Last year the wife and I planned a mountain cabin vacation in Colorado with the son and his wife. As we were driving through Iowa on our way there, the son called to notify us that he had just tested positive for coronavirus.

The trip continued with extreme social distancing, thick masking, gallons of hand sanitizer, no hugs and lots of frustration from what this pandemic is doing to so many families.

This year we vowed to make the same trip so that we could enjoy the company of our son and daughter-in-law in the beautiful wilderness that is Colorado.

“Honey,” the wife said as we began our road trip. “I got you something/”

“Is it a donut? ‘Cause I could really use a double chocolate cake donut with chocolate sprinkles right now.”

“Oh no, it’s even better than that,” she said all excited.

“Don’t tell me it’s an eclair, because I can’t eat an eclair while I’m driving. The last time I tried, the cream filling squirted out the back end all over the inside of the windshield. I had to pull over and physically lick the windshield before we could go on. We lost 15 minutes of driving time.”

“It’s not an eclair. Here, I’ll open it for you,” she said pulling the gift out of the bag. “It’s a can of oxygen!”

“Are you sure? Because it looks a lot like a can of Raid.”

“You know how your lungs shrink to the size of raisins when we’re over 5,000 feet above sea level? Well, our cabin is at 8,000-plus feet,” the wife smiled with guilty abandon.

“Good Lord. What are you trying to do to me woman? Collapse my lungs? Is that what you want, a husband with flat lungs?” I said starting to hyperventilate.

“That’s why I bought you this can of oxygen. It’s like those flat tire repair cans. When you hear a lung slam shut, you take a hit of this oxygen and poof, you’re all inflated and good to go.”

As it turned out, it was a good thing that the wife bought me that can of oxygen as the son and daughter-in-law took us on two mountain hikes that reached altitudes of over 9,100 feet.

While the three of them were enjoying the gorgeous vistas of the Rocky Mountains with its eagles, deer, mountain streams and wildflowers, I was hallucinating about mountain lions and bears chewing off my legs while sucking on a can of oxygen in hopes that a little of the stuff would reach my brain before the pterodactyls pecked out my eyes. (Funny what a lack of oxygen does to your thought process.)

In spite of the altitude issues, we had a great time reconnecting with family for five days without the fear of COVID, without horrible headline news, and without the pressures of everyday life.

Sometimes you just have to disconnect to reconnect. It’s like most of our technology. If it’s not working right, you unplug it for a little bit and then plug it back in.

“Honey,” I said to the wife on the way home, “it was so good to unplug from everything for just a few days and spend quality time with the kids. If I’m ever on life support and things are looking grim, just unplug me and plug me back in. I’ll probably start working again. OK?…Honey?…Honey?”

After a prolonged pause the wife said, “I’m thinking, I’m thinking…”

Raul Ascunce is a freelance columnist for the Sentinel-Tribune. He may be contacted at