Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Long And Complicated Story

While Joshua and I will be in Oklahoma from Wednesday through the following Monday, my parents will be in San Diego.

It is a long and complicated story.

On Friday morning, when I rose at 5:00 a.m., it had snowed. It had snowed another eleven inches during the night.

I rose and I cleaned up--but not for work--and I went outside and I dug out our car so that Joshua would be able to drive to work in the late morning.

Then I went back inside, and I woke Josh, and I told him that I was going to drive over to my parents' house and clear their snow. I told Josh that I would be back at 8:30 a.m.

It was 6:30 a.m. when I pulled up at my parents' house. My father generally rises at 6:30 a.m.

He was already up, and in the garage, when I arrived. He was getting ready to leave the garage and start on the snow when he heard me pull up, and he opened one of the garage doors just as I was parking the car at the back of the house.

"Just in the nick of time" I told him, but he insisted that he was going to shovel, too.

I told my Dad that I had not had any coffee yet, and I asked him to go inside and make some coffee, and I told him that I would see what progress I could make in thirty minutes, and that I would join him for coffee in half an hour.

And I made good progress. I got the back driveway cleared, and the side of the house cleared, too, before I went inside.

When I entered the kitchen, I saw that my mother was up, and I told her that I hoped that I had not been the party responsible for waking her--but, if I was, that it had been for a good cause.

"I wish he [my father] would just use the shovel that came with the tractor" was her response. My mother was referring to an attachment that came with my father's garden tractor. The attachment is intended to be a satisfactory snow plow.

However, I hate the silly thing--it makes more of a mess than anything, and the tractor's tracks pack down the snow, making the whole project even more difficult--and my father hates it, too. Further, it is a complicated job to attach the plow head in the Winter and then to un-attach it in the Spring and, frankly, it is not worth all the trouble.

"That plow head is a joke" I told my mother. "I wouldn't use it, either."

"It's too bad the services are unreliable" my mother said. "We tried them, and they never showed up until 11:00 a.m., or even later. Once, they didn't show up until after 3:00 p.m. And, once, they didn't show up at all."

My mother was referring to snow removal services, which some families here use. My parents tried these services when I first went to college, and they were very dissatisfied with the two different services with which they contracted. Of course, one of the problems with the services is that they do not begin their work until the snowfall has actually ended, which is quite sensible, as the services are obliged to remove snow only once after each snowfall.

"At least I'm punctual" I said to my Mom. "Sometimes, you need punctual."

And I drank some coffee, and then I went outside and I finished the job, clearing the driveway all the way to the street. My Dad stayed inside, because he saw that it would not take me long to finish things up.

When I was done, I went back inside, and I had a little more coffee, and I asked my Dad if I could catch a ride downtown with him this morning.

Of course, he was more than happy to give me a ride to work, as he drives right past my building anyway and as he enjoys the company, and I asked him to give me half an hour before he swung by my place to pick me up.

And I went home, and Josh was up, and he and I had a quick bowl of cereal together, and then I got cleaned up for work. My Dad came by, and I rode to work with him (which was a lot faster than public transport).

He asked me whether he could give me a ride home, too, in the late afternoon, and I accepted his offer.

On late Friday afternoon, on our ride back home, my Dad asked me whether Josh and I wanted to come over for dinner. He told me that my mother wanted to cook steaks for us as a way of saying "Thank You" for shoveling their snow that morning.

I told my Dad that I would ask Josh when Josh got home.

When he got home, I asked Josh, and Josh said that he would be happy to eat one of my mother's steaks tonight, so I called my Mom and Dad, and I told them that we would be over shortly.

And we went over to my parents' house, where we truly had not planned to spend any time this weekend.

While my Mom was preparing dinner, she and my Dad talked, half-heartedly, about going somewhere while Josh and I were in Oklahoma.

I was the last son to leave home for college, of course, and, the first year I was away at college, my parents went away for a week, in January, and they chose a warm location: Florida. They went to Saint Petersburg, and they spent a week at the Vinoy, and they absolutely loved it.

They loved it so much that they went back to the Vinoy for the following six years, always spending a week or ten days there. This year was the first year they have not gone to the Vinoy in January since they started going, and I think that they did not feel a need to go this year because I was back home.

One year--the year I was a Senior in college--my parents had my brothers and my sister-in-law and me join them at the Vinoy for a long weekend.

The Vinoy is a very nice hotel, and it is a nice place to stay, I suppose, but, personally, I hate Florida. I also hate Saint Petersburg, and I also hate the Vinoy, and I was happy to go only once. The Vinoy has numerous tennis courts, and it was nice to play tennis out in the sunshine for two hours each day in the dead of winter--but there was little else other than tennis for me to do in Saint Petersburg or at the Vinoy. And who wants to play tennis for 16 hours a day?

The best thing about the Vinoy was its private dining room, reserved for guests of the hotel. It was the best restaurant I have ever experienced, anywhere. The food and the service were stupendous, and never have I enjoyed such a fine restaurant dinner. It must be better than Lucas Carton in Paris (not that I have ever been to Lucas Carton in Paris.) However, restaurants do not do much for me, as a general rule, since I much prefer eating at home, and the Vinoy private dining room--fine as it was--was hardly a sufficient reason to make such a long trip. (The regular dining room at the Vinoy, open to the public, is also very, very highly regarded, but I did not think that it was anything to write home about--probably because I have always been spoiled by my mother's cooking, to which nothing else ever seems to measure up.)

In sum, I was happy to experience the Vinoy, and I was even happier to depart.

My Dad always played golf when he visited the Vinoy, and my mother, who is not a golfer, would sit on one of the verandas and read, or visit the art museum, or watch a movie, or just stroll around the Vinoy grounds, which indeed are quite lovely.

When my parents invited the entire family to join them at the Vinoy that one year, my brothers played golf with my Dad every day.

I, however, despise golf, and I did not play golf with them. Instead, I visited the Saint Petersburg Museum Of Art with my mother and my sister-in-law (the museum is in the block directly across from the front entrance of the Vinoy, although one has to walk through a pretty good-sized park to get there) and I played tennis and I went swimming and I did some reading.

Whenever my Dad and my brothers golf, my father and I go through this little Vaudeville routine, which never varies.

DAD: Would you like to join us today?

ANDREW: Gosh, I'd love to, but my white shoes and plaid trousers are in the repair shop. They get such heavy use, you know.

DAD: You might enjoy it--get some sunshine, get some fresh air, get some exercise.

ANDREW: Yes, shifting gears on that golf cart is a real workout.

DAD: I have never understood why you hate this sport so much.

ANDREW: Golf is a game, not a sport.

DAD: Golf requires physical coordination and mental concentration.

ANDREW: So does knitting. Is knitting a sport?

DAD: You are incorrigible.

At this point, my Dad always grabs me and he gives me a huge bear hug and he won't let go, tussling my hair and nuzzling me. Finally, he kisses me and he releases me, and he tells me, again, that I am incorrigible, but that he loves me anyway.

So, Friday night, while she was preparing dinner, my mother asked my father whether they should go somewhere while Josh and I will be in Oklahoma.

"Do you want to go back to Saint Petersburg?" my father asked.

A look of disappointment crept across my mother's face. "I'm sort of tired of the Vinoy" she said, after a long pause. "I was thinking perhaps we might go somewhere else, for a change."

"Finally!" I said. I had to say that--it was an entirely involuntary utterance on my part.

"Do you want to go to Denver?" my father asked. He was thinking, obviously, of a visit with my middle brother.

"It should REALLY be nice and warm in Denver" I said. "And you might want to swing by another hotspot, Winnipeg, on your way back home."

"So do you have any better ideas?" my Dad asked me.

And I told him that he and my mother should go to Los Angeles, where it was sure to be warm. I told him that they might enjoy six days there, and that they could visit the Los Angeles County Museum Of Art and that they could visit the Getty Museums and that they could visit the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and that they could visit the Huntington Library in San Marino.

I thought that my idea was a good one.

However, it was not.

"Your father is not looking for a museum trip" my mother said. "He is looking for sunshine, and for some golf, and for some pure relaxation."

"Go to San Diego, then" I said.

And my parents seemed to like the idea, and they seemed to like the idea very much.

They have not been to San Diego for years and years--not since they took my brothers and me there, many, many years ago, to see the zoos--and, the more they thought about the idea, the more it seemed to appeal to them.

So, after dinner, Josh and I washed and dried the dinner dishes while my parents searched online for a hotel in San Diego that would please them. Once they found one, they stayed online to check air reservations, and they found that they could indeed get the flights they wanted--and they booked a trip to San Diego!

The last thing on their minds, I am sure, when they awoke Friday morning, was to plan a trip to San Diego. This will be a purely serendipitous vacation for them, and I hope they have an utterly wonderful time, which I suspect they will.

And six days is about the right length of time for them to spend in San Diego, I think--they will arrive in San Diego late Wednesday afternoon, and have all day Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to enjoy some warm weather, and then head for the airport for their flight home late Monday morning.

Good for them!

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