Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

Last week Rick and I were invited to a special family dinner Wedandshy;nesandshy;day night. My granddaughter Kayla was on her very first campandshy;andshy;andshy;ing trip at Umpandshy;qua Lighthouse State Park and we joined her for a barbecue at her parents' campfire. It was so relaxing to take a mid-week hiatus from work and even better to be able to cuddle up with my grandandshy;daughter and visit with my son and daughter-in-law.

Dana and Holly shared a video from their prior day's trip to the West Coast Game Park Safari south of Bandon, a place I took Dana often when he was younger. Give me time to go through some boxes and I can produce photos of Dana petting bear cubs, baby albino skunks and infant ferrets. Last week my baby took his baby and waited in line to be among the few who sat inside the nursery with a pair of baby lions. One sucked on a bottle while the other chewed Dana's shoe. Kayla watched.

Wednesday evening, in our room at the Winchester Bay Motel, I heard that Spain and the Netherlands would be playandshy;ing in the finals of the World Cup. I've been a soccer fan since my boys stood on the field confused and easily distracted when they were only 5 or 6, but I don't watch the World Cup anymore.

In June of 1994, I drove my sons from Grants Pass to Crescent City and on down the coast for a "sports vacation" we'd been planning for months. Somewhere before Sebastopol where we'd be spending the night with friends, we stopped at a convenience store and saw O.J.'s white Bronco on TV during that infamous low-speed chase. When we arrived in Sebastopol, my friends had news from home. They took me into their bedroom and said there had been an accident. Dana's 11-year-old best friend was killed while riding to Little Leag ue practice on the back of his dad's motorcycle.The decision was mine. I discussed it with my older boys, but I made the decision to continue the vacation. We had tickets for a Giants game and tickets to watch USA play Romania in the World Cup at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

Barry Bonds was a huge disappointment. In unseasonably hot weather for San Francisco, the Cubs beat the Giants 6-4.

And in Los Angeles, USA gave it up to Romania 0-1. I did not go. I gave my tickets to a friend's nephew and he and my sons shared an experience of a lifetime. They had never seen anything like it-nearly 94,000 soccer fans screaming "U-S-A, U-S-A."

The next day we drove home and I had 14 excruciating hours to choose the words I would use to tell my son that his best friend was gone.

Last week I saw my son take his daughter on their first vacation together. There was nothing but joy and love between them and I hoped that their future held endless carefree and easy days of summer.

Against the backdrop of this year's World Cup, I relived the summer of our "sports vacation" when Dana was only 12. We rarely talk about that trip. I suspect that all his memories-of Candlestick Park, the LA Coliseum and all the things we did in between-are bittersweet at best for my son. And for me that vacation left me sort of sideways about what's fair in life and when it's right to hide the truth from your child.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at mthomas@trip licate.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.