than having a lit cigar stuck up your nose! Once again, I bow down to you!

    1. Thanks, Marcia! Just be glad we weren’t coming to Disney World and stopping by your place to use the restroom. It wouldn’t be nearly as funny then 😉

      1. Oh, I’m pretty sure I still could have worked up a laugh or two at your expense, Ned. After all, your group would have only been in MY house a short time. (Anyone who stays longer than half an hour for a potty break is dachshund fodder, you know.) And it would have given me a chance to try out my only slightly used straight jacket on someone else, for a change. That’s always good for a giggle. 😀

  3. Having one of *those* kind of days (which I thought was against the law on Sundays) and this was just what I needed. This, and maybe also the institutionalization you referred to, but I’ll start with this and see how it goes. Happy Sunday!

    1. So glad I can do my part in helping turn one of “those” days in to one of “these” days for you; and yeah, I’m pretty sure “those” days are against the Constitution, or Bible or City ordinance or something…

  4. HaHaHa! I can totally empathize Ned. The ‘presentaion’ was hilariious – you’d make a good stick figure in a hammock. Ha! I actually found an answer to this apparent conundrum – however it had serious side-effects and I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone – please see a mental health professional before attempting the following manoeuver. My follow intrepid adventurer (my wife) and I decided to take our 12 year old girl and her 14 year old brother from Ontario to DisneyWorld (Hi Marcia! – sorry we didn’t know you were there or we would have made time to drop by to use the bathroom) by car. At that age, the sweet little bumpkins are holy terrors when cooped up with each other. We had a Dodge Caravan with 7 seats, so there was some space. We decided that to limit the inflight destruction we would allow each kid to bring 1 friend. Unfortunately, our daugter’s best friends were twins. Of course. So off we went on a 3 day journey with no less than 5 teens and pre-teens. EEEEha! Our crew was banned from our command module (the front two seats and all the space around). We ruled our little kingdom with the steel fist of authority – that is to say, we pitched all dietary rules and allowed them to pick whatever they wanted to eat whenever they wanted to eat (in our defense, we had rented a house with a pool to stay, so we would control their diet once there); we chose hotels on the way down that had pools and in-house restaurants (“No, I don’t believe you have 5 kids between 12 and 14, that’s not natural, so you can’t have the kids eat free option” “Rats, honey we’re just not fertile enough to qualify.”); we had reams of documents for customs (ever try to take someone else’s kids across an international border> Don’t) ; and we cried a lot at night when no one was looking. But, there were no arguments in the van, no internecine battles resulting in fatalities while in transit. To say it was peaceful would be to lie – but no one, including me, died – a very desirable outcome. Oh, one small funny – when US customs refused to believe that we were actually doing what we said we were doing, (“Yeah right, 5 teens to Florida? ha! You’re lying, and poorly I must say. No one would deliberately choose to do that.”) they tried the sneaky move of whipping open the driver’s side rear passenger sliding door (which we had prohibited from being used so as not to dump teens into traffic at a stop and hence it had become a wall against which much crap and pillows had accumulated ), one teenager, 4 pillows, 3 craft projects, one case of makeup, one basketball, two unmatched socks, and various other objects fell out. After they helped stuff it all back in, the customs officers asked no more questions and just waved us good-bye and safe trip, with what I could have sworn was a sad look of empathy and perhaps a tear of shared suffering in their eyes.

    1. Without question, those customs officers had looks of empathy. I’m surprised they didn’t just wave you through and give you directions to the nearest asylum. Congrats to you and your wife for making it back. Mentally, I mean!

  5. Isn’t “alone” a nice vacation every once in a while? Am I allowed to think that? To say it out loud?

    Be glad it was “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and not “Happy.” That song never ends either.

      1. I totally agree on this one! Whoever thought “Happy” was a good idea? I’ll take 99 Bottles of Bear on the Wall ANY day. Or Fish and Chips and Vinegar! 🙂

  6. I spent many a summer crammed into the back of a Chevy Beretta with my 2 sisters and my parents just as crammed into the front.

