Just for Dads ~ November 2021
by Ward Williams
Executive director, Vineyard Family Services
photo by Alex Korolkoff for Upsplash
Memories can happen at any moment. Memories can be wonderful, terrible, tedious, adventurous, and so much more. The events that often lead to the best memories are the ones that you may not have expected to have such a big impact. My son and I made a memory together in September that we will never forget.
It all started when my nephew’s father, who lives in central Pennsylvania and is a huge Penn State football fan, asked if I could take his son and mine up to Pennsylvania to watch this year’s Auburn-Penn State game. He has been excited about Auburn visiting Happy Valley since the game was announced in 2016. My wife agreed to the trip if my son, who is a freshman at Auburn, would be home for his test Monday morning at 8 a.m. My nephew’s father is a pilot, and we were flying standby, so guaranteeing anything travel-wise can be a scary proposition. After looking at the flights, I was confident that we could make it there and back in time. My nephew and I left Birmingham around lunchtime—without football or airline tickets—heading to the Atlanta airport via Auburn to pick up my son.
Here is the abbreviated version of our adventures:
- Crazy Atlanta airport with flight delays
- Five frustrating days spent looking for four tickets together
- Flight to Happy Valley in a four-seater plane
- $75 Uber ride for a 5-mile ride to campus
- Tailgate at stranger’s RV, where we eat their food and exhausted kids sleep for two hours in RV
- Attended a very exciting whiteout game with 110,000 people in attendance in one of the best environments to watch a sporting event
- Game ended with no Uber in sight; end up walking more than 5 miles and reach the airport at 2 a.m.—which is when the airport closes
- Take off without the help of air traffic control and arrive back to the house at 3:30 a.m.
- Direct flight home no longer available; assured we can get to Atlanta via Myrtle Beach flight
- After landing in Myrtle Beach, had to exit plane due to weight distribution concerns; my son makes it back on the plane
- My nephew and I are stranded in Myrtle Beach with zero chance of getting home for at least 24 hours; rent a car one-way and head out for the Atlanta airport from Myrtle Beach at 7:30 p.m.
- On I-20, we see a truck explode and break out into a full inferno
- Arrive at Georgia state line around 12:15 a.m., and learn that you can’t book hotels after midnight for the current night
- Arrive at Atlanta airport hotel around 1:45 a.m.; pay twice what we should for a rough hotel room with no working AC
- Our agent at the airport rental car counter did not know how to check in a one-way rental, so that turned into an ordeal. Then a man screamed at our bus driver because he didn’t speak English and couldn’t understand what he was saying
- My nephew missed school and I missed work that Monday, but we finally made it home.
As brutal as our travel experiences were that weekend, we made memories that will last a lifetime. Looking back on the trip, here is what I learned. First, no matter how busy life seems, take time to stop and spend time with people you care about. You may not have everything planned out, but time together is what matters. Second, roll with the punches, because that is part of the adventure. Third, find a way to make memories with the ones you love.
Ward Williams is the founder and executive director of Vineyard Family Services. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.