Carrie Yamato

There are moments when you realize you were a spoiled brat growing up. There are also moments when you realize how much your parents loved you.

Both realizations hit me last week.

Since our August vacation to Hawaii wasn’t going to happen, we thought a road trip to Mammoth would be a great consolation, before-school getaway. It was only a five-hour drive, there were numerous lakes for water activities and enough trails to bike and hike to take in different sceneries.

Growing up, I spent many seasons skiing and hanging out at the lakes in Mammoth. But when my parents sold the condo after my brothers and I graduated from college, I haven’t made it up Highway 395 for about 25 years. A visit was long overdue.

Even before we even hit the road, though, my Mammoth memories began taking on a different hue. Mom couldn’t have organized, and meal planned everything by herself, I thought, as I struggled to pack four days’ worth of food in big plastic bins like she did. But she must have. Dad was working, and I knew I was not interested in helping her.

During this road trip, we made an unexpected stop at Manzanar, an internment camp where my father and his family were incarcerated during World War II. I remember my dad always wanting to stop by and share a few of his childhood stories. But, back then, I was just not interested. I had far better things to see and do.

But, now, as my family and I took the auto tour of Manzanar, I had a different perspective. As I viewed the barracks and read about the daily struggles, all I wanted was to hear my dad’s voice telling me about his past, and for me to show some interest in what mattered to him.

My road trip was turning into a road of childhood regret. But nothing hit me harder than when we drove up the same mountain road that my dad used to chauffeur us up and down every day.

“This is the road that Grandpa used to drive when he took us to the ski lift,” I told my daughter as we were going to pick up dinner. “After Grandma made us breakfast, he would gather all our skis and boots in the car and take us to the lodge. Then he would unpack them and made sure we had our ski lift tickets and then go back to the condo.”

“He didn’t ski with you guys?” she asked.

“No,” I said, just realizing that until now, I never even gave it a second thought. “He just drove us and picked us up, and you know Grandpa, he never complained.”  

“Yeah, Grandpa was the best,” she said.

While we had a great time in Mammoth, and we all came back home recharged for the school year, I also came back with a new appreciation for all that my parents did for me and my brothers.  

Unlike yours truly, who is quick to point out when no one is helping, my parents were there just to make everything easy and to make sure that we were happy. I miss and now treasure our Mammoth trips when my dad would chauffeur us to the lodge and my mom would be waiting for us with a snack she had put together from her bin full of food.

It’s been six years since my parents passed away. I hope it’s not too late to say, “Thank you.”

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