August 3, 2015 by Karin Fuller

smilingNow I know why dogs love to ride with the windows rolled down, their head hanging out. Why they smile when they do.

We went riding last Saturday. I sat behind Didier on the back of his Harley as we followed his friend Zach McIntyre, a former St. Albans resident who now lives in Oklahoma, from our home in Hurricane to his parent’s house in Ravenswood.

Didier and Zach served together in the Marines. Zach is now a high school psychology teacher, and he and his teenage son Taos have spent the summer traveling all over the country—as they do most every year, with their motorcycles stashed in the back of their truck.

topperNot long after Zach arrived at our house Saturday afternoon, I was telling him about an old Harley scooter I’d seen on TV. Turns out Zach’s dad has restored a 1960s Harley Topper scooter and has it for sale.

That was all the destination motivation we needed to be on the road heading from Hurricane to Ravenswood the back way, over Route 34 North. The road twists up Red House hill and then starts bending back and forth so much it’s a wonder it doesn’t break. Time wise, it has to be the longest 20-mile stretch of road in the state.

We connected with other back roads and looped through such beautiful country, the air fragrant with freshly cut hay and burning brush piles and fired up barbeque grills. Wind soft on my face. Bugs wedged deep in my teeth.

I’m still fairly new to this bike-riding business, but I’m learning. Talking or smiling while riding comes with a risk.

Although this was not my first ride, it was my first long one. Didier has had his bike since well before we met, but shoulder surgery left him feeling shaky about being able to adequately handle the heavy bike around curves, so his bike has mostly been decorating our garage for a while.

We stretched our ride out with a few detours down back roads, but eventually reached the McIntyre home, where I got to spend a little time with the most interesting family. Although I was only with them an hour or two, they felt like people I’d known all my life. I learned it wasn’t just Zach and his son who’d been infected with wanderlust—the whole family has it. I listened with envious ears as they talked of cross-country motorcycle trips of the past and plans for more.

I haven’t spent much time around bikes or the people who ride them. Prior to this road trip, I’d never given motorcycles much thought. They were a means of transportation, but to me, an often impractical and somewhat dangerous means. I’m a fairly sensible, conservative person. I’m a windows rolled up, doors locked, seatbelt on sort of girl. Motorcycles don’t make sense for people like me.

And yet holy crow, was that fun!

I wasn’t around the McIntyres all that long, but realized they’ve figured out how to live more than others. They get the same number of hours in a day as the rest of us, but seem to know how to squeeze more life out of theirs.

I’ve long been living a car kind of life. Getting from here to there to the next place in a safe and mostly sensible way. Without fragrant air in my lungs. Without wind tangling my hair. Without a bug or two speckling my smile.

Without fully living every hour I’m given each day.

Even though I’m not brave enough (yet) to buy a bike of my own, I’m determined to make more time for the road.

Since I’ve learned that four wheels might move the body, but two can awaken the soul.



August 3, 2015 by Karin Fuller

January 2015 CAVPhysically, my daughter doesn’t resemble me. Starting from the time Celeste was born I’ve heard how she looks like her dad or his sister or Mom–none of whom look anything like each other. Yet at different times in her life, Celeste has resembled all three.

She’s been compared to my nephew, a cousin, an aunt. Darn near every relative including those by marriage seem to be physically represented in some way in Celeste– except the person who labored sixteen hours to bear her.

Yet I’ve started seeing me there. Maybe not physically, but in other ways. Some of which have only recently begun to appear.

For instance, much like me, Celeste couldn’t wait until she was grown so she could hear the pitter patter of little feet. And just like me at this age, the pitter patter would come from dog feet. (Mine was a German shepherd. Hers, a shepherd-boxer mix.)

Like me, if she’s in the car and someone else is driving, she’s asleep. Sometimes before the car even leaves the garage.

And like me, she requires half the dishes in the kitchen be used to make a single sandwich.

We’re both slow to anger, quick to forgive, and both have terrible trouble matching faces with names. We’re generally more comfortable in the presence of animals than people. And neither of us should ever be allowed to operate a car in reverse.

Lately, I’ve been especially reminiscent, as her 18th birthday is approaching (July 30). It’s put me in a looking back frame of mind, thinking about how easy Celeste was, right out of the gate. (Though that gate part wasn’t much fun.)

Even as a newborn, she mostly slept through the night. She skipped the Terrible Twos and Tumultuous Threes. Kind of grooved along smoothly until the second half of her teens–at which point I began having to cover my grays far more often. I’m now at every other week. (Her poor father is bald).

