I haven’t been in the same city as my father for some time now. We talk quite frequently. Thank goodness for modern technology, and Facebook. Still…I wish we lived closer, and that life didn’t always pull us in different directions, but I am very lucky to have a father who has imparted great wisdom, and great humor into my genetic makeup, in addition to the kidney stones.
I decided that instead of coming up with a montage about my dad over the years, I would just share one particular story that sort of came to me this morning. It brings back a lot of fun memories, and sums up a very important time in our lives.
Back before my figure filled out, and while my sister was still considered a sweet little girl, we played a sport called Racquetball. It’s still played in certain circles, and it’s still pretty popular in many places, but where I live now it’s virtually nonexistent. I haven’t played in many years, but once upon a time, it was intricately woven into the fiber of our lives.
I wasn’t a bad player. My balance may have hindered me somewhat—I had a lot of twisted ankles back then—but I could hold my own in a competition. My sister, on the other hand, was a champion. She lived and breathed the sport, spending hours practicing and strategizing her game plan before every tournament. And we played in a lot of tournaments. If memory serves, we may have played at least one tournament every month.
We lived in Rochester, New York at the time, and we would frequently travel several hours to other cities to compete. These tournament weekends usually required an overnight stay, and those were almost always spent in a local motel.
One noteworthy weekend found us in Syracuse, New York. I would have been about fifteen years old, and my sister would have been about twelve. As usual, the tournament started on a Friday night and would continue for the next two days. I don’t remember the specific reasons why my father had not reserved a motel for the night; I just remember that we didn’t have a reservation anywhere that night.
Syracuse was only a little over an hour away, so Dad may have planned on driving back home for the night, and coming back in the morning. But as it turns out, our matches were scheduled for very early the next morning, so we had to stay the night.
There were no vacancies at any of the local motels. We were very lucky to find a little motor lodge close to the racquet club and I remember it being a rainy night when my father ran into the office to reserve a room.
It wasn’t a chain hotel. It was one of those little family run places where the rooms lined up in a long row facing the road and the doors opened directly to the parking lot. It reminded me of the Bates Motel. I even joked with my father about Norman Bates renting him the room, and he joked that it must have been Mrs. Bates, because it was an old woman who took his money in the office.
I didn’t know it then, but looking back, it was probably one of those types of motels that rent a room by the hour as well as the night.
Dad got the key and let us into our room.
The three of us—my dad, my sister, and I— stood open mouthed in the middle of the spooky little room surveying our surroundings. A layer of dust covered every surface of the room. The carpets were darkly stained. The curtains were drawn to block out the view of the parking lot and the main road beyond.
My father decided to relieve the tension by turning on the television, but when he turned the knob all of the controls fell inside the TV cabinet. There would be no TV that night.
My sister and I put our bags on the bed and she sat carefully on the dirty bedspreads while I checked under the bed for a body.
I didn’t find a body, but I found several empty beer bottles. That discovery drove me to investigate the rest of the room.
In the main room there was an ashtray filled with cigarette butts on the nightstand. In the bathroom, the sink was covered in rust, a line of ants trailed from one crack in the floor to another across the small room, and the toilet had not been flushed since the last person had used it.
It WAS the Bates Motel!
My sister and I slept in our clothes with our racquets in the bed beside us. I later found out that my father didn’t sleep at all. He lay in the other bed with one eye open the entire night.
We were pretty tired the next day when we had to play. I don’t remember if we won or lost. It doesn’t really matter anyway. The thing I remember most about that weekend was laughing for days about the scary little motel we stayed in. It was one of the moments in my life where I learned that you have to find something positive in the most negative things. And if you laugh at the bad things, they really aren’t so bad anymore.
It’s a pretty good lesson in life I think.
Until the next time…I’ll be laughing at the bad things until they don’t exist anymore!