Tuesday, December 16, 2014

(Re)Mindfulness and the Wayback Machine

My dad got a new truck about a year ago. I don’t think I did more than admire the deep green metal flake exterior before last week, when he stopped by en route from my parents’ home in the Pineywoods of northeast Texas to an appointment with destiny at the very southern tip of the state.

My mom has long been encouraging a parental move back to the Coastal Bend, where they both grew up and where the majority of the extended family still (or again) lives.

Papa has been resistant, for reasons I’m not sure I entirely understand but have something to do with a love for tall, whispering pines that recall carefree college days and a deep-seated dissatisfaction with what his sleepy hometown on the coast has become (someone had the nerve to put in six – count ‘em SIX – traffic lights a few years back!).

The devious woman who gave birth to me has tried various strategies to get the move underway, including this rather blatant bribe: “Honey, don’t you think you should get a boat?”

He’s a guy who grew up in Rockport. A guy who worked on boats professionally for four years of his young adulthood. The idea took root, finally blossomed.

My brother and I went to work scouring YachtWorld and Craigslist for suitable vessels. There were several spirited debates about the type of boat that would be best, the price range, the power package.

In the end, we located an almost-new center console with a fuel-efficient outboard and high gunwales (for the grandkids, you know) and warranties on everything.

In San Benito, 546 miles from where the folks live now.

I already had a trip planned down that way with my oldest boy, to harass some snook and get a look at the USS Forrestal and USS Saratoga, currently being recycled in Brownsville. That trip fell through due to a couple of unmissable finals reviews for the teenager, so I shifted gears and planned the trip with my brother, who, fortuitously, was off work those couple of days.

That got nixed when his 5-year-old caught the flu.

Then Papa decided he wanted to make the drive and pick up the boat himself: “Can you go with me?” he asked.

Well, sure.

So it ended up being a father-and-son trip after all, with one of the same individuals but a different father and son. We shifted-up a generation.

My dad’s truck rides like a limousine and has so many bells and whistles that my father had to operate the electronics while I was driving.

Our route took us through the northeastern corner of the Eagle Ford Shale boom, through the King Ranch and deep into the Rio Grande Valley (yes, we know it’s really a delta, and it’s as flat as Ally McBeal, but we still call it “El Valle”).

Papa is halfway between 65 and 70, closing in on 70. In my own middle age now, I have more in common with him today than perhaps ever before. Or at least since I was his mini-me nearly half a century ago.

What surprised me, more than it should have perhaps, is what he has forgotten … his, well .. tentativeness, about things I figured he was comfortable with, because they are things he taught me 25 or 30 or 35 years ago.

For decades now he has deferred those simple pleasures in favor of work and more work … work that has financed kids’ educations and moves, financed kids’ boats and adventures … he’s still working, but he is finally getting to enjoy some of the fruits of his labor.

Like the spaceship truck, this week our wayback machine; like listening to Jimmy Buffet (something else he introduced me to, back when A1A was a recent release) with a fishing pole in his hand on his boat. And actually catching a fish.

It’s about damned time.

We even got to fish with my brother on the way home, all of us risking spousal disapproval by taking a little extra time to “try out the boat again” and also try out one of my brother’s top-secret winter fishing holes.

It was an excellent time, all around. 

It was time, life's greatest gift, and something I am more keenly aware of  every more rapidly passing year. Especially given my work schedule, which compresses the best part of my life into two-week vignettes.

That gift of time is enough, to be sure. And not everything in life has to be a teaching (or learning) moment or have some profound underlying meaning.

But our trip south last week also got me to thinking about the things I do with my own kids, the things I introduce them to or teach them as a matter of course that someday I won’t even remember. Things that may loom large in their eventual, complex understandings of how they came to be the people they will be.

No pressure, there.


  1. This is what disturbs me about Uncle Dick,"What surprised me, more than it should have perhaps, is what he has forgotten … his, well .. tentativeness, about things I figured he was comfortable with, because they are things he taught me 25 or 30 or 35 years ago."
    As his wife I find it disconcerting when I know it is that he has actually learned his limits, maybe I should say finally learned, and it is a sadness to me of his growing old. I know I have grown old, but for some reason even though I am infirm in many ways, I still am stubborn enough to think I can still do anything I put my mind too. Not too smart I guess.
    Anyway so glad you got that trip and have the talent to write and share it as you do.
    Aunt Ruth

  2. Aunt Ruth, thanks! As little as I get to see you guys these days, I think you are both still pretty darned (formidably, actually) sharp! I enjoyed my conversation with Uncle Dick over pie and coffee Thanksgiving week ... we got sidetracked before we could delve into the county boundaries around the peninsula; hope we can get back to that next time. Love you both, and thanks for reading!