Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Family Vacation Revisited

One of my favorite movies is Family Vacation.  I'm always amazed at the idea of a mom, dad, and kids getting in the car and going off on some great journey together.  We never really took a family vacation.  All summer long we stayed in tents at the lake and fished, swam, water skied, cooked on the campfire, and played.  Tough life, huh?  Actually as a kid it was great, but for the adults, the sober ones, it was no picnic I'm sure.  But we kids didn't care.  We had a summer paradise.  Until the one summer my father decided we needed to take a trip to Frisco City, Alabama to visit his big brother Ray. 

By this time Mike and Pat had gone off into their military careers and Clint was old enough to stay home without us I guess.  So it was just me and my little brother Ronnie in the car with my folks.  I was excited to see some place that wasn't in Tennessee.  Yeah, I know, a dumb country kid.  I'm sure we drove highways all the way (no interstate yet) and of course there was no air conditioner in the car.  Strangely I don't really remember much about the drive down or back so I guess seeing another state for the first time didn't impress me much.

I do remember that my Uncle Ray and his wife lived in a small house in a small town which reminded me of my grandparents old farmhouse in Lebanon.  Ronnie and I played with a boy from next door and I'm told he fell out of a tree and broke his arm.  Again, I really don't remember too much about that either.  So was I an amnesiac for the whole trip?

No, what I do remember is following my daddy all over the USS Alabama in Mobile Bay.  Now Daddy never served aboard a battleship during the war (he was in the Naval Armed Guard and served mostly on Liberty ships) but you would have thought he gave birth to this ship.  He was so excited to tell about it and I was eager to see him so happy that I ran my legs off keeping up with him.  Most of all I remember looking from the upper deck across all that water and thinking it was the ocean.  The water was so wide I couldn't see where it ended.  Daddy held my hand and stood looking out at it for a very long time too. 

So today I returned to Mobile Bay and the Big A.  I really enjoyed the Korean and Vietnam War memorials that have been added.  And of course lots of aircraft and tanks are on display which I like to look over.  But I couldn't bring myself to go aboard the battleship this time.  It just wouldn't have been the same without my enthusiastic tour guide.  I guess I've lived long enough now to know that some memories are best left alone.  Before leaving the park I walked out to the end of the fishing pier to look back at the old warrior and found myself looking out across the water.  I've seen a few oceans since that long ago summer and yet the water of the bay today seemed so wide I couldn't see where it ended.  So wide I could almost feel Daddy's hand in mine.

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