By Ken Lass
I will never forget the Christmas of 1985. I will explain why, but a little backstory is necessary.
My wife Sharon and I were married in 1975. We were both so broke at the time, we couldn’t afford to go on a honeymoon. Our dream was to save up enough money to one day travel to Hawaii. The islands always seemed like a magical place to us.
After about eight years of working and relocating for better jobs, we grew tired of the grind, and longed to settle down and raise a family. Our son Brett was born in 1984. At the time, I was the sports director/anchor at channel 13 in Birmingham. As you might expect, my busiest time was in the fall when I was busy covering Alabama and Auburn home and away football games every weekend. Fortunately, most of the road games were within same-day driving distance, so I could get back to maximize the time with my wife and little boy.
In the spring of 1985, we found out, much to our delight, that we were expecting again. Child number two was due around the first of the new year. By late fall, the Alabama football team was winding down the end of their season with a win over arch-rival Auburn, finishing with a record of 8-2-1. Shortly afterward, the school announced it had accepted an invitation to play in….. of all places ….. Hawaii in the Aloha Bowl. The game was to be played on December 28. The team would be there for the entire week of Christmas.
It would be expected, of course, that each TV station in town would send its sports director to cover the team. A week in Hawaii. Expenses paid by the station. My first reaction was complete joy! My dream trip. Our dream trip. It was a no-brainer. I would just pay the extra expenses for Sharon to come along, and we would finally get our honeymoon, ten years overdue.
Turns out, it wasn’t quite that uncomplicated. First, there was our two-year-old son. Take him along? He was way too active to stay under control during nine or ten hours on an airplane. Plus, Sharon would have to entertain him by herself in a hotel room while I was working. Not exactly our idea of a honeymoon-type experience. There were no grandparents within 800 miles of us. And we were too new in the community to have any close enough friends we could ask to take him for a week.
Then, there was Sharon herself, now nine months pregnant. The prospect of hiking around the Hawaiian Islands with all that extra baggage she was carrying was not appealing. And what if the baby decided to come? She did not want to have a child thousands of miles from home. No, it was clear that my wife and son would not be making this trip.
All of which left me with the biggest Christmas decision of my life. Do I focus on my job, make the journey to Hawaii and take part in one of the most enjoyable work assignments of my career while leaving my pregnant wife at home by herself for Christmas with a two-year-old? Or do I give the assignment to one of my more-than-willing co-workers, any of whom would drool at the opportunity and stay home to support my family? After much thought and consultation, I did what any thoughtful, considerate, loving husband would do.
I went on the trip.
From the start, it was clear karma was against me. On the plane ride there, I started to feel feverish and ill. By the time my videographer Greg and I arrived, I was full-blown sick. We checked into the hotel room, where I promptly upchucked everything inside of me. I then crawled into bed, where I basically stayed for about three days, void of energy. Greg had to cover all the team events and practices by himself. I also missed the various fun activities planned for the covering media. I finally felt well enough to cover the actual game, which Alabama won. I staggered back onto the plane and stayed close to the bathroom all the way home. I saw virtually nothing of Hawaii except the hotel and the stadium.
As it turned out, our daughter Brittany wasn’t born until January. But I’ve always regretted not staying home for that Christmas. Family should always come first.
P.S. Sharon and I made it to Hawaii for our thirtieth wedding anniversary. I stayed healthy for the whole trip.
(Ken Lass is a former Birmingham news and sports anchor and a resident of Trussville since 1989.)