As part of her birthday present, I’ve been gathering many of the columns I’ve written about her into a single place. It’s been fun skimming back over those years and watching her personality evolve.

hallowee 2008 1 - Copy
One evolution involved her annual choice of Halloween costumes, which started out rather ordinary.
Cat. Angel. Witch. Hobo. But somewhere around age 10 or 11, her inappropriate sense of humor emerged and she went dressed as a pregnant teenager. (“What’s scarier than that?” she argued.) Next came the Goth Smurf. And Helen Keller’s ghost (white sheet, sans holes).

Once she’s attached herself to an idea, there’s no dissuading her. (Just like me.)ghost of helen keller

Another evolution was her early attachment to things. She saved every drawing. Collected every trinket. Kept every card. These days, she saves next to nothing (except on the floor of her car). She’s somehow become a frugal minimalist who loves Clearance rack bargains and Goodwill. (Much like me.)

It’s funny, this parenting business. She and I are so different, yet so much alike. Sometimes it seems as though having a child is like becoming semi-immortal. A part of you gets another turn. Gets to do it all over again.

And aside from all the Miss Clairol, it’s even more fun this time around.



July 19, 2015 by Karin Fuller

bystander-effectLast weekend, I was at a movie with Didier and his kids when a pair of girls seated near us gradually forgot they weren’t there alone. Their initially low giggles evolved to louder whispers before becoming flat out mall-voice talking. I could tell by their commentary they weren’t bad girls, just caught up in the moment, their manners forgotten.

“Hey girls,” Didier said in a low voice. “Shhh. Keep it down.”

They looked appropriately chastened. There was no back talk, no rude gestures. It was the dream response—which, as I’ve learned, is hardly the norm.

Several years back, I took my daughter and a friend to a show. The previews had ended and the movie was about ten minutes in when a family entered–mom, dad, child, and infant. For the next several minutes, they made so much noise we decided to move away, closer to the back.

For the next 45 minutes, the little boy talked loudly, his mom answered at the same level, and the baby fussed, cried and screamed. It wasn’t until it became impossible to hear the movie’s onscreen explosions over the howling baby that Meek Me had enough. I stood and asked if they would please take the baby to the lobby.

The mother turned to face me.

“You better not be talking to me,” she said.

Her attitude didn’t surprise me. Honestly, I’d have been more shocked if she’d acquiesced. What did surprise me was that none of the other moviegoers said a word in support even though many had been complaining about how someone should do something. Once that ball was rolling, they just sat back and watched.

When I didn’t back down, the woman’s husband spoke to her and then took the baby out to the lobby. The rest of the movie was uneventful. She didn’t seek me out afterward. The crowd simply dispersed.

I was lucky. It could’ve gone badly. The news is replete with accounts of people being attacked for far less than shushing someone in a theater.

Recently, it seems there have been more stories than ever about attacks happening in public places where, rather than help, those nearby either hurried away or filmed the events on their phones or pretended to be busy. Anything but assist. This kind of thing happens so frequently it’s referred to as the “Genovese Syndrome,” after Kitty Genovese’s 1964 murder, which was purportedly watched or heard by 38 people, yet none attempted to help.

That this condition exists at all is a nauseating thought; that it exists to such a degree as to be recognized and given a name makes it all the worse. Naming is accepting. It enables people to claim they haven’t failed as humans, but were powerless victims of a syndrome.

But tolerating bad behavior only feeds the monster, encourages it to grow larger and even more bold.  Do we believe that by looking away, bad things won’t ever happen to us? Or to those we love?

I wonder if any of these recent violent accounts in the news might’ve ended differently if the bystanders, rather than filming events on their phones, had stepped forward en masse to intervene. And I wonder how I would react if, instead of a few annoying theater goers, it was a genuine crisis I faced. I hope I wouldn’t allow my fears to prevent me from doing what’s right. I don’t think I’d back down, but until a person is in that situation, I guess they really don’t know.

Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

The peace that comes from apathy or tolerance isn’t lasting. It’s the calm before the storm.

It easier to sit back and wait for someone else to take action. It’s easier to claim The Syndrome prevented us from helping.

It’s easier to keep feeding the monster.

And let our children, and their children, clean up its mess.





July 12, 2015 by Karin Fuller

smartphone-excitement-2-hiI arrived late to the world of smart phones, having gotten my first about this time last year. Even though I’m tech-savvy in some ways, I’m a novice in others. It took me longer than I care to admit just to figure out how to use my phone as a phone.

