Some of my fondest childhood memories involve trips with my parents. Every winter, we went to Crestline, where we tobogganed, ice-skated and drank hot chocolate around the fireplace inside our cozy cabin. In the summer, we went to a resort where we swam in a large pool, ate in a dining room and engaged in "family fun" activities. Looking back, it was bit like Dirty Dancing, although no one called me Baby and I never found my Johnny Castle.
Yet, the vacations which occupy most of my memory (what little I have these days) are the ones we took to New York and Hawaii.
In Hawaii, I walked around in white pedal pushers, carrying a large, white straw purse (even larger than my mom's) thinking that all the boys would surely notice me. Well, if they did, it wasn't as anything but a flat-chested 12-year-old carrying a purse way too big for her and smiling like a complete dork.
In New York, I was a bit more sophisticated. Sort of. I actually fell in love and had my heart broken, all in one night. This incident caused my father to go into a rage and want to go kill whoever had made his baby girl cry so horribly. (The closest I got to a Baby moment.) When he found out I was sobbing hysterically because I would never see that boy again, he wanted to kill me!
But no matter what age I was when we traveled, I knew my father would get us to our destination safely. He would take care of everything (hotels, car rentals, food, souvenirs, fun) while we were on our vacation and see to it that we arrived home in one piece.
On our last family vacation we traveled to Mexico. And before we left, my father, who at the time was 88 years old, the one I always counted on, took my hand, looked me in the eye and said, "You'll get us there OK, won't you?"
As a teenager, I never thought my father would be saying this to me. His words tugged at my heart, yet, at the same time, made me feel good that I could answer, "Yes, of course. I'll take care of everything."
And so off to Mexico we went. My husband and I, my mom and my father. I wore my responsibility like a second skin, knowing that I owed it to my parents for all they have done for me.
Now, that's not to say that I didn't lose my patience a bit. Especially when my father was asking for a cocktail only a few minutes after we had taken our seats on the plane. But I couldn't blame him. The first class passengers were drinking wine and eating hors d'oeuvres, while the coach passengers were still boarding. The combined age of those first class passengers was probably only a few years past that of my dad's.
We arrived safely in Mexico and as I had promised my father, there was a wheelchair waiting to take us through customs. And as I had also promised, there were beautiful sunrises (well, I guess I didn't have much say in that event) and delicious huevos rancheros (again, not something I prepared) and many wonderful hours playing cards, drinking margaritas and laughing. I can take credit for some of those.
Upon returning home, my father grasped my hands, looked me in the eye and said,
"Thank you so much. We made it home safe and sound, didn't we?"
"Yes, we did," I said. "But you don't have to thank me." It was the least I could do for the man who had done so much for me.
To be honest, it was difficult at time. Traveling with elderly parents presents many obstacles. But the truth is, now that my father is gone, I wish I could do it all over again.
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