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Last Road Trip

By Joanne Long Fenstermacher ’80

M

y father, Henry Lewis Long ’48,

’56 loved road trips. He learned

to love them from his father, Dr. John

W. Long, president of Lycoming from

1921-55. After choosing a destination, he

would spread maps over

the dining room table,

tracing the roads with

his index finger until

he found the best route.

His favorite destinations

always had something to

do with his many varied

interests – civil war

battle sites; history, art

and science museums;

wildlife preserves;

shoreline sites; and hiking

trails. Another interest

was photography, and he would take

wonderful pictures of our travels.

On the designated day of the trip, he’d

wake us up before sunrise, eager to get

on the road.

For most of our earlier adventures,

Dad drove a shiny new yellow Malibu.

We would all pile in, still half asleep,

knowing that something new and

exciting was about to be revealed to us.

There was the trip to the bird

preserve in Delaware with his brother,

John. Cindy, Betsy and I were excitedly

watching the trees for birds when Dad

and Uncle John told us about the wonders

of the tick and its remarkable feeding

habits. We quickly lost interest in the

birds, and began watching our exposed

limbs for ticks instead, much to their

amusement.

Then there was the trip to

Washington, D.C., to visit Dad’s brother,

George, who gave us a whirlwind tour

of northern Virginia’s historical sites,

the city’s monuments, and the highlights

of the Smithsonian – all in one day! I

remember brief flashes of gemstones,

Lincoln’s massive statue and the lawn

of Mount Vernon. But, most of all, I

remember Cindy, Becky and me chasing

after our long-legged uncle as he raced

ahead of us, listing all the facts that he

thought we should know.

When we were teenagers, after

mom had our youngest sister, Jennifer,

dad traded in his beloved Malibu for a

Volkswagen mini-bus. Now he began

The

road trips by calling, “Hurry up–the bus

leaves in 15 minutes.” The five of us

would pile in the sliding door, and hear

the solid click as he secured us inside.

All he had to say was that he’d like some

company, and we’d drop

whatever we were doing

and go along for the ride.

Years later, after I

married and moved to New

England, first Boston,

then Connecticut, Dad

would come to visit with

family members in tow,

and the road trips started

anew. This time, I was the

photographer, and I took

my camera everywhere we

went.

There was the trip to see the homes

of the Transcendentalists in Concord,

the North Bridge and the beautiful old

tombstones nearby. And we couldn’t

miss the Freedom Trail in Boston, with

Quincy Market, the Old North Church

and Old Ironsides. Quincy Market, with

its many food stalls, was the hands down

favorite.

After Dad retired, he’d visit me in

Connecticut. We had plenty of time for

hiking in the Berkshires, watching the

Portuguese fishing fleet come home to

Stonington, and visiting Mystic Seaport,

where he posed for pictures on their

whaling ship.

I once roped him into a tour of the

Yale campus hoping to interest him in

the rare book collection at the Beineke

Library, but before we got there, Dad

spotted an artisan ice cream shop, and

he pulled me out of the tour line and

into the shop. Only after polishing off a

double cone would he agree to visit the

art museums.

The last road trip I took with my

father was in August 1998. Soon after, I

would become too ill to travel, although I

didn’t know then.

My dad came for a week’s visit,

and we planned several trips – the

Connecticut shoreline in Fairfield and

Westport, the Litchfield Jazz Festival in

Goshen, and the Five Colleges area of

western Massachusetts, where I’d spent

the summer of 1997. I’d told my father

about all of my solo road trips that I’d

taken that summer – to Northampton,

Amherst, Hadley and Deerfield. He

wanted me to show him where I’d been.

Our trip started in Northampton, the

home of Smith College. During our lunch,

we began to talk about one of our favorite

poets – Emily Dickinson – how she used

such profound words in the disguise of the

common meter, which is also used in the

theme to Gilligan’s Island and the song

“The Yellow Rose of Texas.” We laughed

about how you can sing: “Because I could

not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for

me – ” to either tune.

We decided to visit the Belle of

Amherst’s home. We sat in her garden and

talked about her obsession with death;

how she became interested in the subject

after spending her early years in a home

facing an old New England graveyard.

This reminded Dad of his love of the

old tombstones unique to New England.

He asked if there were any nearby.

Deerfield had some interesting old stones,

so we headed north. We spent the next

couple of hours reading inscriptions,

marveling at the carvings of skulls and

angels. Soon, we headed home, neither of

us knowing that this would be our last trip

together.

I want to share with you a Dickinson

poem in memory of that last trip. I first

read it in William Styron’s novel

Sophie’s

Choice

. Styron’s family, like my father’s,

resided in the Chesapeake area for many

generations. It is about a loved one’s

grave.

Ample make this bed—

Make this bed with awe—

In it wait till judgment break

Excellent and fair.

Be its mattress straight—

Be its pillow round—

Let no sunrise’ yellow noise

Interrupt this ground—

And now my dad is off on his final

road trip. I picture him driving away

in his shiny yellow Malibu, young and

strong. I don’t know where he’s headed,

but someday I hope to hear all about it. I’ll

want pictures.

Fenstermacher lives in Simsbury,

Conn., with her husband, Peter Drew

Fenstermacher (’79).

43

www.lycoming.edu

Joanne Long Fenstermacher ’80

with her father, Henry Lewis

Long ’48 ‘56