My dad told a joke when I was growing up. It went like this:
A man lived alone with his cat and never went on vacation because he didn’t want to leave the cat, he loved her so much.
The man’s brother said he’d watch the cat so he could go on a much needed vacation. He promised to take good care of the cat and told his brother not to worry.
The man went on vacation and when he called home to check on the cat, his brother said, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but your cat died.”
The man was devastated. Through sobs, he told his brother he should have broken the news more gently. He said, “you should have told me the cat got out, then the next time I called you could have said, ‘the cat’s on the roof’ and then the next time I called you could have said, ‘the cat died.’ Then I would have had time to adjust to the possibility of her dying.”
The next year, unencumbered by a cat, the man took another vacation. When he called home to touch base with his brother, he was shocked to hear him say, “Mom is on the roof.”
We heard this joke a lot over the years and, of course, I told it to my husband, Horatio. The joke itself has become a joke in our family, to the point where, when we are going to break some bad news, we often start with “such and such is on the roof.” It’s a good way to deal with things. Rather than break bad news like ripping off a band-aid, it’s more like letting it come off gradually, after a shower or two.
So, over the past couple of months, we’ve dropped the possibility of a move to Taiwan into conversations with the boys.
The government will fly a family, in a military diplomatic posting overseas, home twice during a three year assignment. When we lived in China, from 2006-09, rather than fly home, we took two amazing trips: one to Singapore and Australia and one to South Africa. We flew home on our own dime.
Several weeks ago, at the dinner table, we asked the boys where they would want to go if we could travel anywhere in the world. We reminded them of the great trips we took from China. After a long conversation of imaginary plans being made, Zack piped in, “I feel a major announcement coming… Am I right?” The possibility has definitely sunk in. So, we’ve been talking about it more and more.
Zack’s inquiry led perfectly into introduction of the more distinct possibility of a big move next summer. We explained that we really want to stay here, but if we can’t, if the Navy wants us to move, at least in Taiwan they will go to a great school, live an interesting life and enjoy great adventures.
We let the information set for a while and over the past few week, the topic came up from time to time until it really surfaced at last Friday night’s dinner. Suddenly, the boys came at us with question after question. We answered as quickly as they came in and they ranged from serious: Will we get to take Westley with us? (our dog) To less serious: Can we pack our Xbox in our carry on bag?
Top questions from the boys, If we have to move to Taiwan…
Will we order our video games on amazon.com?
Do I have to take Chinese class?
Will I start college in Taiwan?
Will we live in a smaller house?
Do you get paid more if we move there?
The boys had their thinking caps on, for sure. The evening was capped off by the perfect question from an adolescent boy who is really thinking and sees that his parents feel guilty for possibly uprooting the family: “If we have to move to Taiwan, can we all get iPads?
Well played young lad, well played!