In fact, even in his Pennsylvania county that is finally just emerging from shutdown, we managed to get out for a dinner we didn’t have to eat at home or in the car.
I guess that’s what made this year so special — against the backdrop of our shared experience this spring — this was the year we got to celebrate together.
This year’s visit was especially poignant, as last weekend was likely the final time I’d be inside the house I grew up in. Dad moves to his new home in Florida in the next couple of weeks.
As expected, it was bittersweet.
By no means do I begrudge my father for moving. For one thing, it is necessary for his health, and for another, two stories on two acres of ground is more than someone living on their own should have to manage unless they really want to.
I should know. I never did, and I made clear several years ago that while I have many good memories of the place, I simply was not interested in the upkeep. I’d like to think that decision made it possible for my dad to consider the move.
But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a flood of emotions saying goodbye to the place that, built for us, has been in my family for nearly 45 years.
No room was unchanged from the time when I moved out in the early 1990s (my room, for example, became my dad’s office before my furniture had made it up the ramp into the truck). But the bones were the same. The trees around the property, those I didn’t accidently whack with the lawn mower in my youth, were the same.
Looking across the neighboring two yards, where a couple of my closest friends and I played while growing up, I could see countless football and baseball games. Trees we had climbed. Hills we had sledded on. And so many other things we had done.
My mind’s eye could still see the chickens and hunting beagles that the farmer next door, who had once owned the entire property our neighborhood was built on, kept in the back corner. He is long gone now, but I still have fond memories of him telling me to grab my wagon because the corn he grew was ready for picking.
I could see my mom working in her flower beds, keeping house, or in the family room where she’d be taking a quick break to watch her soaps when I’d get home from school. Cold cuts and board games with my grandparents, or my dad and grandpop working on some project in the yard. And, so many holidays our little family gathered around the dining room table.
I have many friends and reasons to go back to my home town, but I can’t imagine going back to the old neighborhood. That house, like those of my childhood friends, will soon belong to someone else. So, in a few quiet moments Sunday morning, I took some photos, talked to a few ghosts and said my goodbyes.
Letting go is never easy. I’ll miss having the “Motel Six” to return to — particularly when I have to pay for a real hotel. But, more important, it was a happy home full of wonderful memories. So much of that was thanks to the man who worked so hard to provide it to us.
Thanks. Happy Father’s Day.