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  • I'll write about the whole trip, the journey and all, tomorrow. Tonight, I just need to write about the best part of the whole thing. The very best part of it.

    For as far back as I could remember, and right up until the year before he moved on to other pastures, Dad would always either call me, pull me aside, or write me a letter, depending on our proximity to each other, on Veterans Day, just to tell me the story of the day before I was born. If nothing else was ever right between us - and for many years, that was the case - that one day of the year – not my birthday, but the day before my birthday – me and Dad were alright.

    That damn story got me every time. When he couldn’t bring himself to tell me he loved me – and he couldn’t for many years – that story said it for him. It might be why I never felt like I needed anything on my birthday. I’d already gotten what I needed. I knew, that one day each year, that my Dad loved me. What more did a kid need in life?

    No matter what else I’m doing that day, Veterans Day, it is the day each year, since he left us 18 years ago, that I feel closest to my Dad. We were both so blessed to find each other late in his life – he became less judgemental and a better listener, while I became more tolerant and less – judgemental of him. We came to accept each other as we were, and then we became the closest of friends. He shared things with me that one only shares with the closest of friends, and vice versa.
  • To go from a relationship that, aside from that one day a year, consisted of both parties secretly despising each other, to closer than best friends, was a real mind-blower – but, it’s what happened to us. It’s what made me believe in miracles. Or maybe, I came to believe in miracles, and that’s why it happened – chicken or the egg? Who really gives a flying puck, you know? I just thank whatever causes these things to happen, and move on.

    Today was no exception. To the casual observer, I may have appeared to be riding solo on my incredible journey, following in my Great Grandfather’s footsteps as he journeyed north to engage the enemy on his home state’s soil. Martin was Dad’s maternal Grandfather, and truly, his chosen father figure. Dad had issues with his Dad, similar to what I had with him for so many years, but his Dad was a traveling salesman, and was gone a lot of the time, while Martin was always around, Dad’s first 20 years, and he lived in the same house – in fact, it was Martin’s house that Dad grew up in.

    So, yeah, to the casual observer, it was just me and my maps and my cooler with cold drinks, and my thermos with hot drinks, and my snacks, and my music, rockin’ down the highways and the biways, from here to there and back.
  • But, I had somebody riding shotgun with me on this trip. At first, it was just that I was referring to the diary that Dad had transcribed, making it possible for me to even be doing this journey, to know which towns to go through, and where to stop, and what Martin was doing each step of the way.

    When I was out there, seemingly all by myself on Neill Avenue, the Lost Lane, where it was so unbelievably peaceful, and I – no, I’m not even going to try to describe what that was like, because I can’t. It just was – sacred, I guess is the closest word I can find to describe that time I spent out there. But, never once, did I feel like I was alone.

    After it was all said and done – after I’d gone back into town, toured the Jenny Wade house, the only civilian casualty of the battle, had lunch in the cellar of the Old Dobbin Tavern, down in the Springhouse Tavern there, and toured the rest of the battlefield, I took off down Route 15, homeward bound. I felt compelled to do something we never did in real life - I felt like Dad wanted to give me a high-five, or a fist bump. I definitely felt like he enjoyed the ride. We had a good chat on my way back home.

    I don’t need a damn thing for my birthday - I already got it.
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