Being a dad means a lot of things and, looking back at my Dad’s parenting career, I’d have to say that one of those things…a HUGE thing…was learning to compromise. Especially when you are the only man in a houseful of girls.
My dad was a manly, power-tool loving, football cheering, John Wayne doppelganger kind of guy. He was a funny, strong, outspoken, smart, you-don’t-have-to-ask-his-opinion man. A man’s man through and through.
He and my dear mom first had sweet baby Cindy–Daddy’s girl. Then, I’m sure everyone thought baby number two would be a boy. But no, they had cute little Terry. Daddy’s second girl. Now technically, “Terry” with a “y” is considered the boy spelling, so maybe dad was going for something there…but no, he was thrilled with his two pretty girls.
A few years later, in a didn’t-plan-it-didn’t-prevent-it accident…wait, they called it a “pleasant surprise” to spare me years of therapy…Mom and Dad were blessed with another pregnancy. Everyone was absolutely sure this one would be a boy. Even the doctor said it would be a boy, though there were no ultrasounds at the time. I’m guessing Doc must have done the spoon tied to a string dangling over Mom’s belly test or some other completely unreliable voodoo procedure.
I say unreliable because I am, of course, Daddy’s girl number three. Dad did not regret his three girls one tiny bit. Of course he did bolt out to get a vasectomy immediately after I was born, but without regret. Too much information? Sorry.
So I’m pretty sure my Dad’s life was in no small part about compromise. A big manly-man doesn’t live in a house with a wife and three girls without a little give and take. And there was a lot of give on his part. A lot. He was that kind of dad.
On this father’s day, I’m reminded of one huge check in Dad’s give column. The take-the-entire-family-to-Disney-World give, and at this point, “family” included spouses and four grandkids. If you knew my dad, this gesture deserved more than the obvious “wow, that’s a lot of people to treat in Disney” reaction.
Let me give you a little background. Dad was not exactly a family vacay kind of guy. Not that he didn’t enjoy spending time with everyone, he loved family time more than anything. It’s just that he loved family time at home. Preferably HIS home.
So, on Christmas Day, in 1990-someodd (I am not particularly good with dates), my father made the grand announcement, to a gathering of his children and his grandchildren that in June, just after the last day of school, he was treating everyone to a Disney World vacation extravaganza.
Everyone said YAY! I sat stunned and said, “Really?”
Then I said yay too…because I didn’t want to appear ungrateful. But REALLY? The man who didn’t care for travel. The man who didn’t particularly care to fly. The man who most loved being home, tending his amazing veggie garden, was going to go to Disney? In the heat of the summer? At the peak of tourist season?
Well there’s that compromise part. Big time. Dad probably NEVER really wanted to go to Disney World, but he knew it would be the trip of a lifetime for all of the kids (adult and actual).
My mother had worked with a travel agent and the whole trip was in the bag. Piece of cake. Take eleven people to Disney. Sure. Easy. Yikes.
At this particular phase in my life, I was working in Corporate America for CITGO Petroleum. We had annual conventions for all of our branded marketers. I helped plan them. The one place on earth where it was easy to find lots of space and entertainment for a couple thousand of your closest friends, was/is (drumroll) ORLANDO! So let’s just say I had been traveling to and from Orlando several times a year for several years. Let’s just say I knew the route. Really well. Really bleeping well.
I was, however, completely on board with Dad’s vision of the whole family strolling hand-in-hand through the Magic Kingdom. It was going to happen and it was going to be awesome. Dammit. Awesome.
So fast forward to June. We all checked in at the airport on time. That went well. We all got on the airplane. The same plane. That went well. We all made our connecting flight in Dallas. That went well. We all made it to Orlando. That went well.
If it seems to you that this is all going too smoothly, you’re a clever one. We all went to claim our luggage. That didn’t go so well.
Whose luggage do you suppose did not make it to Orlando? You guessed it. Mr. Compromise. Dear old Dad.
Since I had the most/most recent travel experience at that time, my family parked in a lovely airport seating area while I headed off to file a lost luggage report on Dad’s behalf. The suitcase was described…tracking was underway…I was given an 800 number to call to check on the progress of Dad’s delinquent suitcase. The suitcase with EVERY essential in it. The suitcase that was likely off on its own vacay in Tahiti or some such destination.
Soooo…Dad was a bit OCD when it came to organization and preparedness. We were the family that would never run out of foil, toilet paper, or toothpaste. There were cabinets in Dad’s garage filled with the stuff. And it was all exactly in place. Labeled.
With this background information, you can well imagine how Dad’s stress level might have started to ratchet up a tad. However, after a few moments cursing the airline under his breath, he took a deep breath, plastered a smile on his face, uttered the obligatory “it’s no big deal,” and we all headed out to board the bus. In Dad’s world I suspect that mass transit was just another rung on his personal ladder to hell, but he took it all in stride. Without his suitcase.
We made it to the hotel. It was late afternoon at this point, so I suggested that we stop by the gift shop to purchase a few essentials for Dad in case his suitcase did not appear that night. I was met by Dad’s wide-eyed “what do you mean it might not be here tonight” expression, which he quickly traded for his “no big deal” forced smile. He then purchased a few toiletries, an incredibly expensive pair of boxer shorts, and a Mickey Mouse golf shirt.
I am pleased to report that Dad’s luggage did arrive later that evening. Much later. After midnight later. And they knocked on the door. Waking my parents. After midnight, after a full day of Gallimore Family Vacation travel. I’m pretty sure Dad greeted the bellman in his new Goofy-themed boxer shorts without a smile plastered on his face. “No. Big. Deal.” (It was becoming somewhat of a mantra at this point.)
Ok. Let the vacation begin! While it may seem that things got off to a little rocky start, and despite the fact that I was initially a little jaded after so very many business trips to Orlando, the Gallimore Family Disney Extravaganza was actually a magical time.
Though Dad’s vision of the whole family strolling off to find Mickey together wasn’t totally realistic considering the 40 million other families that had the same vision; we did improvise with a well-orchestrated divide and conquer strategy. My sisters and I devised a quick plan to alternate hanging out with Mom and Dad while the other two-thirds of the family would bolt off to hit the two-hour-wait lines that would eventually lead to rides that Dad would NEVER step foot on.
The third of the family on “Mom and Dad duty” would stroll casually, enjoying sights, parades, and characters. The on-duty third would make well-planned visits to various big attractions just in time for Dad to see the grandkids screaming in delight.
At midday, we’d all meet up for an air-conditioned lunch and then Mom and Dad would often head back to just enjoy a little quiet time at the hotel pool while their little darlings turned into sweaty, wonder-filled bundles of Disney adrenaline/exhaustion. Then we’d all meet back up for dinner followed by oooo-ahhhhh fireworks.
Dad compromised, he took the entire family on a trip that probably had little to no appeal for him, and he was our hero. Though it was certainly not his ideal vacation (his ideal vacation would have been a week at home to catch up on his DIY projects), his joy was in seeing his family have fun. Nothing made him happier.
And Tigger. I think Tigger made it a pretty good vacation too. He and Dad definitely bonded over the course of the week.
Thanks Dad. For making so many big and little dreams come true throughout or lives, I thank you. Happy Father’s Day. I love you. I miss you.