A Whole New World: Traveling with My Dad After My Mom’s Death

Shortly after my mom passed away in August of 2023, Jamil and I left town with some friends for a long Labor Day weekend. I felt terrible about leaving my dad because my mom had barely been cremated by then, and we were still in the process of planning her funeral. But we’d promised Josephine’s friends that we would get away with them, and an important part of bringing up an only child is forging those friendships, so they learn how to act like normal humans. Please don’t be offended. I am an only child myself. I was totally NOT normal because my parents didn’t really connect with my peers’ parents, and all of their friends had children a decade earlier. I know what I was missing, and my mom agreed. It was just a crummy situation – one I’m fortunate enough not to have to deal with myself because Josephine’s friends have amazing parents that Jamil and I absolutely love.

So anyway, we took that trip, but my dad didn’t get a break. He was (and still is) immersed in a world full of my mom – her pictures, her clothes, her car, her cookbooks, her bed, her phone, her everything. We knew he needed a getaway, so we planned a long weekend in October to take him to Florida, where the rental house was in the middle of a crazy renovation because of a toilet leak. It might not sound relaxing to vacation in a home with no floors and no kitchen, but we took what we could get.

That weekend, we went out to new restaurants with my dad, places we never tried with my mom. We started with a new restaurant on 30a, called Ambrosia. They have the coolest bar that serves the entire restaurant menu. When we sat down that evening, we knew my mom was happy we’d taken him out of town because the waitress introduced herself as Grace. That was a good sign.

The rest of our nights there were fun and relaxing. We tried Café Tango and Mimmo’s, both of which were solid. I learned that my heart will forever hurt when we go to a new restaurant as a family because I want my mom to be there and to try it with us. I want her to get her bruised Ketel One martini with a lemon twist. I want her to tell the waiter she is allergic to cilantro (which I really don’t think she was). I want her to order ice cream or the most chocolatey dessert on the menu and devour it with her enormous “Grace bites”. It’s good being with my dad and Jamil because they remember all those little Grace-isms. That trip was helpful because it showed me that life would go on.

On that trip, Jamil took my dad to play golf twice, which my dad hadn’t done in so long because my mom had been unable to play. We drank wine and did a puzzle. We measured the kitchen for the renovation and took down our giant curtains. My dad oversaw it all. It was nothing like having my mom there. Nothing like it. But it was good to be with him. And it was informative about what our new multigenerational travel experiences would be like – different, easier in some ways because my mom was rather demanding, but harder in others because she always buffered his craziness. In any event, I came home feeling good about our trips to come.

Nothing prepared me for what would happen on our next trip together. To be continued in next week’s post…

Author: Jessica Givens