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48 C&T July/August 2014

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Shel l i ng Out Gr at i t ude
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ith my father about to turn 70, it occurred
to me that it had been way too long since
we traveled together. In fact, I’m not
sure we ever took more than a day trip
without a spouse or sibling in tow. But
with my newborn son evolving into a talky toddler and my dad’s
retirement in full bloom, the only thing standing in our way was
agreeing on a locale. Of course, we both knew the destination
was irrelevant; it was the father-son bonding time that we were
most looking forward to.
When I suggested visiting Florida, my dad instantly tensed.
“This isn’t a one-way ticket, is it?”
Assuring him there was no “adult community” in his future, we settled on Clearwater Beach, deciding that a few
days in the sun would do us both some good.
As soon as we arrived we were immediately drawn to the beach, equally mesmerized and impressed that the Gulf
of Mexico appears to have been permanently Photoshopped. It’s a shade of greenish-blue that is so beautiful, even the
folks at Crayola would have trouble coming up with a name.
A beachcombing local woman stopped my dad and I and handed me the most perfectly polished shell I had ever
seen outside of a gift shop. “It’s a lightning whelk,” she proudly proclaimed. The simple act of slowly meandering the
soft sand in search of crustaceous gifts of nature appealed to our inner zen selves. So we gave it a whirl. This peaceful
practice, combined with the placid ocean air, helped clear our minds—and perhaps that’s why we started recalling
memories of vacations past. It’s often not until we relax that we are able to tap into the wonderful archive of memories
we all file away.
There was the weekend in Lancaster, PA where my dad jumped out of the bushes in the dark, scaring the heck out
of me. Funny to him, terrifying for me. Then there was the trip to the Catskills where dad pulled out his back and had
to have the bellhop deliver him to the room via luggage cart. I was a kid and utterly mortified! As we talked about
the good memories (dipping candles in Burlington, VT) and the bad (my dad coming to the rescue of my sister in
Orlando choking on a slice of pizza), one thing became evident to us both: Even though we were on the same trips,
our “takeaway memories” were so incredibly different.
Take Boston, for instance. When our family took the drive, all I cared about was meeting girls on the observation
deck of the Prudential Tower. I had no idea dad was struggling with navigation and dreadful traffic on I-95. The
Saturday in Montauk I spent boogie boarding? Dad was stuck on the phone in the hotel lobby handling a work crisis.
And while I was busy hiking Mount Washington, courtesy of the New Hampshire sleepaway camp my parents sent
me to, it never occurred to me that they had sacrificed their own summer vacation to afford me the opportunity.
As the Florida sun beamed brightly and we strolled the shell-studded beachfront, I couldn’t help but feel washed
over with gratitude for a father and a mother who had gone out of their way to take me on so many great trips. We
might remember the experiences differently, but no one can deny the long-term, positive impact of traveling with
family. I’ve already started that tradition with my son, and I can’t wait for our next adventure.
As I watched my father toss his findings into a mesh bag, I realized how lucky I am to have him. And while it may
not happen often, this is one vacation memory where I know we’ll be in complete harmony.
by Andr ew G. Ros en