We started out last Saturday from their home in Missouri and spent the night in Knoxville, Tennessee. On Sunday morning, we drove through the beautiful Smoky Mountains before arriving in Mooresville, North Carolina that afternoon at the home of my father’s Navy buddy, Donn.
At 82, Donn is a little more than a year older than Dad. On a typical morning, he walks three miles before returning home for breakfast. Time changes things, though, and Dad, Mom and their friends cannot travel as easily as they once did.
On Monday, the girls did a little browsing at one of Mooresville’s antique stores while the Navy boys stayed at home and reminisced. I saw a lot of “pretties” and bargains, but I resisted the temptation to bring anything home.
Tuesday brought the younger set to Donn and Mollie’s home. Her daughter had business to attend to in Charlotte with her husband, so Mollie offered to have her youngest grandson, Jacob, spend a few hours with us until she returned. I enjoyed spoiling him a little bit, and he decided I was his pal.
Tuesday evening, we celebrated our reunion at a local steakhouse where the waiter was kind enough to take a snapshot of our little group, and I took a quick snapshot of two sailors.
On Wednesday morning, we had a light breakfast before heading northeast toward Stafford, Virginia to see a few more friends.
It had been years since my last visit to Aquia Creek, a tributary to the Potomac River. Our friend Barbara lives about a mile from the confluence of the two waterways. The shores of Maryland provide the horizon on the northeast side of the Potomac. She had a wonderful dinner ready for us when we arrived, and her three daughters, Joyce, Cathy and Connie were there to greet us.
Once again I was reminded of how time changes things. Barbara, who is nearing her 80th birthday, is a widow now. Her husband, Wilson, was a gem of a guy and worked with my father in the Army’s Aviation Systems Command in St. Louis in the early to mid 60’s.
Wilson was eventually transferred to Washington D.C. I have good memories of being with their three daughters and swimming in the creek off their dock when we traveled east to visit. The pylons remain, but I understand the dock has been gone for several years now.
On Thursday, Dad, Mom, Barbara, Connie and I headed southeast toward Chesapeake Bay. It would have been too much of a drive to see the bay, but we had lunch at a restaurant called Leadbelly’s at Fairpoint Marina near Reedville.
Though it was a long round trip to have lunch, the food was good, and we had an excellent day.
I was glad for the reunion with Barbara and her daughters, but I especially enjoyed seeing Connie, who is closest to my age. I was invited to spend the first of the two nights at her home. She’s a lovely person who lost her husband to cancer 18 months ago. It had been too long since we had seen each other (we were both in high school), so we promised to be better about keeping in touch.
Friday morning seemed to come too quickly. It was time to go home. We headed south to Fredericksburg, turned westward and enjoyed the beautiful farms in Louisa County, and then it was on toward Charlottesville. There is so much to see in this area, but it was going to be a long drive to Winchester, Kentucky where we would stop for the night, so we didn’t stop to take pictures of the scenery. Next time.
As we neared Charleston, we came to the White Sulphur Springs exit where I spied the lodging services sign for The Greenbriar. I had seen pictures of it a few years back and had learned a little bit about its history, so I asked the folks if they would mind taking a little side trip into town for a quick look. They were happy for the break, and none of us were disappointed.
The Greenbriar is an amazing resort in a beautiful setting, tucked in the mountains of West Virginia. I was blown away by it’s size. One of these days I’m going back to stay for a night.
We had a truly wonderful vacation, yet there was a bittersweet chord that I knew would be present before we ever left Missouri. As Dad left each of his friends’ homes, my heart ached for him. Tears welled in his eyes when we said our goodbyes. He tried very hard not to let his emotions show, but he cried as we drove away and said the words that I knew he had been thinking. All I could do was hold his hand.
While time does in fact change things, our traveling trio had a healthy conversation about the many blessings we share as a family. Good memories are somewhere close to the top of the list, and there was yet another blessing to add when I saw my parents happy to be home again.