The last road trip my Dad and I took was when I was fifteen. That would be over thirty-four years ago. To put the year 1973 into perspective – Nixon was President, Ms Billy Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in a tennis match billed as the battle of the sexes, Linda Blair scared the hell out of us in the movie Exorcist (ahem, those of you who were allowed to go see movies), Pink Floyd released one of the best selling albums ever Dark Side Of The Moon and most of YOU were not a twinkle in your parent’s eyes.
The trip was my Dad’s idea. He had purchased two Spring Training tickets for the Atlanta Braves in Orlando. My Mom doesn’t travel well due to an issue with her leg, so they asked me if I would like to go. The past three and a half decades have been filled with college and work. Lots of work.
Now that I am a free man and control my own schedule, when the subject came up, I said “Yes” before I realized the word had popped out of my mouth.
You see, as the oldest child, if my Dad called something black, I felt it my job to let the world know it was actually white – even if it was black. The truth didn’t matter – I just knew I had a calling.
34 years has not changed that.
Dad is a man of routine. Every morning a Hardee’s biscuit, lunch at Wendy’s and then dinner at Golden Corral. Every day the same thing. On rare occasions, he will venture out to a special evening on the town at the local Cracker Barrel. But that takes some doing.
Dad is a man of few words and very shy. His yes is yes and his no is no. Due to many years working in a yarn spinning factory, his hearing has also diminished. So the man of few words became even quieter because he is embarrassed when he doesn’t hear the conversation around him.
Dad does not fly. On airplanes. Ever. He has never been on a plane, so the hour twenty flight on Southwest becomes a fourteen hour road trip. His travels have taken him exclusively to the Southeastern United States with one epic road trip to visit my sister in Denver. And he does not travel like I do (big surprise). He loves to stop and stretch, get a “snack”, take pictures of the state line signs and enjoy extended stretches at a local McDonalds. We don’t eat there, we just go to the bathroom and stretch.
Dad does not speed. He has the latest fuzz buster that money can buy. He loves gadgets. It beeps incessantly and I believe every state trooper in the world was on the highway just hoping to catch him going one mile over the speed limit. No chance.
Dad wants the best deal on gasoline. Period. If fuel is one cent cheaper on the other side of the Interstate, he will find it. And he wants it without Ethanol.
But you know, I also realized on this trip that Dad loves his son. I knew that fact, but it dawned on me in a resounding and refreshing sunrise of realization. He’s proud of me and likes to be with me. I tower over him physically, but at five feet five inches tall, he stands a gentle giant. A soft-spoken, stubborn man that has ideals and values that would benefit all of us Americans – oh yeah – and me.
He still can’t figure how his sperm produced me. I remain an enigma to him.
I have eaten octopus brains and veal’s heart and dined at a thousand different gourmet restaurants, I talk incessantly and have never met a stranger, I have flown over a million miles around the four corners of the world, I don’t have a fuzz buster and have been known to drive over 120 mph in my little white car. When I get behind the wheel, I make him extremely nervous and he continually warns me about the speed limit. I don’t look at the price of gasoline either – I realized I am probably paying ten dollars a gallon and I now suspect they may use 99% Ethanol.
His sperm did produce me though. I see it more every day.
I also realize that I should call some of his blacks black. He has a lot to teach me, this soft spoken giant of a man. This trip I learned a lot of things I did not know. That he likes romantic movies and ones that make him laugh (there is a bit of irony there – that he watches movies at all – we were not allowed a television set when I was growing up – ah, yes, he is changing, too). He likes to smell the roses on a trip and the journey is as important as the destination. He also LOVES the Atlanta Braves and took great pleasure in telling me all about the new players.
We both love peanuts. And cool baseball hats. And hamburgers. And Chipper Jones. And nice cars. And baseball.
And we love each other.
For that, I am eternally grateful. This was three days I will never forget. In all the best ways.
Oh yeah, Go Braves!
I posted this originally one year ago this month.