ADVENTURES OF A SEPTUAGENARIAN AND OCTOGENARIAN

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We conclude our Summer Travel Series with life adventures of my Mom and Dad.

Last month, my father turned 80 and my mother 76.  Shortly before their birthdays, I thought they might like to share their memories of their favorite trip to add some flavor to the Summer Travel Series. I gave them 3 questions to think about over the course of a few days. I would write the article based on their answers.

Here were the questions:

  • What was your favorite trip you took in your life?
  • What were some of the highlights?
  • What lesson or lessons did you learn about life from this trip?

I first suspected that my plans for the article might go awry when my Dad started complaining to me about his short “lead time” for answering these questions. My sister cracked up when I shared this with her.

“But he’s retired!” she exclaimed.

“I know! Plus I’m the one writing the article!”

Still, feeling like I didn’t want to turn something that was supposed to be fun into something stressful for them, I called back to let them know I’d found some additional authors to write articles for the Summer Travel Series, so their “lead time” had increased by a few weeks.

My Mom answered the phone and, ignoring what I’d just said, instead started throwing out snippets from every vacation she had ever taken in her entire life. My efforts at redirecting her back to the 3 original questions had zero effect.

My Dad then advised me that he had “a couple of angles” on several different trips he’d taken.

With their octogenarian days fast approaching, I quickly realized what was going on. My parents had decided they’d had it with rules and deadlines. They’d reached an age where they’d only cooperate on their own terms. At any second, I half expected one or the other of them to school me with an Eric Cartman-style “I do what I want”.

So, with both of them going rogue on their travel assignment to pick just one favorite trip, I’d either have to go with the flow, or say sayonara to the whole idea. Rather than fight a losing battle, I instead give you some highlights from the interviews of Ken and Lois Ganobsik.

***

Mom: I’m driving and your Dad’s hanging out the car with the movie camera. We almost collided with a fence in the car at the Kennedy compound.

Me: Wait, what do you mean you almost collided with a fence? While you were driving?

Mom: No, we were parked! (said as if I’m the biggest idiot in the world). At that Kennedy place, you know.

Me: Are you talking about Hyannis Port?

Mom: Yeah, we were parked by the fence and we got caught by security when we tried to take a picture of the compound over the fence while I had your Dad (propped up) on my hands. But I mean, there was nobody living there, Kennedy was already dead you know, we didn’t know what the big deal was.

Writer’s Note: OMG

Mom: Anyway, we never got the picture because of the security guy. And when Lyssa (my sister) was 6 months old, we went to Jefferson’s place with your grandma and grandfather, and to Washington’s place. Grandma was scared to death at the Blue Ridge parkway because we were up so high and it was foggy. She was praying like crazy. I was washing baby clothes and hanging them out the window to dry as we drove…

***

Dad: I’d have to say the Smokey Mountains was one of my favorite trips – the time we went as a family. It was the southern gateway, N. Carolina into the Smokey Mountains. We stayed at a lodge. We were going to stay at a cabin, but it was too dirty and musty for your Mom.

Mom: Yeah, we walked in there and it looked like something out of an old western.

Dad: She was dry-gulched. We had no electricity in that cabin, it left her dry-gulched.

Me: (laughing) What did you say?

Dad: She was dry-gulched. It’s just a word I use….

Writer’s Note: At this point I’m trying to hold in a belly laugh because my Dad is notorious for making up the names of people – as in, “How’s your friend of 20 years, Sally, doing?”, when her name is actually Jen.  I was sure he’d made the leap into making up entire new words when he spewed out ‘dry-gulched’. Turns out he’ll have the last laugh because it is, in fact, an actual word. 

Dad: Anyway, we were a family together and went about it in a family way. That’s what I liked about it. We rode those cars on the side of the hill, whatya call them Lois?

Mom: CABLE CARS!

Dad: Cable cars! And we went to a Native American village and went to the park of that singer, you know, she’s got an amusement park down there. What’s her name Lois?

Mom: DOLLY PARTON!

Dad: Dolly Parton! I don’t remember the park very much, let me see, I think…

Mom: (interrupting) WE DIDN’T GO TO THE PARK, WE ATE AT ONE OF HER RESTAURANTS!

Dad: We ate at one of her restaurants! That’s right. What kind of food did they have there Lois?

Writer’s Note:  My parents not only seemed to have forgotten that they had me on speaker phone, but at this point, they actually had a whispered conversation in the background trying to remember what type of food they ate forty years ago at Dolly Parton’s restaurant. For some reason unknown to me, this was a top secret discussion that I was forbidden to know anything about until they came to a consensus.