The many apps available for smart phones and how to use them came next. One of my fiancé’s favorites is TouchTunes, an app that enables the user (for a small fee) to select the music that’s playing if the place they’re visiting has a TouchTunes jukebox. If we go into a bar or restaurant that has one, he usually can’t resist getting on his phone and switching the music to something more to his liking.

He has wide-ranging tastes that don’t always align with the other patrons of the particular establishments.

This tickles him greatly.

Last weekend, Didier and I were at our favorite hang-out near the St. Albans exit. It’s a decent sized bar with good food and a back deck that overlooks the Kanawha river. There are pool tables, dart boards, some poker machines. Basically, it’s your standard issue redneck-y bar, and its TouchTunes machine mostly plays country music with a few random few oldies mixed in.

Didier took the oldies part to a different level.

He played Mozart.

It was on for nearly a minute before someone pulled the plug.

Still, it got me thinking about a few apps I wish someone would invent.

For instance, I’d love an app that could sense a person’s need to be extricated from an unpleasant situation and provide a gentle opportunity for making a quick exit. Like, if the app hears certain trigger phrases being spoken such as “presidential election” or “I’m not really a fan of the Steelers,” the app would cause your phone to instantly buzz with news about a pre-selected emergency situation that requires your immediate attention.

“Of course I can help you move from your three story walk-up apartment to one just up the hill,” I would say.

Upon detecting the words “help you move,” it would buzz with an urgent message.

“Oh, no. I’m sorry. My cousin just went into labor and wants me there. I’ll help with your next move. I promise.”

Recently, in the middle of the night, I realized an app someone needs to invent—one that would scroll through content just a little bit faster than my eyes do so it could filter out the kinds of pictures and stories I keep running across and then can’t unsee.

It used to be that, on sleepless nights, I would drift around Facebook or Twitter and see what my friends were interested in. I’d roam around online for a while before eventually relaxing enough to drift back to sleep.

But all it takes is tripping across one graphic animal abuse photo or child neglect story and I know even a double dose of Ambien isn’t going to get me to sleep.

I mentioned my No Bad Stuff app idea to a few equally soft-hearted friends and they thought it was brilliant. Then I mentioned it to Didier, who said one already exists. He said it came free with the phone.

Excited, I handed him my phone so he could show me how to do it.

And he pressed the button that turns off the phone.

Sharpened appreciation

July 9, 2015 by Karin Fuller

Although Father’s Day is behind us, the holiday last month prompted Linda Weaver Bossie of Dunbar and me to start swapping stories about our families.

gossie grandpa“My grandfather, Robert Weaver, was a man of few words,” Linda said.  “He had this perpetually scruffy face, which he claimed he needed just for nuzzling me. I’d protest when he’d rub that scratchy cheek of his against mine, but I’d be giggling the whole time.”

She said she’d been told that by the time she knew her grandfather, he’d mellowed considerably. The years had softened his edges.

“He was my father’s father,” Linda said, “but the dad my dad knew had been different—stern and unyielding and relentlessly critical. A man who expected perfection from himself as well as from others, and especially from my dad.”

Linda’s grandfather was a skilled craftsman who could create beautiful things from what others would’ve likely considered worthless junk. During World War II, while serving as a Sea Bee, the senior Weaver fashioned a pocketknife using wood from the propeller of a downed Japanese fighter plane and the hardware from a disabled American plane. He made the casing from a tortoise shell he found on the New Zealand shore. He spent many hours creating a work of art that wasn’t just beautiful, but functional.

Somewhere along the line, Linda’s grandfather gave the knife to her dad, who was already grown with children of his own at the time he was given the gift.

That he wasn’t yet ready to receive. To him, at that time in his life, a knife was a knife.

“Dad put it in his tackle box and used it to cut fishing line,” Linda said.

Skip ahead a few years and Linda’s dad happened to be showing his father some new fishing lures “when Papaw spotted the dirty, rusted knife—well used, but neglected—in the bottom of the tackle box,” said Linda. Her Papaw reached in his own pocket and pulled out a new Case knife and asked his son if he’d like to trade him the Case for that old one. He jumped at the chance.

“Papaw didn’t say a word, nor did he judge Dad,” said Linda. He didn’t criticize him for being unappreciative. Instead, he sat back and waited, confident his son would eventually recognize and appreciate the value of that first hand-forged knife far more than the second store-bought one.

He was right.

knifeIn time, Linda’s dad—just like his own father—began to mellow, and he became contemplative about what he valued and why. When he recalled the knife and how he’d treated it, he was ashamed. He went to his dad and apologized earnestly for not having given it the respect he now realized it deserved.

