Father, Sons and Road Trips
I have often told any father who has a son or daughter in high school that my most memorable experience with either of my sons was not on a ride at Disneyworld, not on a family vacation, not sitting on wooden bleachers watching an athletic event, or perched nervously in the third row at a senior music recital.
It was on a road trip looking at prospective colleges.
So, when my youngest son Blake announced that he was going to spend his last collegiate spring break not hitting the bars at Daytona Beach or Mardi Gras, but instead re-visiting his final three choices for graduate school, I took a deep breath, braced myself for a polite rejection, and timidly asked if he wanted a navigator.
And he never hesitated.
So last Sunday I flew into DC where he picked me up at the airport, and we headed north by car toward New York, not planning to make a U-turn until we finished the week in Boston.
Now I have a reputation of being able to organize just about any event, but I left the details of this trip up to Blake, knowing my role in this production would be to rapidly repeat, while extending my Visa card, my one key line, “I’ll get this.”
And I was not disappointed. Blake smiled condescendingly as he glanced over at my U.S. atlas and AAA guidebooks, which, as it turned out, couldn’t compete with the speed and accuracy of Blake’s Google maps and a half dozen restaurant and traffic apps on his cell phone. He had each day’s itinerary carefully planned out, along with scheduled appointments with department heads, tour guides, professors, students, and financial aid officers.
I just had to find the nearest Starbucks, open my laptop, and wait patiently for his “all-clear” call.
Of course, along the way I could not help but point out Arts and Crafts tiles in the Manhattan subway stations (pictured), carved gothic gargoyles protruding from historic structures, major art museums, and locations with an Arts and Crafts heritage: Dedham, Chelsea, Marblehead, Byrdcliffe, Rose Valley, Craftsman Farms. . . .
And Blake was receptive, as he grew up in an Arts and Crafts home and his first paying job was stuffing envelopes for the annual Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts Conference, which is four years older than him. He even took time away from classes last month to drive down to Asheville to work at the most recent Arts and Crafts Conference, which was when he first mentioned his plans for spring break.
And my best piece of advice for fathers preparing for a road trip with one of your children: don’t fill a vacuum with mindless chatter, especially with too many questions. Be a listener, not a talker. And until asked, keep your opinions of their plans to yourself. We men have a tendency to want to immediately solve any problem we — or anyone around us — encounter.
Breaking News: sometimes they don’t want us to solve their problems.
So, when you get the opportunity to take a road trip with your young adult child, don’t pass it up.
Work will wait.
Until next Monday,