When my parents come out for their most recent visit, they had a very full itinerary to complete on their drive. My dad and brother were both history majors, and my dad used to teach High School history, so the two of them would take annual “male bonding” road trips where they visit historical sites, and then immediately get back into the car and go to the next one. They are both of the philosophy that one should cram in as much history as possible, stopping only to eat and pee. I’m more of the “fly there and do things at a leisurely pace, without over itinerizing a thus missing those magic moments that happen while on vacation that you cannot have predicted” philosophy, so I never went on these road trips, despite persistent begging from my father.
One of the stops on the way out was Gettysburg. The night before that stop, my mother woke to find my father staring at the ceiling wide awake. “Is something wrong, Wayne?” she asked.
He looked at her, “I’m just so excited.”
He had been to Gettysburg six times before this most recent visit.
Naturally, all of the excitement and lack of sleeping meant that by the time they got to my house, my father was sick. When he’s sick he becomes whiny and immature, and seems determined to make everyone else as miserable as he is. At home, he takes a bunch of Ibuprofen (the reason why he relies exclusively upon Ibuprofen, continues to baffle me. Mom thinks it’s because he gets body aches from the cold and it helps with that, I think that he always takes Ibuprofen when he’s sore from running and therefore assumes it’s some kind of cure-all) and settles himself into the recliner in front of FoxNews, which means that no one else can watch, and everyone has to tread carefully lest he wake up. At my house, it means that he watches Book TV (no change there from usual, and I don’t allow him to watch FoxNews), and craps out at 8pm instead of his usual 9. Then we all have to tread carefully lest we wake him up.
Since being at my house means being on vacation, he did try to rally a little bit, mostly because the main reason for the visit was so he could go to Maine, and finally check that one off the list. We drove three hours there, spent three hours on the DuckBoat tour and having lunch, then drove three hours back during which time he felt worse and worse and really let us know about it.
Finally, we saw a sign for a Target store and decided to stop. “Do you want us to get you some cold medicine, Wayne?” My mother asked.
He just made a grunting noise.
“What would you like?”
“I don’t know anything about that. Just get me some ibuprofen.”
“Wayne, that doesn’t make any sense.” I told him, “we can get something for your cold.”
My mother was more patient, and after much prodding, managed to get him to list his symptoms, then when we presented him with Tylenol Day/Night Cold, he couldn’t figure out the blister pack and became enraged. He pouted in the back seat for the rest of the drive, and upon arriving at my place, immediately turned on C-Span.
My father has always been a moody guy, but the older he gets, the more child-like he becomes. It’s bizarre. One positive about this trip is that my mother seems to have put him on some kind of diet. There were no cookie-gorging incidents, despite the fact that they still went to Tim Horton’s more than anyone should. Their first night in town, Wayne asked me for some of the ice cream in my freezer. “Sure, you can have some,” I told him, “but it’s kind of old and probably freezer burned. I’ve actually been meaning to throw it out. I’m sure it’s not very good.”
“He waited patiently for me to finish talking and then repeated, “I can have some?”
“Sure, have it all.”
Five minutes later he was without a mug of ice cream microwaved for 10 seconds (always a mug, not sure why), and I asked if he had changed his mind.
“Your mother told me I couldn’t.” he told me, and looked rather devastated.