“Do you see them? Maybe Dad’s sleeping. Do you see anyone?” I hid in the corner by the front door peppering Doug with questions as he rang the doorbell to my parent’s Florida beach house. I had butterflies in my stomach and couldn’t wait to see the look on their faces. After all, they thought we were cycling somewhere south of Naples, Italy, not driving north from Naples, Florida.
“Shhh, your dad’s coming. Get ready!”
The door opened and Doug and I jumped out. I gave dad a huge hug and kiss and said, “I got your email this morning and came right away.” He went white and looked like he had seen a ghost and didn’t say a word. We’d later realize it was just the shock of seeing us, but he looked deathly ill. I thought he might faint from shock and Doug was ready to catch him.
Email? That was the most amazing part of this surprise. Let me explain.
For the past year, my parents were planning to come meet us somewhere in Turkey in March. But about a week after Doug and I bought our plane tickets to Miami, dad emailed asking if I would consider taking a few days off while Doug watched the bicycles and gear, so he and I could spend a few days together in Europe alone. He wanted to go in late-January or early-February instead of waiting until March. He said his pain management was getting a bit more difficult and he didn’t want to wait until he was too drugged up to enjoy our time together. I knew that my dad didn’t want to interrupt our trip for his illness; he must have thought long and hard before asking. After rereading it, I smiled, and insisted that I come to the United States so he didn’t have to endure an eight hour flight. He said that he still wanted to come to Europe and suggested meeting up in Athens.
So Doug and I spent the past several weeks being vague about our itinerary for the coming months and evading my dad’s efforts to start making plans. I still questioned whether returning to the U.S. was the right choice: Was I depriving my dad of one more trip overseas or was he was really coming to Europe just because I was there and he was afraid he’d never see me again? It wasn’t long before I knew we had definitely chosen the right time.
After a lovely month in Italy and a visit to Everglades National Park, we were ready to finally surprise my parents. We split the drive from the southern tip of Florida in half and spent that Sunday night in Naples, Florida, camped out at a sports bar watching the NFL playoffs. The next morning, right before we left the hotel, I checked my email one more time and saw that an email from my dad arrived. It was titled, “Our Trip” and detailed some unexpected medical issues he was having that almost cancelled his trip to Florida. He also hesitantly asked if I would still be willing to come to the U.S. and perhaps spend a few days with him at the beach house in Florida. This is the email I referred to above when he opened the front door. Doug and I drove away from the hotel and were giddy with excitement.
And that brings us back to the front step of my dad’s house when we arrived. “We got your email and came as fast as we could,” Doug joked. He had only sent it that morning. Dad eventually found the words to invite us out back to sit on the lanai with him until mom returned from lunch with some friends. When we heard her car drive up, Doug and I hid in the corner. Dad went inside to meet her and ushered her out back insisting that she come see something. We sprung out from our hiding place and tears welled up in my mom’s eyes and she hugged me tightly for a long time. After seeing my parents’ reaction to our arrival, there was no doubt in my mind that we had made the right decision at the right time. My parents believe our arrival was divine intervention.
Doug and I only stayed for three days so my parents could enjoy some time alone before returning to work in New Jersey. Not wanting to miss a chance for a road trip, we drove my father’s gold Cadillac to his house in NJ.
Our first stop was Savannah, Georgia. We never made it there during our five years living in Greenville, NC, and always regretted that. Same for Charleston, South Carolina. We finally did, if only for two nights. We arrived at the 17hundred90 Inn, supposedly one of the haunted hotels in Savannah. While I do believe in ghosts, I’ve never seen one or evidence of one and didn’t expect to see anything unusual. We spent the evening relaxing and after a good night sleep in the cozy, nest-like bed, Doug returned from his shower to let me know that “Anna” was very clearly written in the fog on the mirror. Our scientific minds went to work and quickly wrote it off as one of the staff writing on the mirror with RainX to be revealed only after a steamy shower. After all, the hotel had a reputation to uphold. Neither Doug nor I thought much of this when we mentioned it to the manager and housekeeper while we ate our breakfast. Their reactions told a different story. They both looked quite surprised and the housekeeper said to the owner, “Don’t tell the other girl cleaning the rooms. She won’t go up there if she knows.” These women were either great actors or there was more to this ghost story. The manager asked if it was written in lipstick, as some guests have had that happen to them.
