I feel that I must begin today with a disclaimer: when using the internet as a research tool 1) don’t believe everything you read 2) check multiple sources when you do your research to enable you to form an informed opinion 3) don’t believe everything you read. I repeated #1 and #3, as they are pivotal to this week’s topic. I could add a #4, which would read “sometimes, you must believe your father’, Again, pivotal in nature.
My parents have been going to Florida for almost 20 years now. They leave sometime in November, and return around April, essentially avoiding the worst part of our winters. This has been an excellent way for them to rest their bodies and minds, meet new people, and enjoy the sun. Their extended American and Canadian family are a constant source of joy for them, and they miss them when they are back home, much like they miss us when they are in Florida.
A number of years ago, my friend Paul Goulard mentioned to me that he drove his father down to Florida, then flew back. I thought this was a great idea. I vowed that when it became difficult for both my parents to make the long drive together, I would step it up myself. This was the year. My mom has had a rough go of it lately, and driving all that way promised to be a hardship. So, I offered to drive my father down, while she would fly down afterwards. I get to finally do the drive, I get to fly back, my mom gets to fly to Florida in 6 hours of relative comfort. Everybody wins!
Going back to my disclaimer, look at #1 and #3. I looked up the mileage from North Bay to Tampa Bay on the internet. There was a clear, concise table indicating not only the miles, but even the kilometers for just such a drive! On this table, using the handy-dandy guide at the bottom, North Bay to Tampa came to 1277 miles, or 2055 km. Factoring in variables such as pee breaks, meals, etc., we calculated that we would arrive at our destination at around 3 pm the next day. I say we, although it was actually I, because when I mentioned all this to my dad, he gave me a look, and said that the mileage didn’t sound right. Well, I exclaimed, the internet said so. Just because he had driven it 18 times didn’t mean he remembered how far it actually was! Come on, the internet said so!
We began our epic journey promptly at 7 am Saturday morning. And what a journey it was! Two days with my dad! It must be said in advance that my dad and I never argue. We disagree at times, but never forcefully. We have worked with each other for over 25 years, and by all accounts (mostly mine) we enjoy each other’s company. This trip was no exception. Much reminiscing was done. Stories told and retold. Parenting tips, sports trivia, political punditry, keen observations, laughter, bouts of silence, and mutually respectful opinions were the fodder for our conversations. As a family, we have lived all over, including Europe and three provinces, 14 towns and cities with my parents, the arctic and 12 locations there for myself, finally to settle together here in West Nipissing for the last 25 years. So, we had a lot to talk about.
I blogged on Facebook during the drive, uploading pictures of our journey; some of scenery, some of bathroom graffiti, others that remain inexplicable to me now. It was a way for me to keep some sort of record of my journey so as not to forget some of the things that happened during our pilgrimage (as I am prone to do). The road was clear, and with a few small exceptions, the traffic flowed smoothly. We met all kinds of people along the way, got to say ‘y’all’ a whole bunch of times.
We met a family comprised entirely of mullet haircuts, including the granny. We knew we were truly in the south at this point (although to be fair the ‘man’ of this particular family had the same ‘Who farted?’ t-shirt as I did although mine had sleeves… so, he must have thought we were of a kind). We had waitresses who, after being prompted, revealed the appalling wage they worked for, guaranteeing a healthy tip from us, especially since they were unfailingly polite and friendly.
Throughout, my father showed me the kind of gentleman I always knew he was. He is a man of few words, yet many. He would half-finish a story, then pick up the thread 20 minutes later. It kept me awake, trying to piece together the tapestry of rubrics, adding my own flavor from time to time. I drove most of the way myself, taking a break in Georgia for two hours, then bringing it on home. It was truly a joy and a privilege to share this time with him.
So this of course brings us to # 4 from above, which is ‘sometimes, you must believe your father’. When we reached ‘2000 kms’, still in Georgia, it became readily apparent my research was a tad off. It would appear that the state of Georgia was not part of my original calculation. Georgia is 350 miles of so deep, adding about 5 ½ hours to our drive, and getting us to our destination at 8:30 pm instead. We were pooped, to be sure. Our butts felt like a combination of lead and cement, filled with gunpowder from the variety of food we consumed along the way.
I have never been so happy to be wrong. It meant an extra 5 ½ hours in a vehicle, chatting with my hero, my role model, my best friend, my work partner. That he had to endure me is irrelevant. This is all about me!
When my dad left me off at the airport Tuesday morning, both of us a little long in the face, we parted knowing we would see each other in just over a month for a family wedding, then Christmas. We shook hands in our customary way, thanking each other for the company we each provided the other. As he pulled away, and my melancholy set in at once again, I also thanked my lucky stars for having the opportunity to share this special time with him.
I’m already planning next year’s trip. Thanks, dad.

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