A Million Miles in Circles

I've written about my Dad before (in my most popular post, actually), and at my writing class the other day, we were given an interesting assignment.  Turn to a page in a magazine, then write what came to us about the illustrations or title.  I was given a Bon Marche Spring Magazine, which was mostly about older ladies' fashions.  But in it was a title that inspired me.  It was something like: "I didn't get a passport until I was 60."  The story was of a woman who became inspired to trek all over the world after her husband died, and now at 79, she is still going and has raised over $70,000 for charity. Anyway, what I wrote seems a bit sad, but sad is a feeling, so I might as well express it like anything else.

Here is what I wrote:

Today is my dad's 67th birthday.  He grew up in a tiny town with a kaolin plant and not much else.

 (I was going to put a google streetview photo here, but it's black.  Because it's that insignificant.)

It looks like a ghost town now, and it wasn't much better sixty years ago when he was a kid.  Every time he left home, it was because something was wrong.  I've only heard bits and pieces, but it seems like growing up for him was rocky.  His parents' marriage was unstable, and his mother had manic depression.  He also had polio and had to miss school to recuperate in Warm Springs, Georgia, which according to Google Maps is about 100 miles from Gordon.  It's no wonder he doesn't like to leave home now.  He has driven probably close to half a million miles in the last 20 years, but it's rare for him to leave a three or four county area.  He must have travelled at least twice that in the last 50 years.

The last time I remember travelling anywhere overnight with him was to Savannah, a beautiful town about 170 miles from our house.  Mom and I took the car, and he took his motorcycle.  It was really hot, and he was clearly antsy as soon as we reached the hotel.  In order to spend the night, Mom said the doctor gave him a sedative, which clearly didn't work, as I remember waking up in the night to the sound of his motorcycle roaring away in the middle of the night, leaving my mother and I bewildered at a Holiday Inn.  Since then, he hasn't spent the night away from home, not even for my wedding.

According to my mom, she convinced him to go away for a night to Callaway Gardens this year, but since I have no proof of that, I'm not sure if it actually happened...

I know that he feels the same wandering restlessness that I do, but he indulges it by doing individual trips, every day, to the hardware store, the grocery store, McDonald's, his favourite hunting spots and town. I can't fathom how much he spends on gasoline.  He just seems to be going in circles.

I wish I could show him the Old Lifeboat Station:

I wish I could take him to Normandy on the ferry to see Omaha Beach.

I wish he could see my mother-in-law's garden in spring, which is so full of blooms that his treasured azalea bushes look a bit flat in comparison.  I wish he could have seen Ella's christening, which was in a church that was built when most of middle Georgia was still acres of forest and swamp.

I want to show him how much Ella loves her beach hut and flinging sand into the wind on the chine.

 I want to take him to Oxford to see Tolkien and Lewis's pub, The Eagle and Child.  He can tell me more about it from books than Wikipedia probably could.

But I'm afraid that he's waited too late to see Windsor Castle or a real red deer in the highlands or Durdle Door.  I'm afraid that the best he'll ever see of the country I love and live in is from pictures.  I'm afraid that Ella is not going to understand why one grandad travels all over the world and one won't even get a passport.  I'm not sure that understand.  He's travelled a million miles, but he won't take one step towards us.


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