My mom took my sister and me to Edmonton, AB to visit the huge-ass Mall and indoor water park when we were kids. I couldn't have been older than 11/12 (sister 15/16), and my dad had to stay behind due to his job cancelling his vacation time two days before we were scheduled to drive our Mercury Villager out of town. My mom was furious at his supervisor (this wasn't the first time he'd had to miss a family event due to their ineptitude), but she strongly/stubbornly decided that we would still make the trip, just the three of us. My dad was not pleased, but he knew an argument would only solidify her decision even more. The drive was beautiful, but we all missed dad. It really sucked knowing he was stuck back at home going through the motions - working a job he hated and surely feeling quite resentful towards his bosses with every passing hour as he wondered where we might be and that he was missing it, but what was he going to do? He had no choice. He was the breadwinner (literally, he works for a bakery), and mom was a stay-at-home mother who had been looking forward to getting out of town for awhile with us. I realized years later that her soul and mine are very similar when it comes to longing for and adventure and having conversations with people from other places that we'll never see or hear from again, and when your heart is set on that - it's going.
For the most part the weekend was great. The wave pool in the mall was huge, water slides even more grand, and they had indoor bungee jumping! Oh, and lots of cute girls. Sadly, I was too short to participate in the bungee leap and most of the roller coasters, but I still loved every second. There was even a pirate ship in the mall! And a friggin submarine tour. Disneyland was cool, but this was better IMO. Then, as the day at the pool was ending and my eyes burned from chlorine water, my sister and I discovered one of my moms greatest fear: a dead car. We were stranded.
As much as she wanted to stay cool we both knew my mom was devastated inside. Against my dads wishes (for this very reason), she packed up the mini-van and drove us hundreds of miles away determined to take a vacation at all costs. She consciously drove us away from his mechanical know-how, safety, and problem solving skills. We were stranded in a mall parking lot with no help, nobody to call, and I know my mom was becoming more terrified as she imagined my dad at home who was praying this very thing wouldn't happen. She didn't have much money and I remember sitting in my seat (the middle bench) while the sun baked through the windows and dried my swimming trunks. Mom was outside pacing. Crying, but trying to hide it from us.
Just then a stranger walked over. A big dude who noticed the visibly-shaken woman with two kids who were sitting in the parking lot and knew something was wrong. He offered to take a look at the problem and help however he could. It didn't take him long to realize it was just a dead battery, and he offered to go pick one up and install it for my mom. I know she was both embarrassed and relieved to learn it was something simple and relatively-inexpensive, but I also know she felt the presence of my dads voice who warned her something like this could happen. I think the stranger even paid for the battery, but that could just be my brain inflating how big of a savior this stranger was for us. I don't remember much else about the guy but I remember thinking that he and my dad would probably be friends if they ever had the chance to meet, but they wouldn't, ever, and my mom knew that she would have a difficult time explaining this to my dad without crying again. My dad has helped dozens of people with broken down cars, many of them being women with children who were scared, broken down on the sides of loud freeways, so this was some kind of karmic justice; the universe repaying him for being a helpful guy and always the first to volunteer to fix things.
We made it home safely and I told my dad all about the cool shit I had seen and done, but I could tell he was bummed. Defeated, he played along and humored me while listening to how tall the water slides were and how they had huge slices of pizza and I made a friend in the pool, but he was tired and had to be back up st 3am to go to work again tomorrow because his only days off were Sunday's and Wednesday's.
My dad is the best. He didn't complain, he didn't yell, he just did what he had to do because that's what being a man was to him, and to his dad, and his dad's dad. You worked and made the best of it.
In the end everything was fine. I learned a lesson, got to swim in awesome pools, my mom got her adventure, and a total stranger stepped up and helped us. I'd like to think everybody would be this nice but then I see crazy shit on tv everyday that makes me think otherwise.
Be good to people. Work hard. Go on vacation.