It’s A Family Affair.

Posted: October 25, 2015 in Humour
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I remember a time 26 years ago. A friend of my father’s had just retired from the local pulp and paper mill, and one night, having coffee at a restaurant, fell flat on his face and died on the spot. So much for a long and glorious retirement. A month later, my dad went in the hospital for the first time in his life, and spent 7 days recuperating from gall bladder surgery.

Seemingly unrelated, these two events were enough to convince my parents to take a trip to Florida,  and visit some family and friends. They left me all alone with the family business, and made their way south. Being ex-military, they were used to going all kinds of places. So, although I was surprised that they had chosen to go that far south, it wasn’t a complete shocker. The shock came two weeks later.

They had bought a mobile home. In Lakeland, Florida.

Thus began 26 years of semi-retirement, meeting new friends, forging relationships with many wonderful people from all over, and in my opinion, lengthening both my parents’ life. I got to visit often with my children, going to Disney World and Cape Canaveral and Tampa and a million other places. I got to celebrate when Obama was inaugurated. All my siblings had turns spending quality time with my folks in the sun.

When my dad and mom first went there, they called my dad ‘The Kid’. He was only 56. He was a fixer of things, someone you could depend on to get your heat back on, or change a fuse, or get you’re a/c working. My mom, always the social butterfly, knew everybody and spent much time by the pool or comforting lonely people or shopping. It was paradise for them.

But time has a way of playing tricks on you. Before you know it, friends don’t make the trip down because of illness or they have passed on. Every year they would lose one or two or several people near and dear to them. Yet they persevered, making the annual trek to rejuvenate their bodies, minds, and souls. Their last years were not so kind, as my mom began to weaken and become sick, and my dad did as well. Eventually, this year, the decision was made: they needed to sell it and remain in Canada.

The trouble is what do with 26 years of accumulated momentous, items they cherished, added furniture and clothing. All the family pictures and personal items and memories. The answer turned out to be ‘Family’.

\we set out, my father, my sisters Barb and Diane, my son Alex, and myself, on a 5-day journey to help my dad clean out his mobile home, visit some friends, and to say goodbye to a place that had been home for him and my mom for all this time. We flew out not really knowing how it would unfold, just that it had to happen. My sisters took control of the cleaning and organizing, my son and I the heavy lifting and moving, my father having to make some key decisions on what to keep and what to get rid of. 5 days. 26 years. Wow.

At one point during the cleaning, I looked into the workshop my father had. He was sitting on a chair, holding his cane, and just staring at his things. My dad has always been someone who likes to reminisce, but I caught him at a weak moment. You could tell he was thinking about all the things he had done down there, and wondering where the time had gone. My heart broke. I would have given anything in that moment to rewind the clock for him.

While we could not do this for my dad, we could show him what kind of family he had. We laughed a lot, cried a bit, and in the end, grew closer still. We were able to close a chapter for him, and after all he has done for us, it was the very least we could do.

And the funny thing is, being the eternal optimist my father has always been, he is already planning our next trip together.

What a guy.

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