When I picked up the phone he said... "What are you doing on Friday." Not hello. Just right to the dramatic setup. We are a lot alike he and I. I suppose I derive a lot of my dramatic timing from him. But after 41 years I've learned that it is better just to humor him and bite on the setup.
"Nothing that can't be changed. Why?"
"Want to drive to Ohio with me?"
I could have thought of a few things I would rather have done. Scrubbing the toilet came to mind.
"Because I just bought a motor home. I need to pick it up on Friday."
Now, I have to admit... this was not what I had thought he was going to say. I didn't really know what he was going to say, but "I bought a motor home" was not at the top of the list. My father is 77, and while he is in pretty good health generally speaking, he hates to travel. He didn't used to hate to travel but I suppose this is one of those things that begins to fade along with... ahem... other abilities. "It was on my bucket list," was all he really offered by way of explanation. I understood. He was there a few days before when we buried my father in law who was 15 years his junior. My father thinks a lot about the sands that are sliding out of his hourglass, but mostly in the background. Funerals tend to bring those thoughts to the foreground. And in point of fact, this dream of buying a motor home was a dream of a much younger him... one about my age. So really... how could I say no. I took a breath... "Sounds like an adventure."
It was a two hour drive to the place which doesn't seem that bad. But considering that my father and I rarely talk anymore, it could just as well have been a week. My father writes books on being open minded and has spent years cultivating a following around the world of fellow travelers who share his open minded thoughts on a website that I keep up for him. The problem is that his open mindedness is contained to certain topics. Like after death recall, and reincarnation, and the like. Not so much on things like the cultural significance of any music past Brahms... or the concept that other people might have some ability to raise my children better than him. Or... well, I could go on, but those are topics for another day. My sister tries to intervene with us from time to time to clear things up, but even she has grudging come around to the idea that I am right... and it is best to let sleeping fathers lie. He is unlikely to change his ways.
It is better simply to celebrate the things that he still gets excited about. And I had honestly not seen him so excited about anything for a long time. We found the place and went inside. They were waiting for him. Like most things, he overdoes it, and he had been on the phone and talking to them for weeks about every detail of this day. So they all knew him by name.
A man that reminded me of Paul Williams was assigned to tech us out on the new purchase. Paul began by showing us the septic system and proceeded to demonstrate how to clean it out by pulling a hose out of the side and splashing the bilge water all over the ground around us as we attempted to jump out of the way. I raised an eyebrow and my father shrugged. It was part of the adventure. It continued with an hour and half tour where we went over ever pump, gauge, button, flange, and battery on the entire structure. I realize that his purpose for bringing me was twofold... first it was a "guy adventure" of which I am the only significant "guy" left for him. And secondly, because there was a lot of stuff to learn, and he was worried that he wouldn't remember it all. And so I watched him and was happy for him and his crazy impulsive need to live his life. Damn the torpedoes... full speed ahead.
I wonder at times what kind of father I will be to my children later in life. How I will interact with my own son. And when, in the course of things, my quirks will begin to annoy and my open mindedness will close in around certain topics to the exclusion of new thought... if he will still come on an adventure or two... just for old times sake. The lives we live with those that are closest to us are often filled with slights, and hurts, and wounds that fester over time. Despite our best attempts to the contrary, those things can build up like bilge water that we carry around with us in our mobile homes. Those wounds can't really be forgotten... the scar tissue runs too deep. But we can say yes to the adventure when it comes our way. And in the end, it is the adventure... and not the petty bickering... which create the epic poems of our life.
And so he drove out of the parking lot, and I followed behind for the two hour drive home... wingman on what might be his last adventure.
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