Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: TRAVELER (01/28/16)
- TITLE: Mercury's and Memories
By Vince Martella
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It wasn’t completely unexpected, but you are never really prepared for something like this.
I got the call Friday morning from my brother in New York. My parents live in the same house on Long Island that I grew up in. I moved away in 1984. They bought that house the same year I was born, 1962, and have lived there all their lives.
That was my dad – consistent, solid.
“He’s gone,” I can still hear my brother’s words echo.
A flood of anguish rolled over me, and tears, but a smile too. I have nothing but good memories about my dad. I feel for those who share stories of verbal or physical abuse, abandonment or divorce or other less than perfect situations growing up, but I can’t really relate.
My dad was the best of men. He was a pillar of patience, wisdom and kindness. I never heard him say an unkind word about another person his entire life. He taught me so many life lessons. He modeled a strong work ethic for me, but never let it take him away from quality family time. He was there at all my little league games and school events.
My dad taught me how to treat a woman by example. He treated my mom like a queen all their marriage. He showed me how to work with tools; was a den leader in our Boy Scout troop. He taught me how to work on cars and do-it-yourself home projects.
But what I remember most about my dad were the road trips. I would come home from school on a Friday afternoon and dad would say, “go to the bathroom and get in the car.” A few hours later, we would end up in the Pocono’s or maybe at Hersheytown, or Frontiertown, where we would enjoy live action gunfights between tin starred cowboys and black suited villains. I’m not sure how many “time share” seminars my folks sat through to provide such entertaining weekends for us. All my brother and I knew was that we were the luckiest kids in the world.
One memory is particularly vivid, and one that I will never forget. My dad took off three weeks one summer and we drove from New York to Arizona. It was spectacular, and not in a Chevy Chase "Vacation" sort of way, although we did have our share of mishaps.
My dad’s old Mercury Montclair was chugging up the narrow mountain lane on Pike's Peak in Colorado. My brother and I were in the back looking out the windows, half in astonishment at the gorgeous mountain views, and half in fear at the sheer mountain drop off inches from the wheels. Suddenly, the car died. My brother and I panicked; we were sure the car would fall off the steep embankment. In spite of the narrow road, help eventually arrived and between them and my dad, we finally got the car going again.
My dad took it all in stride.
The Grand Canyon was more than grand; it was magnificent; as was Yellowstone National Park. In the eyes of a pre-teen child, it didn’t get any better than that. We weren't wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but that summer the West was our kingdom, and we felt like princes.
And dad was our king.
I remember, too, driving through the painted deserts of Arizona. They were beautiful, but after the heat of the day, we rejoiced when dad started looking for a motel. We pulled off the dusty road, and past the pool. It was completely packed, and that was a little depressing, but at least we were getting out of the car. By the time we got settled in, and got our swim suits on, we looked out the window, and the pool was empty!
We let out a yell and headed for the door.
“We’re going in the pool!” we yelled, racing for the water. We got all of three feet when we were stung head to toe by thousands of granules of sand. We became acquainted with our first sandstorm!
Somehow, we endured the funeral and burial. Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends said their last good-byes. Mom will come back to Georgia with me; it will be a good trip that will culminate with her seeing the grandchildren.
Mom and I will take dad’s Grand Marquis; he won’t need it.
He’s taken his last trip.
*True Story Born 8/20/1933 Died 1/29/2016
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