After a nice breakfast we headed out to wander the streets of Savannah. It was a bit dreary in January, but we enjoyed the day out of the car. We walked around seeing several historical buildings and Forsyth Park where we saw the Confederate Memorial, fountains, and beautiful Spanish moss dripping from the many varieties of trees. We agreed that the gardens and parks must be beautiful in the spring and is probably worth a return trip. After a few hours, the cold temperatures got the better of us and we returned to our room to warm up and enjoy the fire. Doug was stretched out on the sofa and I was on an arm chair a few feet away enjoying our cups of coffee when I got up to grab something from the other room. When I returned, Doug’s laptop bag was on my chair. Neither of us put it there. Then, just a few hours later, Doug called across the room asking why I opened the door to the adjoining room. I didn’t. We both looked at each other and decided that Anna was in fact real and while we didn’t see her, as some other guests mentioned on Trip Advisor, she certainly made herself known.
We rolled out of Savannah the next morning continuing north towards North Carolina. We were fortunate to meet up with one of Doug’s friends from his childhood, Christy, and her family in New Bern, NC. We had a great dinner and lovely evening catching up and playing with their adorable children. As we were wrapping up the evening, Christy mentioned that she always remembered how Doug used to ask all the girls to dance at their 7th and 8th grade dances so that no one felt left out. What a sweet husband I have! But I already knew that!
The next morning, we took a slight detour eastward to the small town of Chocowinity to see the land we own. We bought it on a whim about 15 years ago after seeing an ad in the paper. What had started as a “let’s go take a look” trip ended with a signature and an acre and a half of land about a half mile off the water. As you can see, we have a long history of making impulsive decisions. It looked just as we remembered. We parked in front and walked down to the water remembering the excitement we first felt of walking just 10 minutes to be in the water kayaking or paddle boarding. It still is a great spot. Options…
We continued north over the 20 mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on a beautifully sunny, but frigid day. It is an amazing structure built in 1964 with three elevated spans and two tunnels, each a mile in length. The first and only other time we went this way was the first time we drove to North Carolina to look for apartments before our wedding. I wondered how 18 years had already passed. We stopped for the night in Rehoboth, DE, before getting on the ferry to Cape May, NJ. Never heard of Rehoboth? I hadn’t either, but lucky for me, Doug knew it was where Dogfish Head Brewery was. We had many interesting, and quite strong beers that night. We also made some new friends. The wait for a table was over 30 minutes and when we were finally called we invited a couple we had been chatting with in line to join us. We had a wonderful evening and they were so appreciative that they surprised us with a bottle of Dogfish Head’s Wit Spiced Rum. The kindness of others continues to follow us on our journey.
After many days of sunshine, clouds and rain finally caught up to us as we were boarding the ferry to NJ so there were no views to be had on the boat or the drive. We arrived at Doug’s sister’s house around 1 p.m. on Sunday which allowed for plenty of time to get settled and make final preparations before an afternoon of football. Our beloved Seahawks somehow found a way to beat the Packers in the final minutes of the game. It was an unlikely victory but so much fun to finally be watching football with family instead of alone in the middle of the night in a hotel room. Jessica had Monday off, so we were able to watch movies, catch up, and relax. It was so nice to just be still and lazy for the day.
We left Tuesday morning to spend the day with Doug’s mom before driving to my parents’ house where we would finally be able to settle in one spot for several weeks. That is not to say that we will be lazing around doing nothing. We each have some big projects in mind that we’ll talk more about in our next post, but for now, we are both relieved to know that we are in the right place at the right time.
Special Thanks: We want to again say thank you to everyone who has sent well wishes for Kristin’s father and our family. We so appreciate everyone’s thoughts, prayers, and support during this difficult time.
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