Bridging generations through road trips


According to writer Gail Sheehy in her best-seller, “Passages,” adults universally experience certain changes in their lives, consistent with each decade, and ready or not, the new adjustment is upon the person to accept.

My husband and I frequently recall a transition in our lives when we turned 50. The passengers in our backseat had changed during road trips.

It was not too long ago that we had been driving kids to swim meets, miniature golf, the beach, college orientation and the like. But it was somewhere around 50 that we did more driving with my parents in the backseat.

The experience of driving the senior members of the family can be enlightening and best experienced with planning and compromise.

Some years ago, we had an all-expense-paid trip to the Midwest if my husband agreed to do the driving to get Mom and Dad to Branson, Mo., their favorite destination.

We decided ahead of time that we would all choose one spot that we individually wanted to see to enhance the trip.

For my husband, it was the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. My choice was the fence-painting contest in Samuel Clemens’ hometown of Hannibal, Mo.

My dad’s favorite was the Lawrence Welk Center in Branson, Mo. And Mom wanted to visit Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Ill.

This lineup gave us quite a variety, don’t you think?

To drum up a little interest on my choice, I requested that everyone research the origin of Samuel Clemens using Mark Twain as his pen name. Everyone complied, and after learning a little about Twain, they had a little more interest in that stop.

We all decided that we would be open to each destination and spend an ample amount of time to every stop and do no complaining at each stop.

We found we collectively became engaged at each stop. Mom and I were as impressed with the Hall of Fame as the guys were.

I found I actually became emotional when our car went over the Missouri River and saw the statues of Tom and Huck.

I never realized how much I bonded with the characters from my years of teaching it.

The Lawrence Welk crowd was a treat. They were generous with their time to take pictures and give autographs. The Lennon Sisters were great. Our Lady of the Snows is quite peaceful .

We found that common thread that runs through us all. We all enjoy being broadened. I never knew how much we could enjoy each other’s interests.

The following year we lost my mom to cancer. We found the road trips were not as much fun, but they were necessary to keep us distracted.

We went a distance to see my daughter, who really welcomed us. She pretty much summed up the whole experience: “I know it takes a little preparation to travel with the elderly people, but it is so great to see you all.”

I think we also were set- ting a good example, and maybe somebody will drive us around when that time comes.

Sonia “Sunny” Cook is originally from Pennsylvania but resides mostly in her home in Summerville. She and her husband are retired. Cook spent 28 years as a teacher in the public school system and served as a columnist for a weekly paper. She enjoys sewing and crocheting and spending time with her husband and adult children.