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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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A Father’s Gift: Sunday musings…10/24/2021

My in-laws loved to travel. Each was bitten by the travel bug early in life, and both reveled in everything there is about travel in their 50+ year marriage. I confess that the backstory to Sandy’s wanderlust is not one I know very well. Bob, on the other hand, has a story oft told about young men in his generation. Born and raised in semi-rural PA and without a family heritage that included a college degree, he joined the Navy out of high school. As a member of the Navy Band his tours during Vietnam took him through much of Europe. His time spent in the Med near a tiny town called Cap Verat was particularly influential.

Bob and Sandy were both educators, he at the college level, and Sandy as Headmistress of an alternative school called Upattinas. I’ve written about Upattinas before. Part of the curriculum there for the upper school was spending a month on the road somewhere in the U.S., usually in the West or Southwest. Bob would occasionally accompany if a daughter or two were on board. Not content with this degree of exposure to the world my in-laws coordinated a yearlong sabbatical and took to the road, 3 daughters in tow. 6 months traveling by car in the U.S. hitting some 40 states followed by 6 months living in Cap Verat in the south of France.

Beth and her sisters were well-traveled, to say the least!

Fast forward a couple of decades. Bob and Sandy have fallen in love with Mexico. It is their fervent hope that their daughters will continue to make travel a meaningful part of their lives as the girls move through and past their child-raising years. To facilitate this Bob begins to buy, and then upgrade, three timeshare properties, one for each girl. His plan was to bequeath one to each of his daughters. “I have given you a bed in Mexico to sleep in; what you do when you are not sleeping is up to you.”

Now if you have any familiarity with the timeshare industry circa 1990 you know that investing in a timeshare was not a wise financial move. The girls and their boys were not really all that aware of that in the beginning. Nope, we were just dazzled by how exotic Mexico was, and grateful for the generosity that Bob and Sandy showed to us and our families. The highlight for all of us was an epic trip for the whole fam damly (+ significant others) for a week together in Nuevo Vallarta, complete with the lifelong memory of Grampa leading the way on a jungle zip line excursion.

Eventually the reality of timeshare economics barged into Bob’s lovely gesture. Did you know that many timeshare contracts have a clause obligating the owners to pay an annual fee over which they have no say for 99 years? For sure none of us did, including Bob. Still, this gift was so special that the three daughters decided to fight for something that they could have, to make Bob’s sentiment real, without saddling his children’s children’s children with this annual burden. Beth, Lisa, and Amy consolidated their assets, gained a bit of leverage, and essentially bought out 90 years of the contract.

Leaving us with 10 years of a bed in Mexico from which we could do anything we wanted.

And so it is that Peter, Gene, and I find ourselves once again together with our girls in a spectacular property on the ocean in Mexico. Since our very first trips with Bob and Sandy when we went solo with them, we three couples have never been to this property alone. Sure, we talk a big game about how one or the other of us will head down for a long weekend, or take some part of our own families away to that “free bed in Mexico”, but none of us has pulled that trigger. This trip is about the Hurst family. Like Cape Week for the Whites, our trip to Mexico is about being Hursts.

In the end my father-in-law got his wish. Like butterflies to Capistrano, his daughters return each (non-pandemic) year to his beloved Mexico. They bring their husbands to walk hand in hand on the beaches and through the markets he and Sandy so loved at the same stage in life. It was a massive gift in all ways, the tribulations it took to liberate it from the mercenaries notwithstanding. The boy who grew up in the farm country of Pennsylvania gifted his girls Mexico. When Lisa and Gene get here we will raise our glasses to Bob and Sandy in thanks for this gift.

A gift of family.

I’ll see you next week…

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