Vacation Planning

My intrepid traveler Dad, after considering Ireland, Hawaii, Mexico and an Alaskan cruise has finally heard an idea he likes for this fall’s vacation — Bocas del Toro, Panama.

This is a vacation I was pitching aggressively a few years ago, but I wound up killing the deal by getting a new job.

But now it has rotated back around and it looks like it will happen this time.

My Dad is the most amazing traveler, and yet since he’s retired I have to haul him, fighting all the way, out of his cabin and/or apartment. Last year he tried to back out of our Hawaii trip about a dozen times, and then once we got there he was so happy and kept telling me he was thrilled we’d done it.

So Panama is going to go down a little easier, I think, in that he just emailed me two hotels and told me to pick which one I liked. So I think deposits will be made soon.

It’s my goal to get my Dad on a trip every year, a fall tradition. If I don’t keep a close eye on him he’s likely to go 100% Walden on me. And it’s a nice substitute for the holidays because the intense maternal competition for our time makes it hard to see Dad too.

It’s certainly appropriate on Father’s Day for Dad and I to be trip planning together. And it’s the right day for me to reflect on what a lucky daughter I am.

My Dad is nothing like anyone’s idea of the perfect father. For many, many years he was married to a hateful, poisonous woman. And he did a really bad job of staying loyal to me while he was with her. At one point I went over a year without seeing him, even though we lived near each other. He was rarely around when my parents were married, anyway.

All of that said to illustrate what we’ve overcome. The horrible stepmother is gone, to where we do not know. And while he’s totally unorthodox in his qualities (He called Damon “Damien” for at least a year.) I know that he and I are matched in our quirky imperfections and unwillingness to judge one another. He taught me to want to see every inch of the world and has shown me much of it himself. He taught me to read compulsively. When I was a very little kid he would read to me before I went to bed, but it was always whatever he happened to be reading. Two of our favorites were Dracula by Bram Stoker and I, Claudius by Robert Graves. He taught me to love luxury and good food. He taught me to treasure solitude. He gave me his hazel eyes, fair skin and hair, an ability to think on my feet, and a love of irony and cynicism.

Earlier this year he had some medical issues and we were worried about his kidney function. Of course he didn’t tell me anything about this until the eleventh hour. But it led to a child/parent argument of: Oh yes you will take my kidney!/Oh no I won’t take your kidney!
He’s okay. But every blip like that is a reminder that at 35 I am not remotely prepared to lose my daddy.

My Dad thinks I do more for him than he does for me. That’s because he doesn’t understand that his very existance is ballast in my life. That even though I have been mercifully crisis-free, I know that if it were to all blow up my Dad would come riding in and fix it.

When I was getting divorced I met my Dad for lunch one day, and when we finished he handed me an envelope with $1,000 in cash. I didn’t actually need the money, but it was the only way he could think of to offer help. And it was a promise that he wasn’t going to let anything happen to me. It was all the more meaningful because he was still married to my stepmother at the time and I knew it was in cash because if she ever found out he would get utter hell rained down on him. And she was/is a crazy smart woman, and very suspicious, so to sneak $1,000 past her would not have been easy.

When I was trying to buy an apartment in Manhattan I remember walking down 6th Avenue one day feeling like it all really just wasn’t going to work. I called my Dad while I was standing in front of the Mission to Mars restaurant and told him I thought I wasn’t going to make it. And he walked me through it all, and told me he’d give me money for the down payment. His offer was instant and unlimited. The fact that I didn’t take it makes him think I’m okay without him. What he doesn’t get is that his offer gave me courage I didn’t have, and that courage carried me through the process.

I’ll close this rambling tribute with the story that I think best illustrates my Dad’s super powers.

Years ago I went to DC with some friends, including BaldSugar, on a Delta Buddy Pass. The thing was, I left my return ticket in the seat back. And if you’ve ever lost a Buddy Pass right now I’m sure you’re thinking “uh oh” because you know that losing those is like losing cash. So after many frantic phone calls to Delta that pretty much ruined everyone’s night I finally accepted that there was no help for me. I was looking at spending almost $1,000 for a replacement ticket. And I believe I was making $20K a year at the time. I might even still have been an intern, which means I wasn’t making anything yet. So it was looking like I was going to have to rent a car and drive myself back to Atlanta. Which may not sound like a big deal, but to me was a HUGE deal as I have no sense of direction (I almost missed my college graduation because I wound up on the coast while trying to drive from Atlanta to Cincinnati),little tolerance for road trips or even the cash for the car rental. So I did what I would do even today, which is call my Dad and ask him what to do. And this is what he said to me, “Honey. You have done everything you could do. I want you to go out with your friends now and enjoy your trip. Check the messages when you get back. One way or another, you will be on that airplane with your friends when they fly back. Leave it to me.” He just reached in and plucked this huge boulder of anxiety off me. He’s the only person in my life who can do that.

Not only was I on the plane, but the gate agent came out to meet me and apologize for the confusion.

So here’s to you, Dad, even though you don’t know about this journal and will never read this entry. I don’t know how I could love you, in all of your weird and difficult glory, any more than I do.

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