Dad on Vacation

My mother wasn’t the only one with her unique traveling identity. My father had this inner tolerance clock on all things uninteresting to him during any given vacation.  

On any normal day, there were certain things my dad would simply not do. He didn’t do anything that required him to be outside for long periods of time...especially in the heat.  This means we didn’t camp, picnic or go to Braves games in the summer.  Which was fine by me...where's the Hyatt?  

This also meant that he didn’t mow the lawn or wash his own car which my husband found fascinating when we first got married.  We might have owned a lawn mower once, but I don't remember.  Mostly this was due to that fact that my father worked 16-hour days, 6 days a week in his dry cleaners for the better part of his childhood and ours so, I for one, feel like he was justified in outsourcing his lawn mowing and so did Johnny Czerwinski, by the way, the kid who got paid handsomely to take care of that chore for us...cuz we all know, I wasn't gonna do it.  

My father also had strict guidelines about restaurants.  He did/does not believe in standing in line for a meal. You go in, you sit down, people bring you stuff...restaurants should be run no other way in his opinion.  I think this rule was a late in life rebellion over the fact that his parents lived at the Picadilly and he used to wake up in a cold sweat from nightmares about being pushed through the tray line so fast that he had to settle for chicken livers and lime jello.  Look, we all have our childhood baggage and my father's meant that he believed meals at restaurants were meant to require as little work as possible on the part of the customer.

These days, my father is a relatively easy person to please.  After years and years of slaving over a hot presser in an even hotter cleaners, his needs boil down to one basic rule...he just wants his rear end to be comfortable.  That's all.  This shows itself in the cars he drives, the chairs he owns, the restaurants he eats at and the vacations he takes.  

On vacation, when we were younger, my father had a little more tolerance to being hot, standing in line and having an uncomfortable place to sit, as he gladly would play dutiful, patient father who seemed happy just to let us have fun.  We never knew how much he actually hated playing in the ocean, riding Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and whale watching when there were no whales in sight, but he did have his limits.  

After all, it was his vacation too and he had paid for it. 

I remember one time, while visiting Sea World, we were just finishing petting the Stingrays when I begged to go back and see the dolphin show again.  Unbeknownst to me, my father had just reached his tolerance for fish.  It was, after all, day 4 of being in Orlando, standing in lines in the hot sun and spending more money than budgeted on things like "Minnie Mouse dolls on a stick" and other such souvenirs that we just had to have but would not be able to even find two days after we got home.  

By the way, my father might have actually introduced legislation to do away with those tissue paper flowers on a stick that you could buy at Six Flags.  I'm not saying he did, but he was awfully tired of stepping on broken sticks and pulling wet colored tissue paper off his foot every summer.  

But I'm distracted, back to the fish.

“Look,” he said.  “I don’t want to see that again.” 

I felt like I’d been slapped. Did dad just say, "no?"  Who didn’t like dolphins?

He looked at my mother in desperation  “I want a beer…and a ball game.”

“Wayne.” My mom started.

“At Sea World?” I thought. 

He looked at all three of his girls staring as if he had just said he was leaving us for good. 

“Look, you guys go back to see the dophins again.  That’s fine, but I’m not going.”

We continue to be silent as we tried to process what my dad was saying to us.

“Look, how can I put this?” He was trying to make us understand his level of misery, 

“I have seen dolphins do this…” He made a jumping gesture with his hand as if it were a dolphin jumping out of the water and back down again.

“I have seen whales do this…” Jumping hand motion.

“I have seen seals do this…” Jumping hand motion.

“I’m done. I’m hot, tired, broke and I don’t want to see any more fish do anything. I want a beer and a ball game.  Come find me when you're ready to leave.”  

He started to walk off from his stunned family, but suddenly turned back to add, “Oh, but if a shark eats an employee, come find me because that I would like to see."

We stood there for a good five minutes watching my father walk off into the sunset in search of the only bar in Sea World in 1985, and I'll be darned if he didn't find it.

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