Memorial Day Weekend ushered in the unofficial beginning of Summer 2023 and I am looking forward to the next three months. My youngest daughter graduated from high school last year and decided that she would follow in the footsteps of the legendary Malia Obama and take a gap year instead of entering the halls of higher learning the following fall. Well, my daughter’s gap year is coming to an end, and I am excited to finally be able to push my youngest child out of the nest and into the world.

This gap year did not necessarily turn out the way she or I had thought it would. In late July, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and shortly thereafter made her transition. Then in October, my husband was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. His diagnosis and the months of chemotherapy along with the side effects were like nothing we had ever experienced as a family. We were in shock and still reeling from the unexpected loss of my mother-in-law and then to be dealing with my husband’s cancer journey took a huge toll.

I often wonder if perhaps the Universe knew what it was doing in nudging my daughter’s intuition into considering a gap year instead of heading off to college right away. She has been the one link of support that I did not know I would so desperately need. Whether it was helping me to keep the house clean and sanitized, planning meals, assisting her father with various tasks that he could no longer complete on his own, or just being there to plant a kiss on his forehead when he was bedridden, my youngest daughter was deep in the trenches with me.

I feel guilty that this gap year did not turn out the way either of us imagined. But to see the closeness between my husband and his baby girl tighten is heartwarming to me. I have suggested to all my children that they should journal their feelings regarding these past nine months, and even speak to a counselor or therapist to sort through the grief of suddenly losing their beloved grandmother. I have recently noticed that my baby girl has been doing a lot of writing and that makes me pleased. She is a strong, talented writer so I am anxious to one day read her thoughts on this period in her life. She is as excited as the rest of us, however, to bring on the summer fun!

In mid-July my family and I will travel home to Detroit for our first annual Foster Family reunion, and on Labor Day weekend I will return to “the D” for my brother’s wedding. Fosters from across the country are coming home for the reunion festivities to love on one another and it should be nothing but a wonderful time for family. It is an event that has kept my husband hopeful during his cancer journey. I have watched him work diligently in physical therapy to regain his strength to walk knowing that he wants to go back home as healthy as possible.

I am thrilled about this summer trip back home because it will be the first time in almost three years that I have seen my grandmother and parents in person. The last time I hugged and kissed my parents was a week before Thanksgiving in 2019. We were in the D to surprise my family months after my health crisis and back surgery. It was a surprise visit. Did I mention that my husband, son and I became sick after we returned home that November? Sure did. My husband was the worst of us. We thought it was a case of the flu gone horribly bad. It goes without saying that I am anxious to see my family and to reconnect with my close friends. Covid snatched a lot from the world, and I am ready to reclaim family time this summer.

Another cool thing about this upcoming Summer 2023 is that I am preparing to go back to school myself. Yes. I have been tossing around the idea of re-entering graduate school for awhile now, but my youngest daughter’s gap year has made me think about my own career path and goals. My husband’s cancer journey has forced me to assess my priorities and to seriously reconsider the trajectory of my life. What a gift I could give to my daughter by joining her in the halls of higher education. We could be partners in the quest for knowledge! It could be our picture going viral on social media with matching caps and gowns!

I know I am getting ahead of myself here, but that is what summer inspires me to do: daydream. Which reminds me that my very first column appeared here in the South Florida Times during the summer of 2008 or 2009. The columns were a series of articles about my vacation in Detroit. I wrote about the city, my activities, the places I visited, and my family. I was pretty much beside myself when those articles appeared in this newspaper because being an African American journalist means chronicling all aspects of the African American experience as it relates to the world and to do so in a space for African Americans by African Americans is an honor and privilege.

We are not sure yet where my daughter plans to attend college this coming fall. She is somewhere between the University of South Florida and Hillsborough Community College. I am pushing her towards HCC to get her prerequisites out of the way at a lower cost tuition wise. I am heading back to the University of South Florida. With USF being a public state college, I am not thrilled with what Gov. Ron DeSantis may have in store for me over there. Diversity and inclusion are very important for African American students and minority students in general on college campuses. Without it, we truly are fish out of water. It is enough for me having to worry about classwork, study time and final exams. Now this added pressure has me already super sensitive about being a mature African American woman on campus in grad school.

But I will deal with that later. Right now, I am getting ready. What do you have planned? Hot fun in the summertime coming right up!