Four days ago Francesca, Pi, and I were heading to the Florida Keys in our old VW camper. A beachfront site awaited at one of our favorite places, Bahia Honda State Park. As we drove through Long Key our engine went "kablooey" as the fan belts flew off.
The van drifted into a restaurant parking lot. It was obvious that we'd be there for some time. Despite it being a Sunday we were able to find the local mechanic, Bruce. He told us he could fix it in the morning.
The island's only motel, Lime Tree Bay, didn't allow dogs. We resigned ourselves to camping under a blistering sun next to a busy highway.
Sheez. Could it get any worse?
HELL TO HEAVEN
We sat under a tree waiting for the heat to slack off. I thought of Thomas McGuane's novel, "92 Degrees in the Shade". We sipped cool drinks and thanked the Lord for ice chests. When the shadows got longer I took Francesca and the dog on a town tour. Primrose Lane was just five blocks away. That's where my dad had lived 30years earlier.
When we got to "116" I admired my family's former vacation home. It had new paint and still had the numbers I'd carved in driftwood in '78.
The latest owners happened to step out. We waved hello and after introductions they told us how much they loved the house my dad had built.
An hour and a house tour later we had been invited by these gracious retirees to stay in the downstairs apartment. Pi was welcome too.
SURROUNDED BY MEMORIES
Suddenly we were trading hotter-than-hell for ice-cold air-conditioning. My wife and I slept where my dad had slept. At 3 a.m. I woke up and glanced around for his ghost.
In the morning I stared at Dad's favorite spot more than once. I had captured his image there as he sat waiting for the ambulance, the one that took him away for the last time.
Breakfast was followed by a swim in the backyard canal. We called it "the pool" back then. As I dried off Bruce called to say, "You're good to go". We cranked up the van, waved goodbye, and continued our journey.
Sometimes bad things become good, one window closes and another opens. It happened to us four days ago thanks to Anna and Richie Carlsbrand of Allentown, Pa.