“Are we doing a gift for Dad? Any idea what he needs?” my sister Jessica texted me. I’m not one to pre-plan for gifts. I just wait and eventually one of my four siblings will contact me and ask if I’ve gotten a gift yet. Upon hearing (and not being surprised) that I haven’t, they’ll say, “No? Well, I got him (fill in the blank), if you want to go in on it.” And thus I once again get out of doing something I hate: shopping.
In response to Jessica’s text, I called her. (I hate having conversations via text messaging.)
“He doesn’t need anything. And anything I get him will be one more thing we have to clean out of their house after they’re gone. I refuse to contribute to that.” She laughed and agreed.
“My gift is that I’m flying to New York on Thursday to see him,” I replied. Thursday starts the annual family vacation at Canoe Island Lodge. Think Dirty Dancing: the same families go to the same place the same week every year.
Thirty-four of my last thirty-six years on this planet have found me on the banks of Lake George the last week in June. This year will be no exception. Except this year is the first time I will hop a plane to get to our yearly pilgrimage site.
I will weigh my bag down with piano music so I can play the piano in the lodge for my father before the bell rings calling everyone into the dining room, where four courses of dinner will be served family style. When the dessert list arrives, we will ooh and aah over our choices, most of us marking down two or three options. (I assure you that was not allowed when we were children. Nor was getting up from the table without asking first to be excused.)
Those of you that know my father would not recognize him at Lake George. He often sits in one place for extended periods of time–either on a sailboat or in a lounge chair in the shade reading a book. I remember working at his Dairy Queen and relaying this scene to his other employees. “He sits still and reads?” They’d need proof–pictures–before they’d believe this Italian with more energy than a three-year-old ever rests.
But indeed he does. Until 4pm, when he and I and whoever’s willing to assist that day head up to my parent’s room to make frozen drinks. My father brings a blender, rum, daquiri and pina colada mixes to Canoe Island. Yes, there’s a bar in the Lodge and yes, they make frozen drinks. But the bar isn’t open at four, nor do they deliver to the beach, so my father (as per usual) takes matters into his own hands. Dad sends one of his minions off to the ice machines, while others of us prepare plates of cheese and crackers. Other families over the course of the week donate a bottle of rum, boxes of crackers, or blocks of cheese to keep the beach-side Happy Hour going.
At least once over the course of the week, I will join Dad on a sail.
No, neither of us knows how to sail. But remember my earlier comparison to Dirty Dancing? Well, instead of dance instructors, Canoe Island Lodge has Boat Boys: twenty-somethings whose summer job is to take guests out on the water–sailing, waterskiing, tubing. And during the last week in June, they know that my father expects to be on a sailboat each morning at ten and each afternoon shortly after we have descended from our lunch in the Lodge.
Dad will often bring a book on the sail, and will often fall asleep while reading it. A photo will be taken, and the next year we will see that picture when we sit in the Lodge to watch a DVD of pictures from the previous year, put together by on of “the regulars” from our group.
So this Thursday we’ll start the tradition all over again. My father will light up when each of his children arrives–and maybe a little moreso when his oldest grandchild literally shakes with excitement when she gets there.
No, my father doesn’t need any new toys for Father’s Day. Once again, we’ll give him his favorite gift: all of his children (and now grandchildren) together for one weekend at Canoe Island Lodge.