“Papaw returned the knife to him,” Linda said. “He’d polished and oiled it so that it looked nearly as good as when it was new. Together, they placed it in a spot of honor in Dad’s home.”

Linda said her dad treasured that knife ever since, and takes pride in his father’s craftsmanship, that he could take scraps of discardeds and turn them into such a treasure.

How easily that knife could’ve remained rusted and forgotten in the bottom of the tackle box because the recipient hadn’t been ready to receive it.

So many of us go through life thinking all we need is this or that and we’ll be happy. If we lose weight, get a bigger house, a different job. But happiness doesn’t come from getting something we want. It comes from appreciating what we already have.

That once neglected knife has now become a family heirloom.  Linda’s father recently passed it on to her, and she hopes to one day pass the knife down to one of her own children or grandchildren.

When they’re ready to receive such a gift.

bossie girls




July 7, 2015 by Karin Fuller

Be Lifters Decades Sometimes you just need


June 30, 2015 by Karin Fuller

It was through happenstance I learned that after a lifetime of nerdiness, I might be edging toward trendy.

I was watching TV the other night when a commercial came on advertising “xtreme golf,” a sport so cool it doesn’t even need the first letter.

The golf I’ve been playing these past few years never struck me as a sport easily taken to an athletic xtreme. It’s often xasperating and xpensive, but xtreme?

Commercials advertising the new version of the game show players whacking the ball and then swimming across the water hazard to bare-hand their way up a cliff while carrying the club in their teeth as they race to their next hit.

Why risk ruining a good thing by trying to wedge in excessive athleticism? Golf doesn’t need to stoop to that level to be entertaining. Some of us manage to ramp up the excitement entirely on our own.

My coworker, Caitlin Ashley, was recently telling me about her dad’s accidental foray into the world of xtreme golf. In his case, it was xtremely flammable. He lit a cigar while playing and believed he’d adequately shake-extinguished the match.

The grass on the Oak Island, North Carolina course he was playing that day had been mostly brown and fairly crispy. It was soon mostly black and even crispier. And the course reduced to 16 holes for the next few months after that.

Another reader, “Glen” of Clarksburg, recently emailed about his dad, who’d spent years trying to teach his children how to play golf.

“He was a terrific golfer,” wrote Glen, “but not terribly patient. He’d get frustrated with us for not taking the game as seriously as him.

“We were playing at a local course when my ball got stuck in a bank up a steep little hill from the green. It was a bad angle but I was game to try (the shot), except Dad kept harping that if I hit it wrong, my ball would roll backward into the pond. I’d already lost about a dozen balls so Dad finally said he’d hit it for me and for me to watch closely how he did what he said he was going to do.”

Except what he did was not take into account the goose droppings underfoot that had seriously slickened the hill.

“The momentum of Dad’s swing on the slippery ground made him this projectile of plaid tumbling backwards at a seemingly impossible speed” right into the pond.

“It probably would’ve gone down a little better with Dad,” said Glen, “if I hadn’t asked him to show me again.”

In all honesty, I can’t help but be a bit inspired by the xtreme way of converting what was once a rather ordinary, single-level activity into something more. Something that sounds a bit edgy. Perhaps even dangerous.

So if I’m understanding it right, to qualify as “xtreme,” a person needs to do one particular activity and then race to the next activity before racing on to the next, with the first initial activity remaining something of the constant.

Which is what I do pretty much every time I sit down to write. I’ll open my laptop and then race to the fridge, swim through some laundry, toss a cat or two off my keyboard, sit long enough to force out a few sentences before popping out of my chair and starting some variation of the cycle again.

Like with most sports, it’s important to maintain adequate hydration. The pacing of hydrating while writing is essential as too much early on can cause for some nonsensical sentences, while not sufficiently hydrating can lead to colorless writing. It’s occasionally such an integral part of the sport that once or twice each year, my fellow xtreme writing enthusiasts and I make it a point to gather en masse and hydrate simultaneously.

Although the subsequent headache is sometimes xtreme.




June 30, 2015 by Karin Fuller


I’ve written about my dad many times over the years, along with other fathers who play a part of my life, so it only seemed fair to open the mic and allow some friends to share stories about their dads in honor of Father’s day. I put a little post online asking for stories, and quickly learned much about my friend’s dads. Like, for instance, how some are capable of achieving the impossible.

