For my job, I used to go to the national conference of our association every year (far less so this century.) In the fall of 1998, the event was in Savannah, Georgia, this Atlantic coastal city that had a certain old-world charm. Among other things, it was a walkable locale with a sense of its history.
My father, who was living in Charlotte, NC at the time, decided to drive down and visit me. It was about 260 miles and 4.5 hours away, but when he suggested it, I was all for it. I had come down on a Saturday, and while there was a mixer on Sunday, the conference did not start in earnest until Monday; it was just cheaper at that time to fly down a day earlier, even considering the hotel costs.
Well, my father LOVED this place. He had never been there before but talked about wanting to relocate to the city. I’ll admit that I too was taken by the locale, whereas I found Atlanta, which I had visited three years earlier, sprawling and oppressive. I’m sure it didn’t hurt my father’s perception that we hung out with three of my female colleagues, one from my immediate office, plus Donna from Long Island, and Kellie from upstate, with whom he could playfully flirt.
The BIG THING in Savannah at that time was that Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the 1994 book by John Berendt, and the 1997 film, directed by Clint Eastwood, were set in the city. I had seen neither, though, oddly, I owned the movie soundtrack.
The five of us went to a bunch of historic houses, ate at a couple nice restaurants – it was probably the first time I had key lime pie – and generally had a great time. Then my dad and I just talked for an hour or more at the end of each of the two days he was there.
He left Monday morning. That period may have been the single best time I ever had with my father; within two years, he was dead. So I treasure that trip, and those people who hung out with him, even though I’ve totally lost track of Kellie.
My father would have turned 87 tomorrow.