Thursday, November 27, 2014

Living with Pop, or My Non-Travels with Dad (Part the First)

Dad and I in the Poison Garden of Blarney Castle, Ireland.
So sometime in late September, my father calls to say he's thinking about buying some property in Florida and once again taking up a "Snowbird" lifestyle, which he and Mom laid aside when they sold their winter retreat in Texas over a decade ago. Last year's harsh winter here in Michigan used up just about all the patience he had for dealing with snow, cold, ice, and miserable conditions. (Mine, too, actually, but he's in a position where he can actually do something about it.)

That was on a Thursday or Friday. He asks me to check the Internet for some possibilities and lays out some search parameters for me. On Monday he calls to tell me he thinks he found a place, and would I look into it. On Tuesday he calls to tell me he put in an offer for the place and later that day he lets me know that, after a little dickering, his offer was accepted. On Thursday we fly down to Florida for the onsite inspection before the actual purchase, but he's impressed with the place. Papers are signed, money changes hands, and he is now the proud owner of *two* homesteads. It was a whirlwind purchase, but like Game of Thrones, "winter is coming" and he's ready to bolt from Michigan's "Winter Wonderland" to Florida's "Sunshine State." Plans are made to move in early November and because I can - what with my own retirement upon me these days - we make plans for me to help him with the move and get settled in over the course of about three weeks together.

And therein begins my tale. After several trips together, many of which were documented here in this blog (note: click the label "Travels with Dad" to read about them), my father and I have finally figured out how to travel well together. What we have not necessarily figured out yet is how to *not* travel together. 

We have - just like any other parent/child relationship, I suppose - almost completely different tastes in music, art, literature, entertainment, hobbies, and general lifestyles. We are both a product and a reflection of the respective cultural soups in which we grew up and currently swim. He likes "classic" country music, I like anything but. (Well, okay, I can also live quite happily without most rap, hip-hop, heavy metal, and electronica. Which means the "oldies" preset on my car radio gets pushed a lot.) He reads westerns, I read science fiction. He hasn't been to a movie theater in years, I go once every couple of weeks. He watches news, documentaries, history, and travel on the television. I watch prime time TV shows on the networks and cable (hardly ever live, though; when I watch TV, it's usually something we've recorded on the DVR -- can't stand commercials). He has zero interest in sports, I am a passionate baseball fan. He wades in the Internet ocean, I spend much of my time submerged in it. He is usually in bed by 8:00 p.m. and up by 5:00 a.m. ... I'm usually up into the wee hours of the morning and sleep in with my wife (who works second shift) until around 10:00 a.m., when my schedule allows.

I won't lie to you, these differences made spending any length of time together problematic, at first. Those early days on the road with each other were tough. But we finally learned how to compromise. Dad compromised by not expecting me to live on his time schedule. I compromised by doing my best to live on that very schedule. And somewhere in the middle we learned how to extend grace to each other, something that was surely only possible because of the grace we've both experienced from Christ Jesus.

On the road, when we have a common agenda, a common destination, and a common delight in discovering new places, we now click together and run like a well-oiled machine. This past month -  spending three weeks together without those commonalities - well, our differences were magnified. The incompatibilities were not muted by a common purpose. And that leads me to "Part the Second...."


Mark's Musings is published on an occasional basis 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. Above I said my father "wades" in the Internet ... he just went in up to his knees when, a few days ago, he established a Twitter account. Follow @oldgeezer82fla.

Monday, November 03, 2014

R.I.P. Big Red

A facsimile of "Big Red"
Back in the day, when I was a Rock Star for the Postal Service (well, at least in my own mind), I was on the road a lot; very familiar with airports and baggage carousels. 

I remember one fateful trip, waiting for my suitcase to come sliding down the chute at Reagan National in DC, when I see a crumpled, broken suitcase take the carousel turn, and I wonder who the unlucky chump was that had his tiger-print underwear on display for the whole world.

Turns out it was me.

Gathering up what I could, I carried my bag to the nearest accessories kiosk, purchased a bungee cord, and wrapped the thing up as well as I could for the trip to my hotel. The next afternoon, as soon as I left work, it was off to find some kind of mall or department store that sold luggage. Thank goodness DC has a good mass transportation system. My travel stipend in no way included a rental car or any extra cab fare.

To make a long story well, even longer, I found one that set me back less than $100, which was still a lot of money in those days. And now, having witnessed the - literally - thousands of unassuming black suitcases that all looked like they were trying to be the twin of every other black suitcase in the cargo hold, I wanted to get something different. Something that would, at the very least, stand out a little bit as it traveled the carousels and quietly proclaimed it was NOT like those other run-of-the-mill black suitcases. That was when I bought "Big Red."

It was the largest piece of luggage I had ever owned. And it was, I think, the first piece of luggage I ever purchased with wheels. What an idea *that* was. I don't know who it was, but someone once quipped, "How is it we put a man on the moon before we figured out that putting wheels on luggage was a good idea?"

Big Red, folks, has seen a lot. It's been to Alaska three times, Chicago twice, Nova Scotia, Ireland, California, Oklahoma, all over Florida and, of course, Washington DC. He's been in cars, on cruise ships, on trains, and on more airplanes and jets than I can count. And at nearly every stop, when Big Red and I were reunited after having traveled separately, he would return to me with a shiny new piece of adhesive: a big red or bright blue tag warning, "HEAVY."

There was, you see, a reason I call him "Big Red."

Well, tonight, as my father and I are once more sojourning forth on the road from Michigan to Florida (where he has purchased some "snowbird" property and we are moving him in), Big Red's zipper failed him. Can't get it open at one end anymore. The teeth have separated and the zipper itself has pulled away from the rest of the luggage. I can get at my stuff, but only like you'd clean out a pumpkin: from the top, reaching in and pulling out all the inside bits.

So tomorrow, when we arrive at my Dad's new place, Big Red will be emptied one final time, and I will say some grateful words while giving him an appreciative pat, and I will leave him at the curb with the rest of the trash.

Acquired: Washington DC, mid-1990s.
Passed Away: Bowling Green, Kentucky, 2014.
Buried: Somewhere in Zephyrhills, Florida **


Mark's Musings is published on an occasional basis 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. ** Unless, of course, some scavenger who drives around on trash pickup days trolling for things that may still have some shelf life (or could, with a little TLC) finds Big Red first.