It's nearly a ten hour drive from Denver to my parent’s home. That's including gas stops, potty breaks and naps. My sister in law claims she drove it in eight hours. But she had her whole family for company. Such a long drive with no conversation, no company – well – it’s hard to stay awake. So for my own sanity and for the safety of everyone else on the interstate, I usually stop for a 20 minute nap around halfway through the drive.
That's why, when I came back from a visit last summer I told Mr. Burns that I was never making that trip again alone. From now on I expect him to be with me.
When my brother planned the big surprise party for dad's birthday I was so excited that this would be the first trip back with Mr. Burns at my side. It would be a great opportunity to finally introduce him to my parents. And because many of our relatives would be there, he'd meet everyone important to me!
Shortly after we set the plans for the party, Mr. Burns got a finalized schedule for his work travel schedule. It overlapped dad's party. Mr. Burns couldn’t go.
At the same time, the travel schedule put him 5 hours North of my parent's town. If he was done with the work assignment by Saturday, it was conceivable that he could rent a car and drive down. Then we could drive back to Denver together.
We talked about it as I was driving and finally about three hours from my destination. At that point he knew he would be off on Saturday. His field work is exhausting. Even when he gets to fly home, he's a pile of mush just yearning for his own bed. I didn’t really want him to have to drive 5 hours in that condition. Moreover, if he's worn down it's not the optimal circumstance to introduce him to my folks and then subject him to a crowd of 70 strangers.
He also made a crack that he considered surprising me anyway, but that I ruined it by discussing it. Ha ha. For the rest of my drive I thought about it some more. A woman with hours of free thought is a dangerous thing.
Early in our relationship I had told him that, judging by the successful marriages I knew of, the key is for the man to know that he’s found the woman he wants and fight for her. I told him that a man has to convince a woman that he knows without a doubt that she is the woman for him. Sometimes it comes down to the ‘Grand Gesture’.
Mr. Burns took that to heart and has since expressed concern that he doesn’t believe he’s doing that with me. That he hasn't done a lot of convincing. And sadly, it's true. But that's another story.
Anyway, as I drove the final few hours of my journey I thought, "If he leaves in the morning he could get to my folks house by noon or 1:00. I could introduce him to mom and dad and then he could take a good nap and be ready for the party at 5:00. Yeah. That would work. Is it asking too much? Well, I would do it for him. It’s no small favor. It would definitely be a 'grand gesture.'" Now I was convinced that this was the way it should go. I tried to call him that night but he was still on site at work. I couldn’t reach him, so I built a fantasy in my head where he was planning to rent a car and surprise me.
We missed each other's phone calls until Saturday morning when he called to tell me he had just landed in Denver. "Oh. So much for my fantasy." I told him.
Mom and I ran around getting balloons and cake and other goodies for the party. At 5:00 we were poised for the surprise. I spent the evening talking to relatives I only see at weddings and funerals. They all asked about my job (I don’t have one) and about my boyfriend (he’s not here) and I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being alone. again. as always. Damn. I’m almost 38 and I think I’ve finally found the man for me and here I am at a big event alone. It was very similar to the horror and overwhelming solitude that I felt attending dozens of weddings without a date. Excruciating. (thank God I can arm myself with my camera - it is both a conversation starter and an escape clause.)
Then I had another 10 hour drive back to Denver. More thinking.
Did I expect too much. No. I don’t think so. When his dad died last summer, I told him I would catch the next plane out to the east coast to be by his side if he wanted me there. He didn't. He didn’t think it would be a great time to introduce me to his huge family while they were grieving. What if they forever associated me with the saddest day of their lives?
Thanksgiving was the first holiday without his dad so he didn’t want to introduce me to his family then – so I stayed home. Christmas we both stayed in Denver. Finally, I went with him to his friend’s wedding in Atlanta. With all this time to think it’s becoming clearer and clearer that he’s holding me at arm’s length.
When I finally saw him again, Monday night I told him that I really needed him there with me at dad’s party. I am so done being alone. He said he was sorry he didn’t come.
What now? Am I alone in this relationship? It certainly feels that way.