My Days As A Chauffeur

Actually, a chauffeur is a real profession and I should not confuse my recent role with that of a professional, although I WAS handsomely rewarded just the same.  Over the past week I took some time off to drive my parents to Florida so they could escape some of our Michigan winter.

Cincinnati – Northern Kentucky metropolitan area

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Normally they would already have been there, having concluded the holiday and literally hit the road before the wrapping paper of Christmas presents made it to the curb for garbage day!

Unfortunately, life had different plans for them this year.  My father was dealing with a heart issue that had him (and his doctors) working out issues with his medications that, as you may know, is quite a process and not an exact science at all.  Doctors may argue that it is ALL science, and in a way that may be true but it takes considerable time to get the balance of medications correct so that everything levels off and there is no danger of traveling a long distance and being far away from a primary physician.  This was a several month adventure that thankfully now seems to be settling down considerably.

Just when you thought it was safe to load everything in a van and drive for over 18 hours, the wrong twist has your back in spasms so my dad got another tribulation to overcome.  This prompted the question, “Son, how would you feel about driving us to Florida?”

Hmmm, most of my recent experiences with Florida consist of mostly rain, cold and wind – not the luckiest (or even remotely typical) history for my visits there, but those most recent visits all took place in December which is not known for its consistently warm and enjoyable weather.  Of course, I was immediately agreeable as it is my parents we are talking about, but I did check online for the weather forecast just the same.  Over 70 and sunny?  Okay, sitting here in Michigan in roughly 10 degree weather makes it a bit more appealing now.

Still, I have not been in a car for more than a couple hours with my parents for over 25 years.  What am I getting myself into?  (ha-ha)

Well, I can tell you that if you have not done this for your parents that you should definitely put it on your list of things to do when you get the chance.  Living over 2 hours from them when they are here in the state has really been a barrier to the time we might have spent with each other if we were in the same city.  Jobs, family, life, etc – all things contributed to my not living on their side of the state and it has been a challenge at times to stay connected and work out holidays and visits and keeping them in touch with their grand-kids.

Even as the book on tape played on for the entire trip down, we did talk much on our journey, and it was a nice reminder of the conversations we used to have when there was a lot more time for them.  It reminded me of the lessons I learned from them over the years growing up.  Specifically, those lessons in life that you carry with you forever: work ethic, patience, positive attitude and how to get past difficult situations.

As long as I can recall, they have loved me through all of the bumps and scrapes of life. They were always good with a lighthearted comment that helped me take it all in stride, and sometimes a reminder to keep the faith and put things into God’s hands.  In regards to pain and difficult trials in life, they would tell me, it is part of life and is there just to let you know that you are trying to grow or get outside your comfort zone. If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger. This has helped me both as an athlete and as a recruiter. I think it has even helped me as a parent – nothing is harder in this world that parenting (can you say teenager?) when you have to implement tough love and other strategies that good parents do instead of being their friend and letting poor behavior or choices slide by and not dealt with.

Facing things head on and knowing all the while that it might be a painful, yet necessary growth experience is what the journey is all about.  This is what my parents were doing now, in their seventies, by working through recent adversity and not letting it stand in the way of them enjoying all life has to offer.  Dealing with the medications taken at absolute intervals during the day, managing the back pain of a pulled muscle, and finding a way to get south to enjoy some sun, golf and a much nicer climate to be active in while recovering.

It was really nice to have taken the time to help them make the drive.  When I was a boy, we would drive all over the country visiting family and friends in states all over the US – mostly the western states.  They were both teachers with summers off, and sometimes we would literally leave and not come back home for over 6 weeks – it was quite the geography lesson for me, and those were times I have never forgotten.

This trip will be remembered as well.  In the end it was a good thing I went, because there were several things that I helped with the minute we drove in: flat tire on the golf cart, leaky kitchen faucet that needed replacing, rotted floorboard of a base cabinet, drain issue in a bathroom, configuration of phone, computer and cable, and some errands around town to get them situated.  Now, it was not all hard work!  I left the cold and within two days was swimming in the pool in 75 degree weather – not to mention a couple rounds of golf with my mom and a great dinner at Harry’s.  It was certainly a trip to remember.

All good things come to an end eventually, and they flew me home to my 5 degree weather and a foot of recent snow in the yard.  Good thing it was just a short trip or I may have not acclimated back to the cold as quickly as I did.

The bottom line here is to be open to opportunities as they present themselves.  This was much more than playing chauffeur for a few days – it was an opportunity to reconnect with my parents and help them in a time of need.  You never know when you will get the chance – just be ready.

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