The MidLife Road Trip is all about making the most of life, laughter, finding joy and sharing it.  Even during tougher moments we believe in looking at the bright side.

This is my first father’s day since my father died.   I’m writing this from the road with my family heading north from Florida on a good old fashioned, Griswold like Road Trip.  We’ll wind through the Carolinas, Washington, DC, Pennsylvania and Virginia.  We’ll make the cheesy stop at South of the Border because Pedro tells us to. We’ll dine on southern cuisine at Magnolias in Charleston, go to the Spy Museum and the Smithsonian in D.C. and eat homemade pie in Pennsylvania Dutch country. We’ll reminisce about the good old days when dad was here. We wanted to do something special to celebrate him so a road trip, something he loved and did often, seemed fitting.  I am grateful that my father instilled in me a sense of adventure a love of travel.  He’s with me very mile of every trip I take.

This father’s Day I’ll not to dwell on my dad being gone but rejoice in all the wonderful memories I have of him.  I was so blessed to have my dad for 53 father’s days.

Father’s Day 2010

This is my dad’s 53rd father’s day, my 53rd year as his daughter. No Norman Rockwell painting here, but more than five decades peppered with magical moments and plethora of belly laughs.

Growing up, my dad was always larger than life to me. He would walk into a room and everyone knew who he was. We never waited for a table.  He engaged everyone in conversation causing me to shrink with embarrassment. At the time I wondered how could he just talk with everyone, selfishly knowing we would be there for a good while.

While my friend’s dinner tables were quiet and uneventful, ours was filled with the tales of the day and laughter. Sometimes we laughed so hard there was more giggling than eating.

My dad taught us everything from basic survival skills like how to deflect attention when passing gas in public to more important things like chasing your dreams and doing what’s right when nobody is looking.

Dad wasn’t perfect.  He fell short on many an occasion. But, he was real. He was who he was, no apologies. The good memories have far outweighed the others.

My father planned the most wonderful vacations, like the summers we spent on Fire Island. We had to get there by boat.  No cars on the island, we pulled red wagons along the boardwalk from the dock to the summerhouse where we stayed loaded with our necessities and out imaginations for what was sure to be an awesome week. It always was and even after 50 years I can still recall the tiniest details.

My father instilled in me his work ethic for which I will be forever grateful.  He showed me how to stick it out, even when it isn’t always the fashionable or popular choice.

This past year has been the most profound of all my 53 years with my dad.  He almost died, he was told there was no hope, has been in and out of a coma, in and out of the hospital so many times I’ve lost count.  This once independent, larger than life figure now relies on others for just about everything.  The most remarkable thing though, while his body may be compromised, his spirit and sense of humor remain unscathed.

It has taught me that life isn’t always pretty and sometimes it’s downright ugly but never let it get the best of you. A sense of humor and a soaring spirit will shine light on the darkest times.

It has taught me that my house doesn’t have to be perfectly clean with everything in its place.  The chips and dents from my father’s wheelchair have become precious reminders of how lucky I am to have these months with him living in my home.

It has taught me to step outside myself. Realize it’s not all about me. That helping others, sharing what I have is far more important and gratifying.It has taught me forgiveness.  It has taught me who my friends are, the ones who have been here to stand with me in dark hours, the ones who call just because and the ones who encourage when I just don’t think I can do it another minute and they never judge.

Most of all, it has taught me that my father is facing his mortality, much how he lived his life, with courage and grace. His smile is still a beacon, his spirit still larger than life.

So this Father’s Day, I am especially grateful for the time I have with my father.  Our conversations are more meaningful.  The “I Love You’s” are much more frequent.  That just sitting in a room with him has significance. That every day I have from here on out with my dad is an extra special gift.

While out family portrait may be more of a Mad Magazine cover than a Norman Rockwell, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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