One month ago today, October 9, 2015, my Dad and I ventured out together for what would be our last road trip. The trip wasn’t a vacation that we had excitedly counted down to like in the past when we traveled to San Diego, Washington, DC or Charleston. Vacationing with my Dad was so much fun because he always was a kid at heart. If you don’t mind, I would like to take a moment to reminisce.
Our visit to San Diego is now one of my favorite memories with my Dad. He met me during a business trip and took care of my son, who was ten at the time, while I went to meetings. I was able to spend a day before the meeting with them as we took a bus tour hitting the highlights so that I could cram in the sites in a day. My Dad was his usual silly self, playing with my son as he tried on goofy hats in Old Town and as he ran along the beach at the Coronado Hotel. I have plenty of pictures of that day, but I don’t need them because the joy of that day is forever in my mind … thankfully unforgettable.
Our trip to Washington, DC. was a family affair. Planned around one of my Dad’s visits to John Hopkins, and it coincided with my Mom’s birthday. The three-day trip was picture perfect weather wise. We were in the nation’s capital over St. Patrick’s Day and during the 100th Anniversary of the Cherry Blossoms. It was warmer than usual, and the trees were already in full bloom. We decided to take one of those Hop on Hop off buses, mainly to get around to all the sites easily, so my Dad didn’t have to walk too much. There were nine of us, so each one of us picked one place we wanted to visit. We hit the major landmarks, but reflecting back I think my Dad enjoyed the Air and Space Museum and visiting some of the War Memorials the most. I was not surprised by this since he was in the Air Force during Vietnam.
The last day of the trip was the most memorable for me. My sister already left to head back to New York with her four littles ones, and we spent the day leisurely enjoying the weather in the National Mall. My Dad joked around and pretended to run like Tom Hank’s in the movie Forest Gump. Our stomachs hurt because we were laughing so much! Before we left, I took the signature picture with my Dad and son posing with their hands in the air, capturing their special bond.
This past April, we spent Easter break in Folly Beach and Charleston, our “official last vacation.” We didn’t do much sight-seeing and only visited a few touristy attractions. My Dad opted to visit Boone Plantation, and then we strolled through the Market and took a carriage ride. We ended up spending more time in the condo we rented eating home-cooked meals and enjoying the sea breeze from the balcony. You see life was starting to slow down for my 68-year-old father because he had been fighting cancer for seven years. Who would have ever thought that one of my favorite travel memories of my Dad would be sitting on the brown leather couch in that vacation rental watching, of all things a reality show? I can still hear his infectious laughter as we watched the ridiculous events unfold on Bravo’s Southern Charm.
There are many more trips that I have taken with my Dad. There were countless beach trips when I was young and then as an adult with my son to adventures in New York and New Orleans. My Dad always made our time together memorable and the places we went just served as a backdrop. Time spent with my Dad reminds me of that quote, “In life, it’s not where you go, it’s who you travel with,” which brings me back to our last trip a month ago.
My sister had called me at the beginning of last month to tell me that as the days passed my Dad’s health was declining. Unfortunately, this was not a surprise because since our trip to Charleston in April, my Dad had been in the hospital four times and was on the brink of death twice. Somehow my Dad gathered unimaginable strength given his condition and would return home. I knew, this time, was different, though.
I headed down on the 7th of October to spend a couple of days with him. On October 9th, we made what turned out to be our final trip together. It was an hour road trip from my parents home to Tulane Cancer Center in downtown New Orleans. After radiation, my Dad and I chatted as he received his infusion. We talked about a lot of things. I mentioned my pipe dream of writing a book. He responded almost disbelieving my hesitation and asked: “Why do you say it that way?” He went on to tell me that he thought I was a good writer. I continued to make excuses for why I wouldn’t be able to write a book, citing no time and he proceeded with advice from Jimmy Buffett, who he just adored. He told me that Jimmy Buffett carved out an hour or two, first thing in the morning to write. Well, today I am taking the advice my Dad shared and am amazed that I currently have typed almost a 1,000 words in this post before having to head off to work. Fathers always know best.
In addition to the conversation about writing, we spoke about our family and the past. The conversation lead to us taking a detour on the way home, and we did a little sight-seeing for one last time. The trip had two stops. The first stop was 3003 Tulane Avenue where our family business, Scofield’s Quality Printers once stood. The company closed over twenty years ago, but as we drove past the corner where the print shop once stood, I could tell my Dad was saying his final goodbye to the neighborhood that he spent so many years of his life.
The last destination my Dad requested before going home was to visit his childhood home. He navigated me through the rough back streets of New Orleans from Tulane Avenue to Gentilly. When we approached my Granny’s old house, I was relieved to see it still had the same footprint, unlike the renovated neighboring homes which took place after Hurricane Katrina. It was just a different color with a new fence. The oak tree still stood too in front of the house. I stopped the car and let it idle for some time as we both stared at my Dad’s history silently. As I drove back to my parent’s home, I knew that God was calling him to join his parents that once lived in the house on Athis Street.
The next day, I had to return to New York. It was my Dad’s last cognizant day. As if the gift of traveling down memory lane with him was not enough, he gave me one more. It was a final trip that consisted of a walk down the driveway and around the cul-de-sac. I won’t ever forget the miraculous trip because of the night before when he was not even able to get up out of his chair, yet he mustered up the strength to walk with me to breathe the fresh air for one final time. My Dad died nine days later on October 19th. I miss him terribly and can’t believe that no more adventures are waiting with silly photo ops with goofy hats and hands in the air. I am sure; however, he is wearing a hat with a parrot in heaven, as he watches over us … and the next vacation picture that I take with my son, we will throw our hands in the air in honor of my Dad.
I love you, Dad.