The family hits the road this weekend.

We’re going to Charleston. I’m presenting at a conference.

That sounds like a very dad thing to do, go to a conference, tow the family along. I’ve been to more conferences than I’d like to count. And I’ve given talks before. But I haven’t stood in front of a hundred or more of my peers and addressed them as an expert — and a father.

I heard an old guy in an NPR story tonight say that we’re all fixated on an ideal age; this guy, thoug hhe’s 76, feels about 19. Me, I go between 15 and about 28. At my best I’m 28, when life was carefree and easy, and I felt like I was 15.

But this conference business. It’s something Ward Cleaver, one of my personal heroes, would do. Can’t you see ward in front of a hotel conference room full of middle-aged white men smoking Chesterfields and pipes, having a boy shuffle giant charts illustrating the modern evolution of the flying buttress and its applications in mid-20th century structural engineering? And afterwards he phones June (who’s just washed and dried the dishes and still looks like a hottie in her everyday pearls) to tell her he received a standing ovation, and to remind Beaver to scrub behind his ears. Then the middle-aged white crowd flows into the hotel bar, and drowns their pent-up WW II PTSD and suppressed homoeroticism in bad vodka and gin. All except Ward. He’s not into that foolishness. That stuff’s for the Fred Rutherfords of the world.

The Sexywife’s dad used to load the family, all four girls and the missus, every summer and make their vacation destination the site of the annual big farmer’s meeting, wherever that was — Disneyworld, Des Moines, Six Flags, Omaha.

My dad went to conferences, but with the step mom. They got to go to Jamaica, Hawaii, the Bahamas … Minneapolis.

Me, I went to a conference one year when I was a kid. It was a six-hour drive to San Antonio in a 1978 Datsum B-210 with my brother and his farm-boy friends.

So it’s my turn. Being a father, taking the family with me, that’s all very new. It has some gravity.

Today I tweaked the PowerPoints. I consulted with my collaborator. We charged up the portable DVD and checked out a new Blues Clues episode and lined up a pet sitter. On Sunday we’ll load up the Passat and head south for two nights in the luxurious Middle-Class Inn. Sexywife and Myowndaughter will take in the sights — the South Carolina aquarium, cheap tourist kitsch, the obvious but never-mentioned de facto segregation that is the South.

As long as nobody pukes, the trip should be a huge success.

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