The end of a family tradition and the realization my son isn't a little boy any more
We knew this day was coming.
For nine years, my son and I would take a week each summer to hit the road in search of baseball. It's never hard to find, the only tough part being the compiling of a schedule that gave us maximum exposure to as many venues as possible along our chosen route.
Early trips were Brewer-centric as we'd try to make sure our ventures coincided with at least a few Milwaukee road games. Then, it came down to geography, our ventures taking us to areas we wanted to see. We got smarter as the years went by, opting to choose a single town as a sort of home base as opposed to hopping from hotel-to-hotel each day, rushing to check in before the first pitch.
We've sampled great local cuisine--Cincy's Skyline chili, the renowned "Brown" sandwich in in Louisville, Primanti sandwiches in Pittsburgh (yep, that's cole slaw AND french fries inside)...
...as well as LA's In-N-Out burgers which were part of a well-balanced breakfast/lunch/dinner each day spent in Hollywood.
We missed only one summer, the one during which my kid headed to Europe with a state high school singing group. He was gone a long time, and baseball couldn't be wedged in before class resumed. Otherwise, our trip happens no matter what else is going on. I'd always ask, "Are you still going to be doing this with me when you grow up and I'm old?" The answer would be the same: of course.
Then, he grew up and I got old.
We talked about it the other day as we put together our plans for this year, a trip we're keeping relatively cheap and close to home in light of the family wedding we're still recovering from. There's another big party looming next summer when he graduates from college, the hope being that his diploma morphs into a full-time job, one that could limit our ability to take in baseball as we've become so accustomed to each year.
Being a student is one thing. Being an adult is something else. What we assumed would be an opportunity forever may now come a little harder, if it comes at all. Who knows where my kid will be next summer?
Don't know. Another trip is on the docket, and that's what matters most. That, and the fact that we've had so many good times, so many chances, so many adventures. If we never do another one, we've already had more than most could hope for, and we'll always have the memories, the stories, the thrills and the laughs. Even more importantly, we had time together: father and son, alone to talk away from home where it was only he and I.
That, I hope, will continue, even when there isn't a baseball game in front of us. Those trips helped encourage a dialog, and for that alone they are priceless.
We anticipate this next trip not as a farewell to a family tradition, but instead for what it is: one more chance. Isn't that all any of us can hope for?