Family Vacation
By John Norberg, Humor Columnist s

Endings can be good and endings can be bad.

To me ending a big, unpleasant task like eating peas always feel good. I love it when my daily exercise is ending.

Ending a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream is horrible.

And among the worst endings of all is the ending of summer.

Summer has ended.

I know it doesn't officially end until September 22nd, which is still a month away. But the kids are back in school. Colleges are back in session. Football has begun.

Another summer has ended. And we don't get all that many summers in our lives. They are priceless.

When our son was 10, he hated ending Monopoly games and would deliberately make a bad move so the game would go on. But you can't do that with summers.

Summer is a wonderful time. After a cold winter we get to go outside again in shorts and feel the warm air on our legs. Summer is a time for picnics, outdoor grilling, swimming, walking in the sunshine, catching fireflies, slamming wooden porch doors, eating hotdogs, corn on the cob and watermelon.

But most of all, summer is a time for family and vacations.

We just returned from our last trip of the summer, an all-family vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Our children are grown so we rented a big house on the beach for everyone. Twelve people packed into it with grandchildren ranging in age from a 7-month-old, to a 2-year-old, to 16, 18, and 21-year-olds. They each woke up at various times ranging from 5 a.m. to noon. I think the oldest ones were just going to bed when they youngest ones were waking up.

Every day we lugged kids, chairs, blankets, baby supplies, toys, an umbrella and much, much more through the soft sand and set up camp near the water.

Me: "They rent everything on the boardwalk that runs along the beach. Do you think we should rent some camels to carry all this stuff across the sand for us?"

Wife: "You should be happy our children and grandchildren want to share their time with us."

Me: "I am happy. It's my back that's complaining."

Wife: "Did you bring sun protection?"

Me: "No. I'll go back and get it."

Wife: "No you won't. I know what you're doing. You'll go back to the beach house, lie down and take a nap and show up back here two hours from now and we'll all be burned. You stay here and help with the kids. Kneel down and build a castle in the sand."

Me: "Who's going to get me back up after I kneel down?"

I took our 2-year-old grandson Alex down to the Atlantic Ocean saltwater and he danced in the wet sand when the cold tide ran over and tickled his toes. I danced with him because it tickled my toes, too.

I would look pretty silly dancing by myself with the cold water tickling my toes. But a granddad doing it with a 2-year-old looks perfectly normal.

That's one of the nice things about grandchildren. They make it possible for you to do things you want to do without making a fool of yourself.

No all-family summer vacation is complete without an all-family summer vacation photo.

Ours began with two hours of debate about what we were going to wear.

"Everyone should wear blue and white."

"I don't have anything blue and white."

"You have to have something blue and white. What about blue jeans and a t-shirt."

"I don't want to wear blue jeans and a t-shirt."

"Why don't we wear black and gold and make it a Purdue photo."

"I don't look good in gold."

Then there was the problem of getting everyone all together, all at the same time and not napping. The baby, Anna, and granddad had to be woken up. He was not too happy.

An all-family summer vacation photo is not just another photo. It's a photo that's going to last for many years. Decades from now it will be sitting on bookshelves in several homes -- even after I've gone to that great retirement community in the sky.

I was concerned because it was windy at the beach during photo time, my hair is thinning and I didn't want my hair standing up straight up in the breeze for the photo. I could imagine years from now my great grandchildren asking, "who's the silly looking guy with his hair sticking up? Please tell me we aren't related."

We finally got everyone out to the beach and lined up for the photo shoot taken by a family friend.

"Wait we're lined up all wrong. We can't be in a single line. Some people have to get in front. Granddad, get in front and bend down on your knees."

Me: "Do you remember what happened when I did the sand castle?"

"Alex is running off. Someone get him."

"I want to be in the back row. I don't want to be in front."

"Can anyone get Anna to stop crying?"

"Someone go after Alex. He just ran off again."

"Okay, snap the photo quick while Alex and Anna are here and smiling."

"No. We have to do it again. I had my eyes closed."

"The sun's too bright. It's hurting my eyes."

Me: "If we don't get this photo taken fast we'll be doing it by moonlight."

We finally succeeded. It's a photo for the ages.

One of the highlights of the week was taking Alex to Funland on the boardwalk where he rode in the same cars, fire trucks and Flash Gordon space ships his mother rode when she was a girl.

It took five adults to take one 2-year-old to Funland. Everyone wanted to be part of the fun and since they won't let adults on the rides, we got our fun watching kids at Funland.

As Alex went around and around we all positioned ourselves around the ride and jumped up and down, waving, shouting his name and generally making fools of ourselves. But that's okay because all the other parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were doing the same.

As Alex went around the circle he managed to look in every direction but at us, which I guess is normal. He will probably also ignore us when we all jump up and down, waving and shouting at him when he marches in cap and gown at his college graduation.

Some things never end, like grandparents and parents acting silly when it comes to their children.

Summer does end. But, the one comfort is the knowledge that it will come back again. Warm days will return. There will be picnics, watermelon, ice cream cones, hotdogs, all-family vacations and rides at Funland.

When you think about it --the whole of summer is funland.

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