Wagoner says, “Just take the trip”

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For years, I have wanted to take a trip with my children. But, like most single mom’s bills have always got in the way. I put off taking the cruise or the road trip to instead pay bills. The trip to Mt. Rushmore I dreamed of taking my children on was pushed to the side as I made payments on my medical bills. I was being financially responsible and now it is my biggest regret. 

When I was a child my parents made sure we traveled regularly. We took some wonderful family vacations. We watched whales and ate amazing seafood in Boston. We saw manatees up close in Florida and made a trip to Disney World, which my sister and I declared was not the happiest place on Earth. Washington D.C, Oklahoma City, Branson, in each city we made sure to go to a museum or a zoo. My dad, always the one in pursuit of educational endeavors, actually took us to see the Monet exhibit when we were in Las Vegas. This was after he had already taken us to see it in Boston. 

“How many people can say they have seen the Monet’s twice in their lives,” he said as we moaned about missing a chance to see Cirque Du Soleil. 

All of our trips made an impact on me. I learned so much and made so many memories. But, no trip was as impactful as our trip to Mt. Rushmore. I was 13 the summer we went to Mt. Rushmore. My mom and dad loaded my sister and I up and even let my best friend Christine come along on the trip. Christine and I dubbed it the “dysfunctional family vacation.” It was the last family vacation we would take while my parents were still married, so there were some tense moments on the trip. 

We visited the Corn Palace and explored the Black Hills before arriving at Mt. Rushmore. I knew it was large, but I underestimated the size. As I stood looking at the mountain, I was awestruck. Someone had actually taken the time to carve these men into the mountain. The commitment and dedication to their art impressed me. I don’t know exactly what made Mt. Rushmore so impressive to me, but I remember feeling safe there, it was sturdy, a place that existed long before me, which was carefully curated and a place that would remain steadily long after I existed. It was impactful. 

Shortly after our trip to Mt. Rushmore, my parents divorced. Several tumultuous years followed and I struggled a lot. My teen years were challenging to say the least. But every once in a while, when the world felt uncertain and upside down to me, I would look back at those pictures of us at Mt. Rushmore and remember steadiness was possible. Beautiful things existed before me and beautiful things would exist after me. The world was balanced. I just had to wait to find my own footing. 

When I was first diagnosed with end stage kidney failure my first desperate thought was, “I have to get my kids to Mt. Rushmore before I die.” I seriously considered loading them in the car that night and driving straight through to see it and heading back so I could start dialysis. Obviously, I was so sick by that point in time there was no way I would be making a road trip with two children. Traveling on dialysis is nearly impossible for me. While you can make arrangements to do dialysis while you are out of town, that doesn’t work so great for single moms. Who is going to watch my kids in a strange city for five hours while I get treatment? It just doesn’t make sense. Our time for travel has passed. 

Last week, I had a fleeting moment of hope. I heard about a company that provides dialysis at sea for people on cruise ships. I thought this would be the way for us to take a trip. Come to find out, the cost of dialysis at sea is quadruple what it costs at home. So, we scratched that off our list. 

My friend Sarah and her daughter Chelsey took a spur of the moment trip to Disney World together in March. She was worried about the finances, worried about being away from her other children. But, she knew she and Chelsey needed a mother-daughter trip. She took tons of pictures and created memories she will hold onto for the rest of her life. Chelsey was killed in a car wreck on Memorial Day, just weeks after their trip and Sarah says that spur of the moment trip was the best decision she ever made. 

I’m no financial planner and I know we all have to be financially responsible. But sometimes, it is okay to throw caution to the wind and take the trip…make the memories. Don’t wait until it is too late. Please, for my sake, pack up the car and go to Mt. Rushmore or Boston or Branson. Take your kids and make the memories. Please, just take the trip. 

Jessie Wagoner is the managing editor of the McPherson News-Ledger and single mama to Sylas K and Selah J. She can be contacted at jessie@mcphersonweeklynews.com