For the last week or so I've been sitting on the fence of whether to go or not go to Jamie's upcoming graduation from the Florida Youth Challenge Academy on June 12th down in Orange Park, Florida. With Amanda's graduation from Norwich Free Academy only six days later on the 18th, there are some definite time constraints to consider but I also knew that I wanted to try to spend some time with Jamie after her graduation if possible. It will be a year in June since I've seen her and I've really missed her even though I know she's doing something that will point her life in the right direction.
I was finally able to get her father to agree to let me have her for two days after the graduation ceremony though he was reluctant at first. Whereas I understand that once she graduates from the Academy she still has certain obligations of the program to fulfill, I have also spoken to her cadre and know that it would be okay for her to spend time with me. As a matter of fact, it would be okay for her to come up to Connecticut and spend some time here as long as she kept in touch with her mentor but for now that's not going to happen and because it isn't, I wanted some time with her in Florida.
I'm afraid I got a bit overly emotional when speaking to her father about it initially when he said that he didn't think it would be a good idea but like I told him, it didn't seem to make much sense for me to go all the way to Florida to see her graduate and then turn around and come home. His response was that I could spend time with her along with he and her step-mom but truly, I don't want to spend time with them - I want to spend time with Jamie. She's my daughter, I'm not an evil person, and there's no good reason for him not to trust me with her for a couple of days.
Thankfully he rethought it and decided that it would be okay for me to have her on Saturday and Sunday night and I can return her to Tampa on Monday before I head back to Connecticut. It's not as much time as I would have liked but I know she's got a job lined up at the local McDonald's to hold her over until she either goes into the service or decides what else she wants to do with her life and I don't want to mess up that opportunity for her. Still, you would think that a concession or two could be made considering the distance I am traveling to see her.
Anyhow, with all that said, now I have to try to hammer out the details including how I'm getting there, how I'm getting back, and where I want to go while I'm there. I have vacation time so getting the time off of work shouldn't be a big problem (I know that my supervisor will do all he can to make sure I can be there for my daughter's graduation) but I don't want to use too much of that time if I can help it. Right now I am leaning towards taking Amtrak down to Jacksonville on the Friday before Jamie's graduation, getting a rental car and driving directly to the ceremony, and after that Jamie and I can head down the coast or other points before I bring her back to Tampa on Monday. I've got a couple ideas of places I'd like to go and maybe - if I'm lucky - people I'd like to meet.
I'm thinking that I'll leave out of Tampa after I drop Jamie off but the biggest decision there is whether to take the train back or to fly back; I'm going to have to run some more numbers and see what would work out best time-wise. As much as I would love to take the train back, too, there's a 6-hour layover in Washington D.C. that I can't seem to schedule around that wouldn't get me back to Connecticut until 5:30 on Wednesday morning. The other connections are just way too close and I suspect it's not a good idea to book trains too close together just in case something goes wrong and I'm late for the next leg of my trip. I don't mind flying but I'm just not sure I want to though it would save me a lot of time. Perhaps Southwest will have a great sale sometime in the near future that will help me make up my mind!
Anyhow, that's how things stand currently. I've been trying to figure out where the train station is in relation to rental car places and the cost of hotels in the places that I'd like to go and all of the other logistics of the trip but at least I know that my mind is made up TO go. It's Jamie's graduation after all and it wouldn't be right not to be there if there's any way possible that I can be. I just wish it were a little easier.