My father lives in Phoenix, Arizona now which means the time we have together is significantly less than it was when he lived 30 minutes away from me in Columbia, Maryland. I have been saying I was going to get out to visit him but something always comes up. In fact, the last two times I saw him he was here in the DC area on business for a few days, and we would have time to spend only a few hours together. It was better than not seeing him at all, but it fell far short of the type of substantive visits I am used to experiencing with my dad.
A couple weeks ago, I received an email from the University of Pennsylvania regarding their annual Penn Relays track meet. I initially forwarded the email to my brother and my father, in hopes that all three (four when you throw in my nephew) could go on a road trip. Sadly, my brother and nephew were unable to attend, which meant my dad and I would be going alone.
The first thing I did when I realized my dad and I would be road tripping was make a playlist based on the songs he said he liked (I blogged about some of his list here) The Thursday before the trip I enjoyed a few glasses wine, I rolled up my sleeves and I got knee deep in Tidal (which I only joined because they had all the Prince songs that Spotify lacked) and I made an 140-song playlist of songs my dad loves. It was an arduous task, but the wine helped as did me anticipating my dad's reaction to hearing some of these songs. I included all of the songs he initially sent to me, then I added some songs I knew he had omitted. The plan was to talk to my dad while being serenaded by all of these lovely songs.
I went to pick him up from his hotel at 8am, and then we took that two-hour drive to Philadelphia from Washington D.C. We discussed family, sports and music, music, music. There were songs from Quincy Jones, Dianne Reeves, Lalah Hathaway, The Temptations, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown and even Beyonce--my dad loves Beyonce's song "Love on Top", because he says it reminds him of songs female artists sang in the 70s. He gets a pass for that, because every time one of the other songs came on, my dad would have some type of accompanying story or memory with the song, which is why I wanted to put this list together in the first place. I wanted to learn, I wanted to talk, and mainly I wanted to be a son around my father. It sounds simple and borderline corny, but most of my life is about me being a manager at work, a father to my sons and a husband to my wife. Occasionally a brother needs a a change of pace and that time with my dad provided that.
Once we arrived at the Relays we turned into two track and field fans. We had our stopwatches out, we analyzed all of the relays, we talked to some of the folks around us, and of course we marveled at the thousands of Jamaicans in attendance--they come in droves every year and this year was no except, even without Usain Bolt in attendance. We saw Sanya Richards Ross, Justin Gatlin, Jeremy Wariner but sadly no Allyson Felix who my dad has a huge crush on. I realize most people aren't track fans, so hopefully one or all of those names look familiar, but if not I wouldn't be surprised. It was fun, and we sat in 60 degree weather for nearly four hours watching race after race.
On the way home, we talked a little about track and field, a little about Prince, but most of the ride was us talking about his favorite memories of his parents and the circumstances surrounding his divorce of my mother. It was deep and a little emotional at times, but it was exactly what I wanted out of a day trip. I love my dad and I still consider him to be my hero. And on a slightly less corny note, I highly suggest that everyone go on a road trip with one or both of their parents. It is truly a beautiful experience..
And now a selection from my dad's playlist: