Recently, I spent some time with my Dad, and as you might imagine, I quickly adapted his routine while there. My Dad is just over 70, but is doing extremely well and can get around fairly good for a man of his years. I think one of the most memorable parts of his routine was how each day started. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I was to be awake and ready to walk out the door by 5:45 the morning. Keep in mind that while I'm there, I'm technically on vacation and I am having to get out of bed at 5:45 in the morning on days that are supposed to be for sleeping in. No easy task.
Anyway, after dragging myself out on an ungodly hour on my day off, I would be standing in the living room waiting for my Dad to slip on his coat and hat so we could head to the local diner. Usually, he would ask me to drive – – not that he wasn't capable but if I was driving it made it easier for him to accomplish small errands on the way to and from the diner. Nothing major, just dropping a letter off at the post office, maybe locking the front gate open in case a delivery was due that day... just little parts of daily life.
Even though my Dad has a newer car, he bought an add-on GPS that now sits on the dashboard. I think the overall distance from my Dad's house to the diner is about 7 miles at most. However, on both the trip to the restaurant and the trip back, he insists on setting the GPS for the journey. I'm really not sure of more than one way to get from here to there and back, and I think you'd really have to try to get lost. He did tell me at one point that he was just fascinated by the fact that a satellite in space had the ability to track millions of cars at once (one of them being his) as they went on their journeys. I guess maybe I was jaded by the technology, but if you think about it, a GPS is pretty amazing.
As I said, the journey is only about 7 miles, so it is relatively quick. The town that he lives near only has one stoplight and at 5:45 in the morning there simply is not much traffic to even cause the light to be necessary. It is a beautiful little town, but it's one major claim to fame is being identified on the AAA list of towns that is a known speed trap. The speed goes from 55, to 45, to 35 in the course of a single mile. It is actually not difficult to make the car decelerate within that span of distance, but most people just aren't paying attention and before you know it they're doing 55 in a 35 with a cop on their tail. I watch my speed through town.
Once we arrive at the diner he has a particular parking spot that we have to pull into. Actually, I should say he has a particular place that we have to back into. Once parked and we enter the diner, there is already a cup of coffee sitting in his spot, at his table. His waitress knows exactly what he wants on each of the three days of the week since it does vary based on the day but not from week to week. I am the wild card, and she actually has to ask if I want coffee and what I plan on eating that particular day. Usually, I order the same as him just to keep things easy.
As we eat, he talks to me about some of the changes in local politics in the town that have occurred since my last visit. I never lived in this town, as my parents moved here after I had gone to college, so I have no real point of reference for any of the things he's talking about. But I nod and enjoy just hearing my Dad talk about things. Some of the stories are repeated from prior visits or even from this visit, but that's okay. As we eat, several folks come into the diner and sit at the various tables throughout or the counter. Almost all take a moment to speak to my Father or at least say "good morning." It is a small town, and part of the charm of a small town is being known by your neighbors.
At some point, while we are eating our meal, my Dad will take out a bill from his wallet and put it on the table. At this point, the waitress has not dropped off the check, but I guess he is making the assumption that at some stage it will come and the money will be ready to go with it. The standard procedure is for the waitress to just drop off the check, and take the bill at the same time, then return the change to the table without my Dad or her even speaking. I guess my Father probably knows exactly what the bill is based on the day of the week when he is there by himself.
We both finish eating and leisurely finish off our coffee. Then with no words about Dad's actual intent, my Dad puts his hat back on and slips back into his jacket. I take it that he is ready to leave. Most of the change that the waitress brought still lies upon the table and will become the tip. As we start to walk out the door, the staff behind the counter bids him goodbye, and several folks at the various tables wave as we walk out.
Back in the car, we take another trip through town and then down the country road that leads back to his house. Thanks to the GPS and the close watch on the speedometer, the journey itself is quite routine. Along the way, I stop at the box by the road and pick up the newspaper that was delivered at some point while we were gone. While he feeds the dogs, I head into the house and turn the lights back on, as it is only 6:30 AM or so and still quite dark.
All of this may seem really mundane, but when you haven't seen your dad in a while, just spending time with him is precious. My mind also wanders sometimes when he is talking, and I remember things that happened over the course of my life while I was living at home and growing up. Different ways that he handles things and things he said during that period that he still says now. It's nice to have times like these.
He eventually comes back in and after taking off his coat and hat meets me in the living room where we sit in the recliners, turn on the news, and quickly fall asleep. The after breakfast nap is also part of the routine. I think my Dad is probably a genius.