Travels with my father

My dad is 87 years old, but despite some very specific medical issues popping up here and there, is in terrific shape. He regularly takes 3-mile walks with my brother, eats right, and is cognitively right there. He (we) lost my mom two years ago, and then COVID hit, of course, but he is doing just fine on his own. He has various lady friends who he dines with and goes to plays, movies and concerts with – has more of a social life than I do.

He’d always intended to come up for visits more than he had been, and now we two widowers are a lot more free to visit each other. And he came up last week for a really terrific reason. One of his high school classmates (Gordon, who he’d known since 2nd grade) has been putting together regular informal reunions, and for their Cranston, RI high school class, this was their 70th.

So Dad flew into New York on Wednesday, arriving just in time for me to hand him a set of keys and get just a little caught up before I had to go to orchestra rehearsal. I offered him various dinner options; he ended up going to The Queensboro down the street, sitting at the bar, having a Manhattan and a burger.

Thursday we got ourselves up early, took an Uber to the rental car lot, and set off for Providence. Should be about a three-and-a-half hour drive, but there was really bad traffic all the way up to about halfway through Connecticut, so it took us quite a bit longer than that. Not a big deal, we were not in a rush. The reunion was a mid-afternoon meal at Chelo’s near the airport, and we’d booked a room at the airport Radisson. We decided to see if the room was ready yet (it was) and dumped our stuff and got freshened up.

Dad had a list of various addresses he wanted to drive around and visit, so before we went to the restaurant, we drove to Cranston and found the house he’d lived in for most of his childhood. Very cute. I’d been to Cranston before (as a child), but hadn’t realized how cute and quaint and right on the water it was.

Then to the reunion. It was only about 15-18 people or so – classmates and wives and one son (me). Gordon had cleverly made up nametags that included their high school photos on them, I thought that was cool. The restaurant had screwed up – we should have had a private room, but just had three tables next to each other. But people traveled around and talked to each other. One of the guys there was one of Dad’s best friends from HS, who he hadn’t seen since. Tall thin and bearded, Herb looked like he’d been living under a bridge, but was quite smart (a former surgeon) and an opera fan, so we talked a lot about that.

Afterward, Gordon invited us (and others, I assume) to his house for drinks and chat, but Dad and I were the only ones who went. It was a lovely house, and Gordon and Marilyn were super-nice people. Then Dad and I headed back to the hotel and made an early night of it.

The next morning, while I got cleaned up, I had Dad check out the hotel breakfast situation, which turned out to be dire, so we decided to eat elsewhere. Checked out, went back on our address tour. Before Dad’s family ended up in Cranston, they’d bounced around a lot of lodgings for various reasons, and Dad had most of those addresses (including his grandmother’s house, where they’d also lived). One of Dad’s first memories was being at his grandmother’s house when the big hurricane of 1938 hit and knocked down all the trees on the street. So we drove around and saw all those houses, most of which were in Pawtucket.

Pawtucket is kind of a dying town. At some point, I really needed to use the bathroom, and so we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts to get breakfast and so I could use their facilities – and they had facilities, but they were denied to customers. Some frantic walking and driving later, turns out almost everywhere did not allow random strangers to use their toilets. (I shudder to think why that became the practice.) Eventually, we found a McDonalds that had facilities, hallelujah.

We also drove into Providence. There is a lovely large park, Roger Williams Park, that I remember visiting as a kid. Notable not only for its beauty, but every child who’s ever visited it has had pictures taken sitting on the dog statue (including me and my brother). Guess what? That statue was cast by my great-grandfather! (Dad’s dad’s dad.) So he wasn’t the sculptor, but he’s the guy who poured the metal into the mold and actually created the statue. There’s another sculpture called The Falconer there (it’s in the middle of a traffic circle – we saw it driving through) that my great-grandfather also cast. Isn’t that cool?

And we drove around downtown and saw the Brown campus (Dad went there for a few semesters) and other lovely things. Downtown Providence felt a great deal like downtown St. Paul. I’d love to exploring more there someday.

And then we decided we were done and drove back home, getting back about mid-afternoon. The game plan was to park the car, unload, and then at some point I’d return the car to the rental lot. But the amount of activity in the neighborhood was insane, and not only was there no parking, there were a bunch of cars like us driving around desperately trying to find a space. So we gave up, went to a gas station to refill the tank, went back to the Avis lot, and Ubered home with our bags and stuff.

Dinner at El Coyote that night, nice.

The rest of the visit was pretty leisurely. Dad helped me with household projects. Most significantly, he repaired the broken beam under my bed, which had been barely holding on by duct tape. Dad fixed it properly, with bolts and screws, and not only did it work, I was very grateful I didn’t have to replace the whole beam.

I’d put out the word to local friends to see who wanted to join us for dinner – more people for Dad to talk to and get the pressure off me. Tessa came over on Saturday, and across-the-hall neighbor Nancy joined us for drinks and nibbles (but not dinner). Tessa, Dad and I went out to Armondo’s for Italian food, that was nice.

I’ve decided that every time someone comes to stay with me, they have to teach me how to cook something. I’d pulled out frozen lumps from the freezer that Charles had put there – I thought they were ribs, but they turned to to be skirt steaks (a lot of them). So Sunday night, Dad showed me how to make skirt steak (we started marinating them on Saturday, using a bottle of Newman’s Own balsamic vinaigrette, which was all we had – but it turned out great). I’d defrosted far too many, but we cooked them all and I froze what we didn’t eat – and now I know how to do that, so that’s cool.

Monday, I took Dad into town to see Hudson Yards, the High Line and Little Island.

Eric and Dad, High Line, Oct 10, 2022

That was a nice jaunt – he hadn’t seen any of those – and then we headed back for a leisurely afternoon. Josh and Mariah joined us for another round of drinks and nibbles, then we went to Uncle Peter’s for dinner.

And Dad headed home on Tuesday. A really nice visit, and I’ll be seeing him (and Sam) in a few weeks for Veteran’s Day weekend.

One thought on “Travels with my father

  1. Very cool about your ancestor pouring the famous statues in Roger Williams Park! I grew up in East Providence (50th reunion was this year) and lived in RI for 37 years. I left in ‘98 and would never return except for brief visits. I understand its appeal, and the whole “big little” state has so much to offer tourists. But mostly I feel like it’s Pawtucket, unable and unwilling to move forward. Your dad is a marvel (much like mine, 96!) I have a feeling you’ll be enjoying each other’s company for many more years.

    Liked by 1 person

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