Tuesday December 24 2013

Father & Son (Christmas 2013)[i]

Waking up at 11:30 a.m.

Honey Bunches of Oats with Almond Milk. Orange Juice.

Driving down to North Carolina to see my dad for Christmas.

Apple. Almond Bar. Popped Potato Chips.

It's a quick three-hour trip – no traffic – just US-58 to I-95 to I-795, past Wayne Memorial Hospital, and I'm there.

As soon as I arrive my dad takes me to a Mexican bar in historic downtown Goldsboro for an afternoon beer. I had told him on the phone a few days ago that I desired one-on-one time. We order Modelo drafts with a slice of lime and talk, talk, talk about family matter updates, the rise of social networking and how it affects the baby boomers, and the openness of personal information and how easily accessible it is to the government or any other interested party.

Me: "The government can spy on you via Facebook."

Dad: "Well, you know...you can't hide from nothin' now. Cause they gotcha right there."

Me: "Just don't have anything to hide..."

Dad: "That's right."

Me: "...and you'll be fine."

Dad: "And I don't."


Me: "A lot of things changed in the past ten years. I'm approaching 30. It's a weird feeling, you know. I mean what was it like when you turned 30? What was going on in your life at 30?"

I can tell after asking him this question it opened up a dam of fond memories. It was 1978. He had joined the military in '66. He was stationed in England working for the Air Force at a mail terminal and sometimes as a courier for classified documents. He'd meet my mom in Portsmouth not but a few years later, get married, and have me in 1984. There's a lot more I'd like to discuss but we've got to head back...

We link up with Patty, my stepmother, and Jennifer, my stepsister, and walk across the street to a neighbor's Christmas gathering. There's a variety of food for the taking: Veggie Trays, Sandwich Trays, Chips and Salsa. I grab a little bit of everything. Most of the faces here I've met before from previous holiday visits. Even though nobody here is blood family they're still a part of my dad's social circle. And they know how to laugh and have a good time. Keith, the well-mannered and likable country bumpkin neighbor, brings over his infamous peach moonshine. Some take shots. I decide not to drink too much tonight.

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I'm encouraged to pick up the guitar and lead everyone in song. I perform some Christmas songs and some general crowd pleasers like "Proud Mary", "Island in the Sun", "Blowin' in the Wind", and "Hound Dog". Sitting beside me, my dad doesn't hesitate to sing along joyfully; he's never been one to hold back his young lively spirit.

Somebody's grandma of a whopping 98 years old is here. I bring it in close to her wheelchair and we chant "Silent Night". There's a glow in her eye as she sings. Later, I sprawl out on the carpet in front of the fireplace with Jennifer and Ava (a little girl of 7 or 8 years old). Most of the other friends and family watch as we entertain them with yoga and aerobics poses. Ava won't stop grappling onto me and insisting that I pick her up repeatedly and turn her upside down. At one point I turn to dad and say, "Okay, your turn!" Without thinking much of it he swoops me up in his arms and spins me around as if I was still a little boy. After setting me down he says, "I bet you didn't think I could still do that, huh?"

Me: "Yeah! You surprised me. I didn't know you still had it in you."

That was a cherishing moment.

Eventually, we walk back over to the house. Jennifer has the expected behavior of any 17-year-old to keep snapping photos of herself. She gets me to take multiple pictures of her by the Christmas tree. My dad gets irritated and demands the camera back. But it's just a game. I witness him tackle Jennifer on the floor tickling her to death.

Settling in and eating a traditional Honduran Chicken Sandwich.

Sleep at 4 a.m.

[i] Images by me.

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