From Leigh Shell of Charleston: “My sweet Daddy, ‘Diamond Dallas,’ took my mother and his grandchildren to the beach. He was playing in the ocean, chest-deep with the kids. When they decided to come in, he (and my horrified mom) discovered he had no keys to get in the room or drive the car. They’d been lost in the surf.

“Diamond Dallas announced he was going back in to find them, amidst eye-rolls and sighs from everyone. He quickly calculated his approximate whereabouts in the water and then waded out and came up with his keys in his toes.”

I also learned that Dads are good at making holidays even more fun.

Sarah Blizzard Robinson of Morgantown shared how her Dad would go over to a neighboring farm on Christmas Eve night in order to get a shovel full of manure, which he would then leave on their lawn while the rest of the family was sleeping.

“The next morning,” said Sarah, “we would awaken to evidence that Rudolph and his band of reindeer had stopped at our house long enough to poop in our yard.”

On Halloween, Sarah said her mom would carve the Jack-o-lantern and then her dad would add his contribution—by removing his own false teeth and putting them in the pumpkin’s mouth.

Sharon Summers McClanahan of Poca also had a creative dad.  She wrote: “Before Dad retired, he worked every Thanksgiving. One year Mom made his lunch with Thanksgiving leftovers. Dad made it to the break room before the other men, took out his pumpkin pie and smeared some on his boots. The other men proceeded to come in for lunch. One saw the gunk on Dad’s boot and asked if he knew he had dog poop on his boots. Dad reached down and wiped it off with his finger and said, ‘Looks like it.’ He sniffed it. ‘Smells like it.’ And then he tasted it. ‘Yep. It even tastes like it.’

“The other men all threw their lunches away.”

I learned father’s skill sets can include an ability to feign comatose well enough to terrify the innocent.

Mike Passerotti of Ohio told about his dad being a strong man and a hard worker who installed tile the old way. And he said his dad was also capable of falling deeply asleep very quickly anytime, anywhere. And that was how he often spent his lunch hour.

“Dad had been doing an especially difficult remodeling job when lunch hour came and he just laid down where he was and fell deeply asleep,” wrote Mike. “Except the homeowner decided to run by during lunch to check on the progress and found him stretched out on the floor, not moving.”

She screamed. Luckily, the scream was loud enough to wake the dead.

“Dad rested sitting up after that,” Mike said.

I also learned dads can trick us into learning life skills.

My coworker Lara Lawson of Milton said her dad taught her to be fearless—in a sneaky sort of way.

“He tricked me into thinking that worms were snakes and snakes were worms,” Lara said.  “When worms would be covering the driveway after it rained, Dad would holler ‘Snakes!’ So I would pick my way across quickly. Then, when he would find a snake, we would play with it.”

Rather than be snake-phobic like most of us, Lara has never had a problem playing with snakes. But thanks to her dad, she can’t bait a hook.

It was from my own dad that I’ve learned the most. He’s the one who first taught me how to tell stories with his Three Little Pups. He introduced me to walks in the woods and Indian food and practical jokes. The perils of pulling a finger.

So many lessons on life.

And no matter how old I am, I love that I’m still his little girl.


June 7, 2015 by Karin Fuller

Do your ears hang low? Do they wobble to and fro? Can you tie them in a knot? Can you tie them in a bow?

I love how a silly line or two can still send me back…

They call it the good ol’ Mountain Dew, and them that refuse it are few. I’ll hush up my mug if you fill up my jug with that good ol’ Mountain Dew.

Traveling through time to those muggy summer evenings, sitting on the gritty hardwood floor of our beloved Carbide Camp Castle in the belly of Blue Creek. Counselors at the front, seated on wobbly chairs, some armed with acoustic guitars…

Fried ham. Fried ham. Cheese and boloney. And after the macaroni, we’ll have pickles and onions, and then we’ll have some more fried ham … fried ham, fried ham. Second verse, same as the first!

We smelled of chlorine and sunshine and campfires. Our feet were blistered from walking in wet sneakers and our limbs splotched with bug bites and our hiney’s were hurting from riding old horses.

John Jacob Jingle Heimer Schmidt. His name is my name too …

Those old summer camp songs aren’t stirring in my head just because it’s that time of year, but because I learned the final remnant of this area’s much loved Carbide Camps may soon be no more. If it’s possible to add nails to a coffin that’s already long underground, that’s what’s about to happen.

lodgeAlthough this area’s beloved Carbide Camps ceased to operate back in 1982, the Hunting and Fishing Lodge on Blue Creek was still available for camping and fishing, as well as for the annual reunions of former campers. But that will come to an end in mid-August, when the nonprofit board that has been renting the property loses its rights to the land. The campground, shooting range, fishing ponds, and lodge will be no more.

