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some text Karen Nazor Hill

My husband, Hank, and I are getting ready to do something we've never done: take our grandchildren on vacation, without their mommy, our daughter, Kacee, who we're giving a break.

We're flying to California to see our son, Kit, his wife, Bonnie, and our granddaughter, Charleana.

We've traveled with the kids and Kacee on numerous occasions, and a couple of years ago Hank and I enjoyed a weeklong spring-break staycation with the kids. But we've never taken them on vacation by ourselves.

Of course Hank and I have had tons of experience traveling with our children, including the time we took three of our kids to Europe — three teenage boys, mind you. We were staying in a bed-and-breakfast in Wales. One morning while Hank and I were eating breakfast in the dining room (the boys were still asleep), the owner approached us and said he'd like to speak to Hank alone.

Puzzled, I looked to see where they were going when a fellow diner said, "It's not as bad as he'll say it is."

What?

"Excuse me?" I asked the lady.

"When your boys got home last night, the doors were locked and they couldn't get in. They didn't want to wake you, so they tried climbing on the roof and climbing through a window to their room. Turns out, the gutters were old and fell down with them on it. I heard the noise and tried to help. They didn't want me to alert the manager, so I just gave them our extra blankets. They're asleep in my car."

Oh, good Lord.

After forking over $170 from our travel budget to have the gutter replaced, we were not happy campers.

But I'm talking about teenage boys. We're traveling with our little sweethearts, Tilleigh, 11, Evie, 8, and William, 5. No gutter-climbing for these youngsters. The worst trouble the little kids get into is arguing with one another. Though sometimes I think they'd be good mixed martial arts fighters, I can handle it.

Hank and I are committed to making sure the Tennessee kids visit their California cousin every summer.

When you live across the country from someone you love, making the effort to visit is crucial. Life goes by too fast, and you don't want to miss out being with them. We want these cousins to be close, and we want them to have fond memories of growing up together.

Thankfully, the California family visits us at least a couple times a year as well.

Kit and Charleana surprised us a few weeks ago when they showed up for a prestigious award presentation recognizing my husband's commitment to his profession and the Constitution of the United States. Members of the Chattanooga Area Criminal Defense Lawyers (CACDL) presented Hank with the organization's first lifetime achievement award, named in his honor.

The award was presented at the group's monthly meeting. My husband had prepared to be the featured speaker when, in reality, unbeknownst to him, the meeting was solely focused on honoring Hank and his long career, which has seen some landmark cases, including TVA v. Hill (an effort to save the endangered snail darter) and the lawsuit he filed that saved the Walnut Street Bridge from being dropped in the Tennessee River. About 80 of his colleagues and family were in attendance.

When he walked in and saw our children and some friends from his childhood, he realized something was going on. But when he saw Kit and Charleana, he became very emotional and cried (so did I). We hadn't seen them since Christmas. (Bonnie was hosting her sister's bridal shower that weekend and could not come.)

The award meant a lot to Hank, but it was seeing his family, especially Kit and Charleana, who had literally just traveled across the country to surprise Hank (and me!) that meant the most to him. In fact, it meant everything.

You can love your profession, give it everything you've got, but, still, for many people, thankfully including Hank, your job comes second to what matters the most: Family.

Hank and I know how lucky we are to be so close to our grandchildren (Tilleigh, Evie and William live next door) and Charleana, despite the fact she lives so far away. FaceTime is a blessing. We're keeping our family together despite the miles that separate us.

I've got a hunch this grandparents/grandchildren vacation will be the first of many to come.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com.

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