Winter travel to my hometown in western Pa. is like running the gauntlet. Between November and April lake-effect snow events frequently pummel any and all of the highways between here and there. Prior to travel I check all way-point cities on my weather app: Watertown, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Erie, and Edinboro. Last Sunday looked clear in every location, so I joined the masses traveling after Thanksgiving and headed for a much-needed recharge in Franklin.
My dad’s couch is always ready for me. He has sheets and extra blankets within reach. I don’t need them because the thermostat never drops below 70. Dad gives me the tour of the bathroom, showing me which towel is mine, and how to plug in the wall heater. He adds an extra scoop of coffee grounds and two cups of water to his pot every morning. During my stay I only hear phrases like the following: “Whatever you want, Honey.” “That’s fine.” “Just let me know.” Or “Have some fun.” This is better than any spa.
I confirm my arrival time with my dad, Sunday afternoon, 5:30-5:45 p.m. We will meet at the Ale House, one of the few Franklin restaurants open for dinner on a Sunday evening. The restaurant, conveniently located half-way between the Elks Club and his apartment, is less than two blocks from each. Dad walks to the Elks every afternoon to “sign the book” and have a drink. My arrival fits into his routine perfectly.
I arrive promptly, enter the lobby of the restaurant and wait Dad’s arrival. Diners stroll in and out of the dining room. I even chat with a musky-fishing friend of the family. The Pittsburgh Steelers, televised on the screen over the bar, score. I hope we get a table within view of the game. The minutes pass; 5:45 rolls around. We are a punctual pair, so I know something is awry.
I call the Elks Club first. The bartender, brother of a friend, assures me Dad left 20 minutes ago. “It’s dark, he’s probably walking slow.” Even at a crawl, he would have made it to the Ale House by now. I call his apartment. No answer. I dread trying his cell phone. He has not acclimated to the device, and a call usually elicits so much anxiety that the phone doesn’t work for him anyhow. I try my sister’s phone just in case she could shed light on the conundrum. No answer.
A recently opened brewery a few blocks away has Ale in its name as well…Trails to Ales. I call to check. No single man waits anywhere. In these situations, it is never smart to leave, because the missing party usually shows up with a perfectly logical reason for delay. I finally call his cell phone, but it goes to the electronic voicemail. While plotting my next move, my phone rings.
It’s my niece Holly. “Hi, Aunt Cinda. Are you okay? We were worried about you.”
“I’m at the Ale House where I’m supposed to meet Grandpa.”
She laughs, “He’s here with us at the Brewery.”
“I thought as much. I’ll be right there.”
In five minutes I join my dad at a large round rustic table, encircled by my two nieces, Holly’s fiancé, my sister, and their friend. Dad had gone to the wrong “Ale” establishment. The others had no idea of our plans, just there by happenstance. Thanks to serendipity we enjoy a great unexpected reunion.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
Last week I tied bows on the gifts for the annual girlfriend-gift-exchange, also scheduled during my stay. Printed on the ribbons: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry. That phrase set the tone for the three-day visit. I called on friends at their festive homes, sipped entire bottles of wine, opened fabulous presents, and watched holiday Hallmark movies with my dad between events. Dad and I mingled with loving spirits briefly at the cemetery. I ate, drank, and made merry at two breweries, a dive bar, a café, a restaurant, and a winery. Every day I admired Franklin’s holiday sparkle and stunning Christmas tree.
Gifts from my Gods and Goddesses
Fortunately, winter storm Bruce, gusted through on Wednesday. The weather calmed on Thursday for my northern trek. I returned with presents, the best ones intangible. Marie inspired me to get acquainted with the gods and goddesses of my home. Becky suggested I listen more closely to the wind chimes for the answers to life-questions. I will view the winter through my new rose-colored glasses. Best of all, my stores of affection and laughter have been replenished, ready for sharing.