    To this day, my Dad maintains his innocence about trying to drive all 18 hours in a single day and woe unto anyone requiring a pitstop. I didn’t understand why he would do this until Duck came along.
    And I still maintain my innocence. 😉

    1. I’ve made the drive from here to San Francisco straight through, but it was by myself. With a Starbuck’s venti cup that was multi-purposed to avoid a pit stop. Which reminds me: Why is it when we drink 16 ounces 20 comes out? Just a question I’d like answered at some point 😉

      1. I won’t whine over the unfairness of anatomy and pitstops, but it is. As for the 16 oz and the 20? I ponder that question every day. Yeah. Got nuthin’. 😉

  7. A nine day car trip- are you insane? Especially with kids- are you insane? When we (my husband) decided to road trip from WA to CA to visit friends and family, when our “special” son was about 3 or 4, the one thing that saved us was stopping every two hours. That was about as long as our Little Man could handle before he needed to run around.

    I think that one of my favorite things about a road trip is not being on a schedule, and being free to stop and check out that roadside stand, or that mom and pop diner, or that view spot. I hope your trip has been relaxed enough to find some fun.

    1. I agree. Road trips are for exploring and being spontaneous — discovering things at your own pace. My ex-wife didn’t agree, so vacations were always strictly regimented with a daily agenda. Not anymore 😉

  8. Yep, another follower asking you, “Are you insane?” I’ve never been on a 9 day trip ever anywhere in my life. That is too much time to spend with anyone. I’ve spent the last two weeks planning a FIVE day trip, and that sounds like crazy talk to me. I would easily be singing The Itsy Bitsy B-I-N-G-O with 99 bottles jumping on the bed, one fell off and broke its head.

  9. I’m sure there is plenty of laughter inside that California bound vehicle – so much so it’s probably got the troopers wondering what’s going on in there 😉

    1. In that situation, you can either drive into an oncoming semi or find the humor — so yes, there was a lot of laughing going on, kind of like in an asylum 😉

  10. We always took the kids camping a week at a time. The best trip was when they were roughly 10, 7, and 5. We canoed in Canoe Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park (after driving for 5 hours), then portaged, 3 canoes (my brother came along), all our gear, which meant many trips back and forth along the 295 metre trail (for those non-metric people 1000 yards). We then canoed and canoed finally reaching our destination which was the eastern arm of Little Joe Lake but know we have to look for an unoccupied site marked by a small orange triangle on a tree in the near dark. We found the second last site and laid claim. At which point we had to set up our tents, etc. and feed ourselves.

    Finally collapsed into bed and slept. We spent a week in the wilderness, with a wooden box for a toilet, no walls of course. The kids loved it. After the week we packed up, and started planning our next trip. We have never returned to car camping since. Are we verifiably insane, probably, but the kids love it and so do I.

  11. There aren’t enough songs in the world to make a nine-day car trip OK. The fact that you are still lucid enough to write says a lot about your mental fortitude. I tip my hat in your direction, sir.

  12. We did those trips the hard way at first, no way was the Queen condoning 18hours of dvd’s and trailer loads of lollies…until the first time that is…easy street after that. They’re all teens, 2 of em drive themselves around now, holidays have all the angst missing now.

    1. After about 30 choruses of 99 bottles, the effect is pretty much the same as drinking and driving. The song should really be illegal to sing on the road.

  13. They have so many things to entertain kids on road trips now – movies in the parent’s headrests, handheld games, etc. I took a lot of road trips with my parents growing up (I mean a LOT). The backseat consisted of 2 pillows placed between my sister & I. On my side there would be some books, on my sister’s side there would be some Barbies. If we got sleepy we could lay down with our heads in the middle of the back bench seat & our feet sticking however they worked depending on our size. This was the sum total of the amusement provided for us children. If we were really lucky, there would be a bottle of Sprite or 7-Up to share & an O Henry bar we needed to split in half. BTW, there was also a “potty in a bag” slid under my mother’s seat for those times when someone “just couldn’t wait another minute.” My father didn’t like to stop once he got going, so whenever he pulled in for gas all the females in the car jumped out as he was pulling up to the pumps to race to the bathroom!

    1. Haha! That sounds like the trips I grew up taking. No liquids an hour before leaving unless you hold your bladder between L.A. and Fresno.

      Let’s face it, kid travelers are wimps nowadays…

  14. Sorry, I forgot to mention – this was in the days before mandatory seat belts so we could sprawl all over the back seat if we wished or if the other sister let us.

No one is watching, I swear...

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