Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Father's Story

There are lots of stories that I often tell about my dad.  Most are all humorous. I am not sure I really ever thought they were funny back then but maybe time and being a father myself has helped me gain perspective of some of the situations. Here are a few of the many.

Story One: Running?
I was about 5 years old and our family owned what was called "The Family Recreation Center". Sounds impressive but truthfully it was just a family pool hall with Foosball and pinball machines. This is where I learned how to master all those games at a young age.  I spent so much time there during the day with nothing to do but play pool. It was located in the corner of the Eastland Shopping Center in Bartlesville. I have no idea if the building even exists any more.  My father never really exercised much or for that matter as far as I know went for a walk. (Probably not a good thing as diabetes became the enemy over time). One afternoon we were in the store and apparently someone had walked out without paying their bill....I guess I cannot really remember....but whatever it was it created the need for my father to go into pursuit of this individual.  When I say pursuit, I mean pursuit. My father bolted out of the door and began to run down the sidewalk after this fellow.  Yes, I did say RUN. I remember looking out the storefront and announcing to my mother what I was viewing just outside.

"Hey mom, look at dad.  Hey mom, dad is running...he is really running! Will you look at that.  Oh, Oh Oh no....Mom, dad fell....oh mom. Dad looks mad.  Looks like dad torn a hole in his pants.  His knee is bleeding.....oh mom, dad is mad..."

I never saw my dad run again.

Story Two: The Curse of the Green Goo.
My dad really never ate chewing gum that I could remember.  There was one time I had bought a whole bunch of green bubble gum and was eating it and blowing bubbles in the back seat of the car.  We were going on a journey someplace like we always seemed to do.  I don't have a clue as to where we were going at that particular moment but we were headed down a highway.  My father always did the driving. I don't recall one time that my mom drove any place while he was alive. My father, saw me blowing these huge bubbles with my gum in the rear view mirror and proudly asked if he could have a piece... Sure dad, here you go.  Dad never ate bubble gum. What was into him? After a few minutes of laughing, chatting and my continued bubble blowing in the back seat, my father attempted to blow his blowing bubbles?  Mr. Sophistication, Mr. Polyester suit, Mr. I never seen you do this kind of behavior before! And he did it.  He blew a bubble.  An he was having fun blowing bubbles.  He was getting quite good at it as well.  The bubbles were getting a bit bigger. (Note to readers: any of you reading this story right now must understand the art of bubble gum bubble blowing.  First you need to blow the bubble just right until the rubbery material stretches just enough to pop and then you suck it back in your mouth quickly and chew it up some more and then try again.  Getting the right consistency of the bubble is important to make a bigger bubble.  CAUTION: if the bubble gets to big...chances are that you will not be able to suck it back in your mouth but rather it will pop all over your face.) Do you see where this is going? Yep.  Dad was getting cocky in his bubble blowing but unfortunately had not read the manual on bubble gum bubble blowing.....yep, it popped and yep, it got over all his face and yep, he was driving and yep, we almost drove off the road because he couldn't got on his glass and the sticky green goo was everywhere.

I never saw my dad chew green bubble gum again.

Story Three: What I learned from my dad about working on cars.
I don't remember what car it was, I think the t-bird.  I don't remember how old I was.  I don't remember what was wrong on the vehicle. But I do remember dad had decided he could fix it himself.  Hadn't seen my dad spend much time working on anything that required fixing. Never even changed the oil. So this was a pretty weird experience. I had always figured that my dad decided to be a business man and make enough money to have someone else fix and maintain his cars. However this particular time he was determined to make this repair. I eagerly watched since I really didn't have any knowledge about working on the car and thought I might gain some valuable experience. It didn't take long until something didn't fit and the tools weren't working right. Dad was working up a sweat trying to make this thing go back together and it just wouldn't.  Stubborn car part! Not exactly my dad's words. Was I hearing these slight mumblings of distraught come from my fathers whispering lips? huh dad? What did you say? NOTHING, HAND ME THAT TOOL! That was my only response.  However the sweat continued to pour from his brow, the frustration level was building....and then it happened.....The tool slipped off of whatever he was twisting, turning and straining over. The thunder! when the tool slipped my dad had cut his hand on something and the foul proceeded to flow from my father's mouth....@#%*&^%.  I can't remember what he said nor what most of it even meant. Thank goodness. But I do remember he was mad....even kicked the tire in anger.....really dad? Kick the tire?  That part of the car wasn't even broken.  I didn't utter a word, just stood there in silence until he cooled off. Dad later went inside and called the repair shop and they came and fixed it in less than 15 minutes.  It must have been the tools! That's what I think! That is what I learned from my dad about fixing cars.

