My dad was a unique soul. He was a brilliant architect but experienced such inner demons after his battle stint in World War II that he did not feel comfortable staying in one place for any length of time. We would spend six or seven months of the year traveling cross country in our Volkswagen camper, driving on the side roads through tiny towns.
My dad was good at finding free places to stop along the way for me and my brother to play. Every little town had a playground, and he would search for one as a place to stop for lunch. I would carry my brother and put him in a swing, often sitting next to him and swinging myself. If there were other children there, I would strike up a conversation and make new friends. A few times, my dad found a community pool where we could swim, which was very exciting because swimming was a favorite activity of mine. He was not interested in stopping at scenic sights, as evidenced by the fact that he drove right by the Grand Canyon while we were asleep in the car. He also drove past Las Vegas while my mother napped, much to her discernment. He was only interested in driving, driving, and driving. We drove to the coast of California without ever seeing the ocean because he quickly turned around and headed back in the other direction.
For our home, my dad purchased a small, one bedroom summer cottage on Little Pond in Warwick. He put his frenetic, memory impairing energy into renovating the home into a three-bedroom ranch style home, the same home in which I currently live. The humorous thing is, he was not an expert in this area, and the house is full of building errors that still plague us today. The basement was not dug deep enough, and after the plumbing and ceiling tiles were put in, six-foot four-inch-tall Hubby cannot go down there without bending over in half. The plumbing itself was done incorrectly, with the hot and cold water reversed. My father made door frames that were all different and not proper width and height, which was fine at the time because he just cut the doors down to fit them. Today, however, we are stuck with door frames too small for any standard door. Many other small things were done “creatively”, but all in all it has been a great house in which to raise a family.
My dad, a huge miser, did not want to spend money on utilities, so the house had no heat or hot water. A wood stove in the living room spewed warm air throughout the house, and make-shift solar panels provided warm, (not hot) water for a bath or shower. In reality, this made it easier for me to adjust during our month-long treks to the far reaches of the country where hot water for showers was generally unavailable and during the cold weather, insulated underwear and winter jackets were worn. Because I was raised in this manner, it did not seem unusual for me.
We never ate out in restaurants with the exception of a celebratory trip to the Cape Cod Ice Cream Restaurant on Reservoir Avenue in Cranston for my parent’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary where we splurged on hot fudge sundaes. We did, however, frequent the Burger Chef that was on Post Road in Warwick where we sat in the van and ate the five cent hamburgers.
My dad was not talkative or affectionate. It was not until he was on his deathbed that he looked me clearly in the eyes and for the first time said he loved me. However, I already knew that because, when traveling with him when I was younger, he always found a fun spot for me to play. For a dad with a mental illness from which he was always on the move, it was a sacrifice for him to sit and wait for me and my brother to frolic on the swings or glide down the slides. That was love, indeed.
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