In the summer of '69 my father sent my mother to her high school reunion and a much needed vacation and was left as caretaker to his seven children ages 3 to 12 in the week that she was to be gone. We, of course, were thrilled at the prospect of having just Dad for an entire week, especially given the fact that he was generally a softy and often gave in to our whims and more than anything, he was a great entertainer both in word and deed. And being free from Mom's no nonsense approach to rearing her children was an added bonus.
We went to Timber Lake or Manassas Park to swim almost every day. I loved it when Dad, a former navy man and an athletic one at that, did wonderful jackknifes effortlessly off the high board. Sometimes one of us would "get lost" or wander off the beach to the refreshment area or second hand shop and the rest of us would end up spending more time trying to find the lost one than swimming while another one got lost in the process. Eventually, the loud speaker at the top of the hill would come on and announce a name and request that the parent please come and pick him/her up.
One night we took the Ford Country Sedan station wagon to some drive in movies which my older brothers had picked out. Dad had no idea what they were about until we got there ... rated "M" for mature Hell's Angels 1967, Three in the Attic and another one which I don't recall, but we begged him to let us stay and watch. He just shook his head at my brothers who he said had set him up while on the screen a guy was literally being screwed to death in the attic by three women, who had, upon finding out about his infidelity, gotten together and decided to imprison and "punish" him. Dad got plenty of questions from my younger siblings which he managed to diplomatically answer. My brothers were thoroughly entertained.
One morning we woke up to eggs benedict and champagne. Dad taught us about French cuisine and fine dining as we older siblings sipped on our thimble glass of champagne and enjoyed our eggs. We finished breakfast feeling like accomplished and worldly adults.
When Dad wasn't trying to figure out where everybody was or figuring out how much money we had managed to swindle from him for candy and trinkets, he would tell wonderful stories about his youth or stories about history. As we didn't live far from Washington, D.C., he took us on trips to all the historical buildings and was our personal tour guide.
It was a fun filled week and by the end, I'm sure my mother's return was never more welcomed by my father. I'm also pretty sure he had a greater appreciation of what she had to deal with on a daily basis and I also remember it as one of the best times I had with my Dad while growing up.
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