For the past four years, my mother, father, sister and I have been dreaming of taking a trip to explore Iceland. This coming summer, I should be (fingers crossed) finishing my masters in geology and we managed to book an Icelandic geological adventure as a post-graduation celebration. The trip organization was coming along swimmingly until my feisty 82-year-old grandmother caught wind of our plans. After having travelled with her previously, we vowed that we would never do so again, for reasons that are not important (but what an experience). Now, she has not asked permission to join our entourage. Rather, she is just assuming that she can, and that we will not mind. My family is torn between telling her that we would rather she not participate or if we ought to be gracious, and welcome her into our plans. Do we potentially sever an important relationship, to save ourselves from not going crazy on our trip? Or suck it up and smile?
Tricky one: On the one hand, we all know the multigenerational family vacation can be a challenge.
You don't say your age or your parents', but I'm guessing if you're finishing a masters and your grandmother is 82, then maybe you're in your 20s and your parents are in their 50s.
You'll probably all want to do different stuff once you get there (after checking out the rocks).
You and your sister might want to do shots of aquavit and dance to Bjork in a Reykjavik disco.
Maybe your parents would like to visit (yawn, sorry) the National Museum of Iceland for a greater understanding of Icelandic culture and history.
And your grandmother? Well, you say she's "feisty" and imply she's a handful. Perhaps she will take a young lover, an Icelandic soldier, say – oh, wait, Iceland doesn't have an army. Okay, maybe a muscular young practitioner of Iceland's festive traditional sport glima, a form of wrestling thought to have originated in medieval times.
Or perhaps she will run off with a waiter at a restaurant serving such festive traditional Icelandic fare as cured shark, singed sheep heads and black pudding. (Just don't get your hopes up for too much in the way of flavour, or vegetables. Wikipedia: "Much of Iceland's cuisine is based on fish, lamb and dairy products, with little to no utilization of herbs or spices. Due to the island's climate, fruits and vegetables are not generally a component.")
Why am I making so many cracks about Iceland? Truthfully, I'm not a hundred per cent sure. Maybe my secret feeling is: How much worse could dragging granny along really make it?
My other secret feeling: The rockier a trip is, the better stories you get out of it.
Say I go to Florida, have a nice time, get a tan. People at a dinner party say: "Hey, Dave, how was your trip?" I answer: "Nice. The food was okay and I spent a lot of time on the beach."
They start tapping their watches (or, I guess, these days, whipping out their phones and checking the time): "Wow, can you believe how late it's gotten to be? We have to go. We forgot we told the sitter we'd be home early."
Whereas if you get stabbed and rolled, have to go to the consulate to beg for money for your flight home – then you've got some hair-raising, spine-tingling stories. Suddenly you're the life of the party. You're dining out on that material for months.
What I'm saying is, bottom line: Bring granny along. Sure, she may be a challenge. Yes, she may be a pill. But at least you'll have lots of material for when you get back.
Also, you say she's 82. She won't be around forever. Wouldn't you rather have the memory of this trip with her, rather than not, even if it's imperfect? I talked about stories. This will put more stories in the granny bank.
And you mentioned the possibility of a permanent rift if you say she can't come. To my way of thinking, if she's going to take it that hard, then no, I don't think it's worth it to leave her behind.
But do give her a frank explanation ahead of time of just how active your trip will be, how intertwined it is with your academic pursuits and future career aspirations, and your collective determination to experience the tour to its fullest: "Listen, it's a geological tour, we're going to be looking at a lot of rocks and stuff, we might not be able to take you on all our day trips. I hope you're okay with being alone some of the time."
And, I presume, you'll want to make sure she knows she'll be bunking on her own, that none of you plan to give up a bed for a cot on this dream vacation.
If she objects, that's on her. Seems granny is getting a little hazy with boundaries. Just establish those, and any other ground rules you might have, and the more the – well, I was going to say "merrier." Can't promise that, but I bet you still have fun.