Nights that ran later than expected, distances harder to cover than time allowed, were spent in rest stops or Walmart parking lots. A one night stand with neon lights or trucker men or pig trucks full of squealing mad swine before we rose to eat and be on our way again. Showers run by quarter slots and air toilets that were water-free, a travelers life was adventure surely.
Five weeks hopping across state lines from one Kampground (why the K?) of America -KOA- to the next. We knew we had arrived the moment an A-frame manager's office came into view, usually flanked by some sort of play yard complete with a self-spun merry-go-rounds and a basketball court. Sometimes if we were lucky, there'd be a green, cloudy fishing lake with small, spiny fish to catch. We'd spend hours balling up Valveeta, baiting our hook, and casting lines. He taught us to take a fish off the thorny hook without jabbing our fingers, kiss it goodbye, and toss it back into it's watery haven.
But, only so many fish can be caught, so many games of H-O-R-S-E shot, so many Razor scooter laps completed before dad would grow tired of entertaining us. He'd be weary from long hours at the helm and wish for some space from childhood while we played outside. So, being the problem solver he was, took to making us friends.
As soon as that first morning's light dawned on the spectacle that was us, he'd drag us out to follow him on our bikes and "help" us make some friends -who doesn't need friends from other states? he'd say. We'd ride along behind him, rolling our eyes, blushing with embarrassment. And he'd find them -boys and girls, young and older, families and only children. We'd play basketball or fish or swing and slide. We'd giggle and laugh and, as it is with kids, the shyness would melt away really fast.
Now, despite me being a grown-up girl who can make her own friends, he's doing it still -making me friends, that is. He's letting me share our story and he's sneaking into your hearts and bringing you here where we're getting to know one another, letting the shyness melt away, sharing in the real shit that makes up our lives. And while he's doing the introducing, you and I are doing the getting to know one another, we're skipping small things and diving deep into BIG ones, we're doing friendship good.
Happy Birthday (a day early) Dad,
Thanks for throwing us into the friendly fire.
Making friends has always been something I wish I did like you.
I guess it's important to find the way that works for me,
That's surely what you would say.
I hope you're celebrating your birthday today even if it's not in the typical way.
You can finish your journey onto Heaven now.
We'll miss you something fierce.
And love you something deep.