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Vernon News

THOMPSON: The moment you realize you've become your father

March 25, 2024 - 12:00 PM



I - like every son - became my father. It took awhile, almost 74 years, but eventually it catches all of us. Same goes for every daughter, there’s more than a little of your mom in you girl.

As you read this, my wife, Bonnie, and I are recovering after hosting our grandkids and their parents - Bonnie’s daughter and son-in-law - here in Florida for ten days. They all flew down from British Columbia during Spring Break as a surprise vacation.

The grandkids - 10 and seven - thought they were going to the airport in Kelowna to pick up “Nanny”…A.K.A. Bonnie. Then, their parents gave them Mickey and Minnie Mouse-Ear hats and they knew Disney World was in their immediate futures. The oldest grandchild posed the obvious question to the parents: “Where did ya get the money?”

But, I digress. This is about how we become our parents as we age. I remember my father when I was about 14…coming home from the barber and shaving his head. It was his protest over haircuts going from $1.75 to $2.25. I remember laughing.

Dad was not a cheapskate by any means…but inflation and time had conspired against him…leading to his first but not last self-head-shaving experience. Like my father…I am far from cheap. In fact, I have a reputation for circulating lots of currency in both the U.S. and Canada…and occasionally in other countries.

But it was during the kids’ and grandkids’ visit to Florida when I became my dad. Like most good grandparents, we tend to spoil the grandkids. And fortunately, we’re not spending money we’ll need…or the kids’ likely inheritances.

Even so, my father’s “I’m-not-paying-that-for-a-haircut” experience visited me as we were planning how we might spend the kids’ and grandkids’ time in Florida. Of course, Disney World was on the agenda…three days that would challenge the energies of ten- and seven-year-olds.

I have no idea what the parents paid for airfare for four, a four-bedroom resort Airbnb villa with pool, rental car, clothing, backpacks, travel snacks and all the other indispensable items a vacation entails. They are rationale, intelligent folks…so they wouldn’t spend what they couldn’t afford. But, I’m certain it wasn’t inexpensive.

Obviously, as good grandparents, we do our part…buying food, treats, tickets for a Toronto Bluejays Major League Baseball Spring Training game in Clearwater, FL, three hours of swimming with the manatees in Crystal River, FL, a day trip to St. Augustine, FL - America’s oldest city - rides on glass-bottom boats at Silver Springs…to name a few activities.

Both Bonnie and I knew Disney as kids…but the price of admission in the 1950s was ridiculously small…either watching free TV on Sunday night…or going to a Disney movie for 25 cents…yes, I’m that old.

The sticker shock - with inflation and time now conspiring against me - hit me when Bonnie and I agreed to accompany the kids and grandkids when they went to one of three Disney theme parks…The Magic Kingdom.

Admission tickets for Florida residents - for which I’m qualified - are $109 for a single day…but during Spring Break…they jump to $179 per person…or $382 tax included for the two of us. Parking is $35…or if you want to be within a couple football fields distance of the front gates - $45. There are highway tolls of at least $3.50…more if you’re not within five miles of the parks.

The fun really starts, however, at Orlando International Airport…when our family arrived. The airport was built to accommodate air travel well into the 21st Century…but it already appears hopelessly short of handling today’s air and auto traffic.

Bonnie and I circled a parking garage for 30 minutes before driving to an uncovered so-called “economy” lot. We parked…walked a half mile in a building with three sets of escalators…to catch an elevated train to the terminal to meet our family…18 minutes. We were there to greet them waving small Mickey and Minnie dolls and wearing huge smiles.

They went on to claim their baggage and rental car, and we re-traced our steps…following the bread crumbs Bonnie dropped back to the elevated train…and the building with escalators that any dictator would love to call home.

The parking…minimum one hour…was $20…that’s nearly $400 Canadian…okay, so it’s $27. You see no poor folks at Disney World. Forget what you hear and pass along to others about the economy not being strong. A day at Disney World will convince you…most of us are in the best of times.

Major League Baseball games…well, bring money for that, as well. Six tickets 10 rows above the dugout along the first base line…$488…almost enough left from $500 to buy a beer. I thought of my first Major League game in 1962…$2. Two hotdogs, Cracker Jacks, Coke…another $2.

Swimming with the manatees…seemed a relative bargain…$78 each. Still, I could feel the ghost of my father past. I started to think about how much I pay my hairdresser…was it $40? Wonder how I’d look with a shaved head? Well, dad, who’s laughing now?

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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