Take Me Home

route 66 3.jpg

Whether it is Christmas, a birthday or an anniversary, I am always in search of the perfect gift.  I look and look and look.  I think and think and think.  I want it to be heartfelt, genuine and full of meaning- it needs to be just right.  My usual pattern is to wait until the last minute, run out of time and send or buy a meaningless gift card, and end up feeling awful!  Then, I do it all over again for the next gift giving occasion.

This year was different.  A few years ago, my 80+ year old Dad declared that he was going to sell his house and move to Wisconsin (where he grew up) for the final years of his life.  Much to the disappointment of me and my siblings, we tried to convince him to move closer to one of us so he would not be alone- he wouldn’t budge.  The decision was made and this is what he was doing. Done. No further discussion.

Over the past two years he has been decluttering and downsizing.  How do you take a lifetime of memories and decide what to keep, what to give away and what to throw away?  The pressure was on.  What was I going to send him for Christmas this year?

I held to my usual pattern of looking and thinking and waiting until the last minute but then, in the final hour, I found it.  My Dad loves to read and with his upcoming move to Madison, WI, I thought he might enjoy a book about the area.  Thank goodness for Amazon.  I googled Madison, WI.  There were so many choices; Best Hikes Near Madison, Canoeing and Kayaking In Madison, Best Food in Madison, 100 Things to Do in Madison Before You Die, The Bridges of Madison County….

NO!  None of those worked.  My 80+ year old Dad would not be hiking, canoeing or kayaking. He almost certainly has already read and seen the movie, The Bridges of Madison County.  And I certainly was NOT going to send him a book on 100 Things to Do in Madison Before You Die.  Now what?

Then, there it was.  Route 66 in Madison County (which I have since learned is in Illinois and not Wisconsin- oh well).  That was it.  That was the perfect gift.  He would love it.  Into the shopping cart, fill out the gift card, pay and send.  Done.  No awful feelings this year about my gift giving- I was feeling good and ready for our upcoming holiday vacation.

When we returned home- there was a card in the mail from my Dad, a thank you card with a note.  On the top it read, “Route 66- A page from the past as I remember”.  Much to my surprise, my Dad recounted a story from the early 1950’s when he and a few of his Marine buddies traveled from California to Wisconsin while they were on leave.  Even then, he shared, Route 66 was all it has been touted to be over the years with drive-ins, motels and weird tourist stops.  Apparently, the crew was stopped somewhere in New Mexico by the police with lights flashing and sirens blaring.  They were thought to be prison escapees in a stolen vehicle.  Even though they had their USMC IDs and orders, it wasn’t until they popped the hood of their 1949 Grey 2-door Ford that they would be freed.  The stolen vehicle had eight cylinders- theirs had six.  My Dad has endless Route 66 stories that he claims are getting better with each telling. 

I didn’t know.  As I read his note, I welled up with tears.  I didn’t know this really would be “the perfect gift”.  I didn’t know he had travelled on Route 66 with his two Marine buddies.  I didn’t know that he would have endless Route 66 stories to share with me.

There is so much I don’t know but what became clear to me is that my Dad wants to go home, to be in Wisconsin, where he belongs, where his memories are.  Wasn’t it John Denver who sang “Country roads, take me home, To the place I belong”? 

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About the Author ~

Kelly is a Boston-based mom with a 20+ year career in the field of Social Work, Education and Healthcare. She is surrounded by awesome men in her life; her husband, her teenage son, and their 9 year old dog, Ruffles (named after the potato chips). Kelly’s love of running helps her work through whatever life throws her way. She’s open to new adventures and takes it as it comes.

Kelly McAdams