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The Unexpected Road to Ireland

By Denise D. Resnik, Founder & President/CEO

Plans for an eight-day trip to Ireland as part of my immersive experience as a Virginia G. Piper Fellow hit big snags in Newark this past weekend. They included flight cancellations, limited routes to Shannon and, even as I write, the unresolved issue of lost luggage upon our unexpected early return to Phoenix. In many ways, I’m reminded of Welcome to Holland, a poem about travel as a metaphor for appreciating the differences of raising a child with special needs—something I’ve shared dozens of times with family members of children diagnosed with autism and other disabilities.

Being trapped for 36-plus hours in the airport without sleep, creature comforts, customer service (in person or online) or the availability of any hotel rooms was dispiriting. The airline finally provided a few cots at 3 a.m., along with some snacks and mini water bottles. As always, my husband Rob offered his quick wit, humor and analytical abilities to help us figure out our best course of action.

Consider the extensive planning for Matt before our departure, like making sure our wills, legal documents and his eight-page Day in the Life summary were updated; detailed daily calendars for First Place–Phoenix support staff, SARRC and family; cash in his wallet for shopping, bowling and dining out; and extra supplies, including several toothbrushes to replace what he mashes almost daily along with food he enjoys preparing himself in neat, portion-controlled bags. 

But wait…there’s more: adjusting daily work schedules along with our weekly routines with Matt; making plans with colleagues and myriad arrangements for my Piper Fellowship field work in Ireland; researching places of interest (Rob had his own including his diligent search for bucket list golf courses); packing rain gear, adapters, euros, etc.—and anticipating what we would need/want to schlep through airports and on the plane; and eating our way through the refrigerator before leaving.

Despite being sleep deprived, we found a few things that saved us: like a $48/hour quiet space designed for exhausted travelers, a free space for meditation, some decent but over-priced food and, most importantly, laughter throughout this unforeseen chance to share our honest feelings and disappointment with each other.

We also witnessed how people find ways to make the most of such situations—like the traveling teen who sat at the public piano during the wee hours sharing her incredible talent with other stranded passengers; the maintenance worker transporting trash while smiling at onlookers as he drummed with one hand to the beat of the bin’s squeaky wheel and pushed with the other. And who could resist smiling at the adorable faces of the children and their bleary-eyed parents as we parted long lines to make room for strollers.

As much as we’d love to be in cool, green, misty Ireland this very moment, we also appreciate that sometimes the trips that get rerouted end up being the most memorable—and a Phoenix-to-Newark-to-LaGuardia-to-Dallas-to-Phoenix journey reminds us there’s no place like home.

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