Happy day after Labor Day! This blogisode is brought to you by the Direct TV option on the Continental flight I am on with my family, returning from eleven days in Colorado. Beatrix is watching Nick, Jr., Charlotte is watching a marathon of Mythbusters, Rob is in another row (we couldn’t get seats together), and all of this travel fun adds up to me having some blogging time. Ladies and gentlemen, we are experiencing some turbulence. Please fasten your seat belts and let’s return to our September story.
So we left off with my Mom and Dad, who were cheerful and partying with extended family, but homeless due to one well placed lightning strike. The subsequent fire took out a portion of their upstairs, and left smoke and water damage everywhere else. They’d set up shop in a suites hotel--you know the kind--two rooms, a kitchenette and a breakfast buffet--which is fun for two nights, but the word from the insurance company was that they’d be out of their house for four months. Four months? In a hotel?
If you know my father, a hotel would never cut it. My Dad, whose motto is "Some people eat to live, I live to eat!" is a male Paula Deen. He makes elaborate "stick of butter" meals like Lobster Bisque and Fettuccine Alfredo, which would not prepare well on a hot plate and in a microwave. My mother, on the other hand, would probably be thrilled with the free fitness room and someone making her bed and her coffee for four months.
After some investigation into their insurance policy, it turned out they could live anywhere within a certain dollar amountand the insurance company would pay for it. My parents were overwhelmed with going through the house, packing it up, dealing with reconstruction and every other nightmare that comes with a fire, so the idea of finding a place to live other than the suites hotel seemed impossible. Dum-da-da-dum! A job for me! After years of touring the country with various shows, I can find affordable, nice, furnished housing faster than you can say, "Would you like two doubles or a king?". It’s a special skill and all of us actor-types have it. It’s part of our job duties. Within 24 hours I had my parents moved out of the Free Coffee/No Butter Cooking Suites and set up in a 3 bedroom, fully furnished apartment with a stocked kitchen. Whew. Finally, I felt like I’d done something helpful, other than make phone calls to family members saying, “So, uh, how’s it going down there?” As anyone knows who lives away from family, it is an incredibly frustrating feeling to feel like you can’t help. Little did I know that moving my parents into that 3 bedroom would ultimately be a huge favor for me as well, but I am getting ahead of myself. We’ll get there soon.
My parents, weirdly, had a trip scheduled for just a few weeks after the fire. Why is that weird? Allow me to take a moment to say that my parents don’t schedule trips. I mean, you know those parents who are jetting off to Bermuda or have an RV and travel around to the National Parks, or even take trips together to see grandchildren? These are not my parents. If and when they travel, they travel alone--as in--not with each other. When I was a kid, my father would travel around the country for a month every year, always in the winter when his swimming pool business was slow, and usually to exotic locations like The Everglades or San Diego or Houston. Maybe that doesn’t sound exotic to you, but trust me, as an 8-year-old in Ohio; California and Texas and alligators sounded like the Wild, Wild West. My mother would take trips with her best friend Judy and they would go places like Spain and London, coming home with gifts and stories about drinking too much and possible trysts with the law. But my parents on a trip together? Never.
Until now. They’d planned and saved for a trip to Africa. Specifically, a safari in Africa. In 1978 Dad and his best friend Byron had gone to Africa on safari and I remember picking up a Jacques Cousteau look alike at the airport. Far from his normal pants and a golf shirt, Dad walked off the plane in full safari gear—khaki from head to toe—and a canvas hat with a furry zebra stripe at the brim. At the baggage claim I watched piles and piles of taped packages roll down the carousel; giraffes and elephants and masks carved in ebony wood. He laid out gifts for me, thick multi-colored beaded necklaces with some kind of animal tail hair, that hooked around my neck and hung in strands to my waist. I liked them, but I was afraid he expected me to wear them to school; they might look a little out of place against my favorite outfit, a superman t-shirt and gray wrangler cords.
He also took photos—a ton of them—and we sat through hours of slide shows of charging animals and stories about sleeping in tents and hearing the hippos come to the watering hole inches from his head. My recollection was that my mother, whose fear of snakes and birds is legendary, had no interest in ever visiting Africa, so imagine my surprise (and everyone's) when the one trip they booked together—the trip of their lives—was to Africa.
After the fire there was a question about whether they should go or reschedule, but Dad was adamant. "Why reschedule? Hell, there's no better time to go!" There wasn’t much they could do during the demolition and they’d be back in time to make the renovation decisions. It was settled, they were going. Departure date was set for September 9th, 2001.