I never saw my dad work on the car again.

My father has been gone for over 25 years now.  I miss him often. I missed the opportunity to have those "father and son talks"...once I got old enough to really understand a "father and son talk". As a small business man and I myself now in the same adventure, I never got to talk to him about how to deal with this or that. He never got to meet my children.  I am sure he would have spoiled them.  That what he did best.  Everything was always over the top.  However, I do get to remember the funny stories and the trips we took. So many goofing things he did from the bathroom adventure, the watermelon moving, the garage cleaning, the stranded in Brooklyn NY, the mowing, weeding eating and trimming nightmare, and so many more.  The trips to Chicago, NY, California, Mexico, Montana and everywhere in between.  Adventures everyone of them.  None to forget.  My dad may have been gone these many years but he lives on forever in my re-telling of each account to my kids. I am sure they feel they knew him just a little bit....and probably know where their dad got his silliness.

Love you dad.  Thanks for the memories.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Vacation Ideas #1 - Camping

Well summer is here and all the kids are gone so now it is time to pick a vacation for my wife and I. Wherever we want to go and not necessarily have to worry about making it a "kids" vacation but it can be an "adult" vacation.  You know that usually mostly means a lazy trip....the kind where we don't have to plan to the infinite detail like I always did before.  Over the next several blog posts I will highlight ideas where we can go and provide a bit of history on how we did all these similar trips with the kids years ago.

Camping has always been a fun family trip for us, but the real question lies in can just my wife and I enjoy a camping experience by ourselves? It is possible.  Or is it?

We started our camping experiences back in 1989 when we had a 2 1/2 year old and a 4 month old.  I had received an award just out of college to travel and study architecture abroad.  Oklahoma State School of Architecture awarded me the Caudill Traveling Fellowship.  I was only the sixth recipient of the award. He headed out to Europe and hit 16 different countries.  The monies provided were really only enough for a single individual to travel on but I had a wife and two kids.  We had to make the most of it......Camping Across Europe! That is how it all began.  Back then we had a very little budget for our gear.  Being the first time out, we really learned how OFF we were and unprepared!

Once we returned we lived near the Appalachian trail in Pennsylvania so we bought the massive light-weight (and very expensive) tent to handle all of us.....that number had grown to 4 kids! It was awesome.  We did lots of hiking but mostly car camping.  Every trip home to Oklahoma was a camping trip (except Winter). get-a-ways, up on the trail, where ever.

Once we moved to Virginia we continued going places.  Camping at Orlando for Parks, Camping near Busch Gardens, Camping at Luray Caverns was just the beginning.  The the boys got old enough to join Boy Scouts.....again we were off.

Since then we have camped at the beach, the parks, and most recently at Crabtree Falls.  So much fun.....yep, same tent since we got back from Europe over 20 years ago.  The cost for that tent was well worth it.

OK so now for just my wife and I.  We could certainly head back to Crabtree Falls. That was peaceful.  Another thought is to head back to Luray Caverns.  We enjoyed that as well. Don't really want to camp at the beach.  If we go to the beach I want to BE AT THE BEACH. Then again there are all the other places that we haven't gone before.  I was thinking of using the maps/park websites and begin hitting each of the camping recommended locations and check off each location that we visit over the next 10 years.

Granted the camping has changed for us too. We need a blow up mattress.  We pre-pack all of our food.  It takes me a bit longer to set up the tent these days too. However, far less food, far less gear, far less planning, and much more room in our tent!

Camping my friends?