A few years after my Nana passed away, my grandpa started to get nostalgic. My grandpa, who we always called “Pope”, used to live in California and would talk about wanting to see the ocean again, and maybe dip his toes in the water.
Growing up, Pope had given me my first car which was on its way to becoming a classic. Being a mechanic, he would often help me fix whatever was going wrong with the car that month. So I would, out of necessity, spend time with him replacing alternators, water pumps, and once we even replaced an engine.
When I would call him, he would make the joke, “Are you broke down at the Texaco? I’ll be right there.” Even though he was joking he was ready to stop everything and come help me out. Eventually, I would call for no reason but start the conversation with, “I’m here at the Texaco…”
Once Pope referred to me as his friend which meant a lot.
He couldn’t really hear me too well when I was talking, although he could hear an airplane from a mile away and tell you what type of Cessna it was. So I listened. The hallmark of friendship.
But after a while, having listened to him talk about dipping his toes in the ocean, and being his friend, I proposed we go on a road trip. He was excited. He said, “If we get hungry, we will eat. If we have to use the head, we will pull over.” I thought those were great ground rules, the road trips I had previously been on were, “Get there fast and pee in a bottle”.
He came up with other places to see, like see his old hometown in New York, and maybe go to Niagra Falls. Hey, there was an ocean on that side too.
My brother was living with me at the time so I forced him to come with us.
Pope met me at my house, we said goodbye to Delilah, and hit the road.
Maybe five minutes into the drive we stopped at Whataburger. Then we headed North. After about an hour of driving, between the beautiful hills of Sherman Texas and the border of Oklahoma, Pope said his back was acting up and I offered to drive.
I had maybe driven with Pope learning to drive stick when I was in my teens. Beyond that, I think driving had always been his thing. I think I’m a good driver (my wife might disagree) but driving for Pope, I made the effort to go extra smooth. Cruise control at the speed limit, staying well behind the car in front of me, ten and two on the wheel. The works.
Looking over for his approval, I noticed he was bracing himself for impact. His foot tapping the brake he forgot to install in the passenger’s seat, his fingers knotted in a death grip on the “oh shit” handle on the ceiling, and the other hand against the dash for stability.
This is a man who would race Studebakers and run people off the track in his youth. How did my driving elicit so much fear?
Being that he was into his nineties, I went even slower and drove even safer but eventually, he asked me to pull over so he could drive.
But of course, he would then complain about his back, and my brother or I would take the wheel only to then be berated for our poor driving and him ask to take over.
Eventually, we pulled over to sleep in Joplin Missouri and he said he didn’t think he could make it and wanted to go home. As much of a pain as he was to drive with, I asked that he change his mind. Then proposed that we fly there, but he was defeated. Never again would he dip his toes in the ocean.
I used to have this thing where I want to do better than my parents did. Like they set a benchmark and I should exceed it. Before my dad passed away he told me how much he made in a year. So I wanted to do more. Where my parents and grandparents failed, I have tried to do better. Not to say I did better than them, but to honor them.
My thoughts are this, for every being there is a quest for immortality. For ones that instinctively know they will die, that way is to pass on their genes to the next generation. Nature gave us the urge to have children. So bettering “yourself” and those genes carried down through time is done not only in your life but generationally as well. If you have children, I am sure you would want them to do better than you did, and in that same line of thinking, I am sure my ancestors would have wanted me to do the same as well.
Now I did make more than my dad told me he made per year. He had once said to me he worried how well I would do, so I checked that box and it felt a little empty. But I think something most everyone falls short in, is enjoying their lives to the fullest. True to classic Epicurean fashion to savor the life that you have. To get more juice for your squeeze.
All that brings me to today.
In the mornings I go down to the beach to watch the sunrise. It’s Hawai’i and it’s beautiful. Tourists are out with their cameras filming. Oh boy.
Some mornings there might be a chilly wind or a light rain. I will sit on a log and look out at the ocean. There are a few things I love more than watching the waves, and one of them is being in the waves. But on those cooler mornings, sometimes I have to psyche myself up a bit. The other day, my inspiration was the thought of Pope reaching but not grasping his opportunity to dip his toes in the ocean.
Pope, this dip is for you.