Many former campers are grieving the idea that losing the property will mean that this last building, the Hunting and Fishing Lodge, may be torn down, and with it would go our time transport device. The smell of that lodge—a combination of creosote and logs, as well as the distinct sound its screen doors make when they clap shut—was all that was needed to transport former campers back through time to their days at camp, as that building was a duplicate to our “Castle.”

5182_539649426645_1322261_nit takes is one whiff of that air and I’m racing back down the dirt footpath to the little building where we made crafts, just to the left of the rifle range, where we’d lie on our bellies and shoot old .22s at paper targets. It seems impossible that so many years have passed since we were poking sticks into a crackling fire while counselors told scary stories. And it seems impossible for it to be gone. For bulldozers to have flattened such a magical place.

There’s an opportunity for former campers to gather at the Hunting and Fishing Lodge one last time as the annual reunion is scheduled for July 17-19, 2015. The planning committee needs a head-count, as well as mail or email addresses for those interested in attending. To add your name to the list, send a note to Bob Lilly at Information can also be found on the Carbide Camps website ( or the group’s Facebook page (

An extensive collection of camp songs is available online (for free!) thanks to the efforts of Ellen Richardson Pritchard. (

A friend and I are working on collecting camp photographs and other memorabilia into a book, and a filmmaker friend hopes to create a documentary about Carbide Camps so we’re looking for any film, videos, or other items related to the camps, along with stories and suggestions. I can be reached via email at


June 1, 2015 by Karin Fuller

matildaThere have been rerouted flights that wound up taking longer than if I’d made the same trip by burro and road trips so waylaid by wrecks and construction it would’ve been faster to get there by snail. There were car-sick spaghetti aficionados and vindictive GPS units and one trip that was slowed by frequent feedings of an orphaned baby raccoon.

There was a fire in a turnpike tunnel and a prankster’s detour to nowhere and a reservation at Myrtle not knowing we’d booked in the middle of bike week in a hotel that was hosting almost nothing but bikers.

And most every time a trip involved the state of Ohio, it also involved some sort of traffic citation.

But it’s funny how, when I look back on vacations, it seems something always happened on the way there or back that often seems to be the most unforgettable part.

Growing up, our parents drove one of those white station wagons with the fake wood paneled sides. We named her Matilda. I’m not sure if Matilda didn’t have air conditioning or if Dad merely preferred the economy of driving with the windows rolled down, but since we often traveled with two large dogs—one a long-haired German shepherd, the other a shepherd-collie mix—by the time we’d reach our destination, we’d be covered in hair.

Sometimes, I think Dad rolled down the windows to discourage talking, as it’s hardly advisable to attempt conversation in a fur-filled windy car.

I was still in my early teens when our family headed off on one of our longest road trips, traveling from West Virginia to the Ozarks for a Tauscher family reunion. On the way there, Dad told us he’d heard the funniest joke ever at work. He said it was about two polar bears, and he warned that it was a little off color. We begged him to tell it. When he did, the joke just went on and on. When it finally ended, there seemed to be no punch line, but Dad was laughing like mad anyway.

The longer Mom, my brother and I sat there quietly trying to figure out what it was that we’d missed, the harder Dad laughed.

Eventually, we realized there had never been a punch line at all. Dad had just been having a bit of fun at our expense. We soon forgot all about it.

Until we got to the reunion.

On the first evening there, several of us were sitting around talking when one of my cousins told a joke, then another. My brother and I started begging Dad to tell his polar bear joke.

Dad waved us off for a bit, but then couldn’t resist. Except this time, when he finally reached the non-punch line, my brother, Mom and I were laughing just as hysterically as Dad.  While the others just sat there, scratching their heads.

We eventually let them in on the joke.

The next day, after even more relatives rolled in, the joke-telling began anew, except this time, an even larger group of insiders was begging Dad to tell his polar bear joke. And before long, even more of us were laughing so hard we had tears rolling down our cheeks.

All these years later, when we’re at family gatherings, Dad still gets requests for his polar bear joke.

These days, our trips are far quieter, with kids occupied by handheld games or watching movies on laptops, with earbuds plugged in. It’s likely less stressful, but also less fun.

It’s said that vacations are a lot like love—anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort, and remembered with nostalgia.

I’d give most anything for another road trip in Matilda. Dog hair, bad jokes and all.