When I was diagnosed, my relationship with my parents wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. We had certainly lived through many growing pains and like most families, we struggled to navigate the transition into adulthood. But diagnosis changes families. When you receive the news, you have a choice to make. You can either lean in or lean out. The Barto’s leaned in.
After the diagnosis, our family decided to make some changes. Money we once spent on Christmas gifts is now spent on travel. Each year, we take a trip together as a family. My mom recently branded the tradition as our “Gratitude Trip.” The rules are simple: each year we take one trip just for us. Everyone gets a turn to decide where the destination is, but it must be somewhere new and somewhere none of us have been. Our only goal is to make memories together.
Obviously for that first year, the Barto’s had to go big! Mom and Dad got their passports ready and we soaked up the sun and rum punch in the Dominican Republic. The tradition grew the second year in Sanibel Island when mom bought all of us matching pajamas and Johnny joined our family. The third year we road tripped to a cozy cabin in South Dakota for skiing, snowmobiling, and puzzles. It is hard to believe that we just wrapped up our fourth Gratitude trip in St. Marteens, where Johnny and Dad are still arguing over whether or not the other cheated to win a game of UNO. Every year there will, no doubt, be a struggle to have Alex wear his matching outfit and take a photo with the rest of us, but we have all come to understand that time is our the most valuable commodity.