My parents left on Friday. In the big truck pulling the big trailer and heading west. The destination is Colorado. For now. In the fall it’ll probably be the Gulf coast. Or maybe California or New Mexico. It doesn’t matter where. They’re full-timers again. That trailer is their home and it sits wherever they want it to sit. They are tethered to nothing but their whims from now on and maybe (hopefully) forever.
This isn’t the first time they’ve done this. After they retired ten or eleven years ago they got a big RV, sold their house and did the full-timing thing for a couple of years. Colorado. Some San Diego. Some Corpus Christi and around and back again. But in 2008 they got an urge to be near my kids who were just a bit more than babies then. They sold the big RV, got an apartment and set up shop two miles from me.
It was wonderful to have them near me for these past few years. My mom was indispensable as a babysitter and all-around helper as I navigated my way through the end of my legal career, into my writing career and then into life as a single father when my marriage crumbled. My father, who passed the past few years driving school busses in Westerville and New Albany, was indispensable as a co-caretaker of my house, car and yard, re-teaching me the lessons of home, garden and automobile maintenance that didn’t really take 25 years ago while I looked off into my own future and ignored so many of the basic lessons of young male adulthood.
They both also, unequivocally, have been my best and closest friends over the past five or six years. I spent so much time in my teens doing everything I could to separate myself from my family, to become my own person and to make a point of getting out of my childhood home as soon as I could without looking back. I wouldn’t change that if I had it to do all over again because I needed all of that to happen the way it did, but I am so very grateful that I had the opportunity to have my parents near me these past few years. I could have gotten by without them if I had to, but it would’ve been so much harder and so much less fulfilling. Having them around my children and me has been wonderful. Having a close relationship with family by choice, instead of out of some sense of obligation, is one of life’s better things.
But it was time for them to move on. The kids are older now and they don’t need babysitting in the same way they used to. My parents are still young and healthy enough to where they can go out and find new and exciting experiences, but they are old enough to where doing so is no longer best thought of as some future theoretical but, rather, a practical and necessary thing. If they waited to hit the road any longer they may not have done it. They would’ve thought about some doctor’s appointment or some school play or some business trip of mine for which prudence would have told them “maybe we should stick around for a few more months."
Fuck prudence. There are always reasons to remain in stasis if one looks hard enough. It takes some courage to leave one’s comfort zone and go out to wherever one’s whims may take them. And that’s what my parents have done. I’m glad they have. It’s so very appropriate for them.
My dad left for the Navy when he was 17 and saw the world. My mom left when she was 18 to go off with my dad to who knows where. They both went off to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan and then on to Alaska of all fucking places in the 60s. They set up a home and had kids in Michigan in the 70s. In the 80s, searching for something more, they went to West Virginia. Then on to Tennessee and back to Michigan and on the road and on to Ohio and now back on the road again. Along the way they have lived a life and taught me lessons which embody the notion that family is what you decide it is, not that to which blood obligates you. They have taught me that home is where one hangs one’s hat, not where one ends up, never questioning how one got there.
Through it all – through good times and bad, rough seas and smooth sailing – they have had each other. At times they’ve had my brother and me, but for most of their 47 years together it has just been them. And now it’s just them again. Out on the highway. Or up in the mountains. Or out in the desert. Living a life that, however complicated it ever got, now boils down to just them and whatever basics of life fit into their big ass RV. I’ve never seen them as happy and excited about life as I’ve seen them these past few months preparing to hit the road again. I’ve never known them to be happier than when they have no one else but each other and, maybe some beautiful and inspiring scenery with which to pass the time.
I don’t know if this new phase of their lives will last two years or ten years. If it’ll be just one thing before the next thing or if it’ll prove to be the last thing they ever do. All I know is that, right now, when there is nothing to stop them, they are going off and doing exactly what they want to do. And that’s all anyone should do. Maybe ever, but especially when they’ve reached the part of life where my parents find themselves.
I last spoke with them when they were outside of Kansas City. By now I expect they’re someplace in the Rocky Mountains. Here’s hoping that they remain as rootless and restless as they always have been. For that is what has always sent them on to their next and best adventures.