Road Trip Dad –
One Less Plate At the Table
Dan Witmer | November 25, 2019
You probably would regret inviting me to join you at your Thanksgiving table this week.

I would be a lousy guest. There I’d sit, waiting for my turn to say what I’m grateful for as everyone’s attention goes around the table, and then… finally, it would be my turn.

By the time I’m done giving thanks, your turkey is cold, the gravy has congealed, children are crying, and at least one of your elders has fallen asleep.

So let’s compromise.

I’ll agree not to show up at your house on Thursday, but you’ll have to agree to let me list, here in this Special RTD Thanksgiving Edition, everything I’m thankful for…

After retiring from teaching in 2015, I am grateful now for the “small,” part-time jobs I hold – most (but not all) connected to the game of lacrosse. The Oswego City School District pays me to be their assistant varsity boys’ lacrosse coach, and when I’m not coaching in the spring, I offer my officiating services as a member of the Central New York Lacrosse Officials’ Association (CNYLOA). For a couple of weekends in June and July, and one glorious week in August, I work for Summit Lacrosse Ventures, helping run their boys’ and girls’ tournaments in Albany, Saratoga, and Lake Placid. Then there’s this whole RTD at JustLacrosse Upstate thing… which challenges my experiences and knowledge, as well as my creativity, each and every week (thanks for reading, friends – spread the word!). They say you need to be ready for retirement, that you need a plan, and that you need things to keep you busy. My plan was to keep coaching, and to stay involved with lacrosse. These four outlets have fit into my retirement quite nicely, and I am very grateful!

Next, and this might come as a shocker to those who know me, I am grateful for technology. I mean, check this out: a few weeks ago when I was sitting on the beach in Florida, my cell phone rang. Now, first of all, you have to understand that I get about two phone calls a week. Maybe fewer (so I guess I am grateful for that, too). But I answered the phone, and it turned out that my son Brian was calling to touch base. Very cool, these cell phones. But then it sunk in that he was calling from Hawaii, and that I was sitting on the beach in Florida, and I suddenly appreciated the cell phone that much more. We’ve come a long way from party lines, 20-foot cords on the wall phone, and waiting till after 7 PM to make long-distance calls… and I’m grateful.

This might sound corny, but I’m also very thankful for Time. Not necessarily Father Time, but the kind of time we get to spend with those we cherish, or doing things we love. For instance, having both boys home for most of October was special. Spending a week with them in Lake Placid last August was, too, especially our first-ever time playing ice hockey together in the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena. Experiencing an outdoor box lacrosse tournament in Radotin, Czech Republic – first-hand, in person, instead of watching remotely on YouTube – was a thrill. There and again a few weeks later, at the LASNAI at the Onondaga Nation, I enjoyed standing on a bench, coaching with Brian… Time has also allowed me to keep playing ice hockey, too, despite closing in on the age of 60.

Excuse the cliché, but I’m grateful for the Past, the Present, and the Future. There’s a lacrosse story in there somewhere that would completely rip off the Dickens’ classic – imagine The Ghost of Lacrosse Past (Jim Adams, Henry Ciccarone, Dick Edell, Paul Rose, Jack McGetrick, even Bill Bjorness?), the Ghost of Christmas Present (John Danowski, Dom Starsia, Tony Seaman, or Bill Tierney?), and, of course, The Ghost of Lacrosse Future (Paul Rabil, Lars Tiffany, John Tillman, or Andy Shay?). There’s a narrative there, I’m sure… but I digress.

The Past has led from one metaphoric road to another, from one door closing while another opened. I didn’t plan all of this – it pretty much just happened, but there’s no denying that I’ve been extremely fortunate.

The Present? Things are looking pretty good. What’s that old commercial say, “If you’ve got your health, you’ve got just about everything.” I’m thankful I can still pick up a stick and have a catch with my sons, or lace ‘em up every Sunday night and walk off the ice 75 minutes later still smiling, like a little kid, from ear to ear. I’m thankful for family, near and far.

And, not to jinx myself, but the Future doesn’t look so bad, either. Numerous 2020 dates are starting to fill in my calendar, and there’s plenty to look forward to: the spring lacrosse season, SLV’s summer tournaments, maybe even the U-19 Men’s World Games in Limerick, Ireland in July. Another St. Baldrick’s fundraiser, more camping in the Adirondacks, more street hockey reunions with my boyhood friends, and another winter trip to visit the folks in Florida. I’m so very thankful to be able to make plans for the future.

Finally, I’d like to give thanks to the guy (or gal) who came up with the idea of the cold, leftover turkey sandwich – I’d be willing to skip the main meal if I could eat leftovers for a week. Give me a few thick slices of white meat, some crisp lettuce, mayonnaise, and salt, and then pile it all on virtually any kind of bread or roll, and, again, you might regret inviting me over to your house – because there may not be enough left for you to enjoy one for yourself. Consider yourself warned…

So you see, if I was seated at your beautiful, bountiful table on Thursday, by the time I finished this lengthy litany of thanks, you’d be ruing your decision to invite me. Trust me, this worked out better for everyone.

In closing, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Enjoy the week, and enjoy time spent with loved ones. Be sure to shop locally on Saturday, and don’t forget about Giving Tuesday next week.

And whether it’s long distance, or around the corner to the grocery store for the fourth time in three days, please – drive carefully!

- Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu

Dan Witmer is the author of two books.  The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection  is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland.  ...and piles to go before I sleep - The Book of Wit  is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore.