The Perfect Do-Over

A few weeks back, Addie (almost two years old) and I took a little daddy-daughter trip from our home in Columbus down to Dayton. My wife Alexis is a cookbook editor and author extraordinaire with an important deadline looming, so we decided to get out of the house and give her a solid stretch of a few days alone to crank out some work. Plus, I wanted to see how Addie and I would survive on our own, and whether we’d reached the point of bonding a bit over a shared adventure.

Why Dayton? No good reason. We had already taken family road trips to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and I’ve had plenty of quality time in Cleveland. Dayton is just over an hour away, and I decided to err on the side of a shorter drive for my first excursion solo-parenting a toddler.

Our plan for the trip was to drive down on Wednesday morning, spend three nights, and drive home Saturday morning. My colonoscopy was the Monday before we left, and when we hit the road Wednesday, I still didn’t have the pathology results. I knew I’d had a massive polyp removed, but I didn’t yet have confirmation it was cancerous — though deep down, I probably knew it would have been something of a miracle for a growth that large and ugly to be benign.

Addie and I had a blast together and made memories I will cherish. We found lots of parks, ate some fantastic local BBQ (check out the Texas Beef and Cattle Company), and spent multiple afternoons exploring the very cool Carillon Historical Park (there was LOTS I didn’t know about Dayton).

The problem was this: Try as I might to clear my head of the unknown, stop checking my phone every two seconds for a call from the doctor, and focus on capturing memories of a precious, fleeting moment with my daughter, I never fully could. I was perpetually distracted, never really present. Then, during Addie’s nap Friday afternoon, I got The Call. When she woke up, we packed our things, cut the trip short a day, and got back home to Mama as fast as we could.

Fast-forward a few weeks: Assuming this would be my last free weekend for awhile (at least “free” in the sense that I’d be up for travel), I decided that Addie and I needed a do-over. (Plus, Alexis’s deadline still looms.) Sure, I’m now living with the known reality of cancer, but (knock on wood) there don’t seem to be many unknowns remaining — so while I’m nervous for the road ahead, I’m in a far better state of mind to fully immerse myself in daddy-daughter time.

So, on Friday I picked Addie up early from daycare and we drove an hour and 40 minutes down past Cincinnati to Covington, KY. We explored all day yesterday (I recommend Devou Park), ate a delicious outdoor dinner at Frida (try the brussels sprout tacos) and came home this morning.

Chicken fingers and fries are still allowed for Addie. I went with the grilled chicken sandwich and tried to ignore the chips. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

A long way to drive for a short trip? Definitely. But so, so worth it. I soaked up every minute of our do-over trip, including the 30-odd minutes of the drive down spent listening to “We’re Going to Kentucky” on repeat.

We’ll give you Dayton, cancer — but Kentucky is ours.

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