Friday, February 15, 2013

Traveling with Dad

Dad, if you read this, forgive me. I am perhaps giving away too much, and some of it you may not find complimentary. But know that I think you are a great man, and I only hope to be considered as wonderful by my own children. When I think of what my life will eventually look like without you in it, I am bereft. The thought makes me feel like a ship lost upon the waters without a captain. Remember that as you read the next few paragraphs.

For the rest of you, here are the five things I've learned if you want to travel with my Dad.

1. Be prepared to live out of a suitcase. Dad is something of a vagabond when he goes on vacation. A tumbleweed. When he travels, the man travels. He rarely stays in one place more than a few hours or overnight. We generally travel day-by-day, targeting a place to be by dinner, which means we then usually spend 6-7 hours a day inside a car and watch the world go by, snapping photos as we go. He drives in the mornings, and I take the wheel after lunch, when his energy is beginning to flag. The upside is that we cover more ground than most people and see more sights in a day than many see in a week. It's certainly a change of pace from how I usually travel, and it is occasionally exhausting, but I wouldn't trade the time with Dad for anything. To be fair, all I would have to do is give the word and we'd stop and stick and stay for a day or two, exploring a place, but so far I haven't had the heart to detour Dad's traveling bug. For Dad, getting to a place is just as important as seeing what's there.

2. Traveling with Dad sometimes means "Adventures in GPS Programming." Occasionally Dad will program Shortest Route into the Global Positioning System (GPS), instead of Fastest Route. Usually this is by accident, but sometimes we do it intentionally. Setting your GPS for Shortest Route is about the same thing as saying, "I want to get there, but I want to see every backwood, neighborhood, county road, train crossing, and two-lane track in between where I am and there." We have literally gone through neighborhoods where I did not feel safe and where the road has gone from blacktop to gravel to dirt road and back again. It's the scenic route, for sure.

3. Traveling with Dad requires the ability to sleep through a snore storm. Dad snores. Saws logs. Runs a buzz saw. Sounds like a flatulent pig tying balloon animals. And he goes to bed long before I'm ready to hit the sack. Usually. In the end, however, this all works out because when it comes to snoring, I fear I am just as bad. Possibly worse.

4. Traveling with Dad means putting up with the occasional awkward moment. Dad is 80 years old, pushing 81. This means he grew up in a completely different era than the one in which we find ourselves. Some of Dad's social mores - completely acceptable by society in an earlier time - are now considered prejudicial. Sometimes they truly are prejudices, but ones he has picked up and learned through hard experience. To his credit, he does his best to set these aside and deal with everyone he meets honestly and fairly, and it is only when they prove his prejudices that I hear them pop out. And oh, he does like to call people when we stop at a restaurant. And because he's been partially deaf for most of his adult life, he's a loud talker on the cell, which garners us the occasional nasty glance. But really, this minor social faux pas is ridiculously easy to ignore.

5. Speaking of awkward moments, traveling with Dad means frank and open discussions about bowel movements. And that, gentle reader, is all I will say about that.

My father deals squarely with strangers, and is extremely generous to his loved ones. This is our third trip together, and Dad foots 99% of the bill each time we go. He is still smart as the proverbial whip, he is funny (and punny) and never fails to say a table grace that moves my heart, no matter where we are, or what manner of repast is set before us.

I hope I grow up to be just like him. Mostly (I'm fond of what hair is left.)


Mark's Musings is published on a periodical basis - right now on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays - but that may change without notice. Find me on Twitter at This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761.

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