Dad: It was Americana.

Me: OK.

Dad: What was the name of that restaurant Lois?

***

Mom: We fought on all of our trips because we had different ideas.

Dad: Yeah and mine were better, hahaha.

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Mom: (silence, as in ‘the silent treatment’)

Dad: So, uh (clears throat)…your Mom taught herself to swim at General Butler State Park in Kentucky. She did real good.

Mom: I learned by watching Bob, your sisters’ swim instructor, and (first) tried it at General Butler.

Dad: Oh, and I also remember that they had just started building a ski resort in the area – the first one in Kentucky. We thought of Kentucky as a southern state until then. This was eye opener, because we always thought of it as too hot for skiing. That really made me expand my thinking about what we could do (for fun) there. Travel expands the mind.

***

Mom: One of my favorite trips was to Boston because of the history of the place. We walked the path, you know that had different stops from Revolutionary times. What was that called Kenneth?

Dad: THE FREEDOM TRAIL!

Mom: The Freedom Trail! And we went to Paul Revere’s church. It had that bell in there.

Dad: One ring if by land, two if by sea.

Mom: Yeah.

Me: I think that was lanterns you guys, not bells.

Both: (silence, as in shut your face and let us rewrite history if we want – we’re old, we do what we want.)

Dad: Where’s that Liberty Bell. Philadelphia, isn’t it Lois?

Mom: Yeah, Philadelphia. Oh! And your sisters were gaga over the Italian sailors that were in port – you were too young. Do you remember the sailors?

Me: Yes, I was 12.

Mom: We just couldn’t get Lyssa and Kendra to go with us on the Freedom Trail because they were so interested in the sailors.

Dad: We got to tour their ship – Italian – it wasn’t motor-driven, it was sail-driven. It did have a motor too, but it was mostly sail-driven.

Mom: Do you remember the market? What was the name of that market Kenneth?

Dad: QUINCY MARKET!

Mom: Quincy Market! And we had a good time because your Dad’s nephew Greg met us there – he was working in the city and took us to tour MIT. We got stuck on the rotary thing trying to get to downtown Boston. We went round and round many times before finally making it out.

Dad: We’d rented a van, and I couldn’t get it out – every time I made another circle, somebody else would come in and block my way!

Mom: I was getting out of the car and holding onto the door and Greg (accidentally) slammed the door on my hand – he’s had to pay for that forever! Greg took us out for supper at a good seafood place though. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency – very posh. Also, we toured a replica of the Mayflower. It was interesting because I got to see firsthand the history I had studied in school.

Dad: Do you remember that slanted hill – Beacon Hill – with all the row houses? They looked like big shanties – real narrow up and down and had about 1-2 yards in between them. We were shocked at the price – over $100,000 at that time!

Writer’s Note: This was 1986, but I had to smile. Today, the cheapest listings I could find for the area were 1 bedroom apartments for $350,000.

Mom: When we got there, I found out Dad had forgot to pack my clothes. I only had undies. He’d taken my suitcase out in the garage to rearrange things in order to fit everything into the trunk, and forgot to repack it. I was so mad at him. But I managed to do fine with 2 outfits for the week. I found out you don’t ever need that many clothes. I learned to travel light.

***

Mom: Dad broke my car when he went out west with Grandpie and Keith – I just got finished paying for it and it never worked right after that.

(Mumbles from my Dad in the background)

Mom: It never worked right after that Kenneth, don’t argue with me!

(Softer mumbles from my Dad in the background)

Dad: Going on vacation isn’t all heavenly stuff, you have to roll with the punch in life, and vacation teaches that. You learn to work together on a vacation to have the most fun possible.

***

By the end of the interviews, my Dad’s original resistance to the short “lead time” had turned into him not being able to stop the flow of memories. My Mom was so into the conversation that she took the phone into the bathroom with her at one point – I know this because I heard the toilet flushing while she was throwing in her 2 cents about my Dad’s interview answers.

What was the biggest lesson I learned from all their travel recollections? It was this: They were proud of their lifelong back-and-forth bickering. It had enabled them to hang onto their own identities while still holding together a marriage, to travel through life together while still marching to the beat of their own drums.

-Kirstie Ganobsik


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3 thoughts to “ADVENTURES OF A SEPTUAGENARIAN AND OCTOGENARIAN”

  1. I have to say, that in our defense (mine and Lyss’s), we were teenagers… of COURSE we were interested in the Italian sailors; many were only a few years older than us… But, we were ALSO interested in the Freedom Trail. We did walk the Freedom Trail; we were just moving a little bit more quickly than everybody else!

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