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I have nine uncles but never blame one of them for a cancelled vacation or unexpected move. It’s our imaginary relative, Uncle Sam, who gets all the credit when my husband, Ron’s, work demands spoil our fun.

Being able to blame an imaginary person did not lessen my disappointment when Ron gave me the bad news that he had to work during our recent getaway to Ocean City, Md.

So I thumbed my nose at Uncle Sam and vowed to take the boys on vacation anyway … by myself, leaving Glory, Caramel and Ron to somehow manage on their own.

Jimmy, Tommy, Ronnie and I enjoyed four sunny days at the beach without getting too lost along the way…or the way back.

Our first stop was at Ron’s parents’ house, as they were gracious enough to trust us with the keys to their oceanfront condo. Unfortunately, it took us almost four hours to get there instead of the usual two.

First, we endured an hour-long delay as we fought our way up Interstate 495 toward the small town of Bridgeville, Delaware. My in-laws live in a retirement community so new that it doesn’t register on Mapquest Driving Directions.

I had to rely on Ron’s directions instead, which can be much more difficult to interpret.

For example, I missed a turn he described as "by the big grain silos" rather than giving me a highway direction.

My boys were no help; they thought we were looking for "big green silos."

Our recent visit to North Carolina must have deepened my southern accent enough to keep them from understanding me clearly.

When the boys and I finally arrived at their grandparents’ house, it was just about dinner time, and I was ready to settle in for the night.

My mother-in-law served a roasted chicken that tasted better than Thanksgiving dinner to my tired, hungry self.

"Make sure you get second helpings," I told the kids. "This is my vacation, too, so you may not see home-cooked food for a few days!"

Tommy and Ronnie followed my advice, but Jimmy was too busy trying to come up with ways to convince me to get back in the car and drive another hour to the beach that night.

After pointing out my poor sense of direction even in daylight hours, I explained that it would be in our best interest to spend the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

Jimmy’s reaction to the news was to go to bed right after dinner. That way, he explained, time would pass more quickly for him and he could wake us all up at 2 a.m. for an early start.

Luckily, he slept through until the morning, and we somehow managed to find the beach without further incident.

The only time I needed Ron’s assistance was soon after we hit the beach, and Jimmy pointed out a group of dolphins swimming nearby. I asked him how he could be so sure they were dolphins and not sharks.

"I can tell by the way they arch their backs," he said. I called Ron just to make sure.

Like every Saturday morning, my husband was out in his bass boat. But this time he had actually remembered to take his cell phone and was able to assure me that Jimmy was right.

Considering all the time Ron spends out on the water, he’d better be familiar with the creatures that live in it! I put my cell phone away, relaxed and enjoyed the rest of our vacation.

I’ve always given in to Uncle Sam’s demands, but just this one time, it felt great to do what I wanted anyway. I just might do it again someday.

Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. E-mail her at or find the Zichs online

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