Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Empty Nester/Retirement (from work) (09/10/09)
TITLE: The Great White Melmar
By Robyn Burke
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My parents farmed for more than thirty years before Dad retired. From the sale of the herd, they bought a Melmar® motor home and began to seriously plan their trip of a lifetime. Because there were still two of us kids at home, we would end up accompanying them.
While this account is about my parents, it cannot go unsaid, that the thought of spending three months cooped up in a house on wheels, with only a nine year old brother and her parents for company brought this sixteen year old girl great despair. For the record, there would be much whining and attitude, along with feigned boredom, during the entire ride. My parents would cajole me with exotic road side attractions such as two headed chickens and bribe me with souvenirs, but the pout would never completely disappear from my face. But I digress. These were my parents retirement years and if they had to share it with their late life offspring’s, then so be it.
We left our corner of Northwest Washington on a rainy day in late January and headed south. My dad had a budget and was determined to stick to it; no K.O.A. campgrounds for us. It was going to be the Kmart parking lot or the driveway of relatives and friends for many nights to come. Many nights of trying to tune my transistor radio to my favorite station and getting only static, of listening to my little brother ask endless ‘why’ questions. I reflect now on my parent’s patience with both of us. It says something about their character and the lengths to which they would go to live out their dream.
We enjoyed several attractions on the way but the first official vacation stop was Anaheim CA. Visits to the happiest place on earth, a berry farm turned theme park, and movie stars made of wax, filled our two week stay. Mom and Dad celebrated an anniversary while there and I have to admit they were still very much in love for a couple of old fogies.
From the Golden State to the Sunshine State, the motor home rumbled. Watching the changing landscape from the window of the motor home, I also watched the change in my parents. I saw a playful side of my mom emerge, bloom, shine. While I knew my dad was tenderhearted I never realized to what extent that role could play in his parenting. For it was dad who held me and dried my tears after a weeklong stay in Galveston Texas brought me my first love – and first broken heart. Freedom from farm work gave him more time to be aware of his daughters needs.
As we rolled on up the east coast, touring Washington D.C.,I felt the generosity of my dad, who wanting to see a smile on my face, indulged me in trinkets and mementos of all our stops.
In between tours and visits, mom worked with my little brother on his “three R’s.” I was keeping a diary of our journey for my own academic credits and mom often made suggestions about what would be worthwhile mentioning and what might best be overlooked.
When fierce winter weather made traveling north of Pennsylvania a serious deterrent, my parents had to compromise their goal of touching all four corners of the United States. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to let go of it, but they never complained.
From the heart of Amish country to the Mormon Tabernacle, sprinkled with churches of different denominations in between, my parent’s faith in the one true God guided me as I asked questions about other religions and traditions. Not that they had all the answers but without barn chores demanding attention, there was time to linger around the dining table and ponder the creed we’d been raised with.
Yes, mention the word ‘retirement’ and I see my folk’s motor home. I also see a balding man, baseball cap askew, one arm around the love of his life, the other hand clutching map and keys to the great white Melmar. I see sand dunes drifting with carved monuments, orange blossoms woven into threads of Amish quilts, ghost towns mixed with historical battlefields, Burma shave signs, and truck stops, and the Mississippi River meandering through it all.
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