Start planning in advance: with a 60th birthday and a 38th anniversary coming up, you might want to do something special. Check flights to be sure you can afford to get to where your brother lives. Check with your brother to make sure you'll be welcome. Once he's on board, let him take care of getting your parents to where he lives. Stop talking to them about what you'll do during your own vacation: float the story, by way of your brother, that your work has started pressing upon you so hard that you can't even think about leaving town. (Feel a little extra stressed at the possibility that you might not be lying about that part.) Use your blog to reinforce this idea. Tell your parents that you, too, were invited to come down to your brother's place for the weekend but just can't manage it.
The day of your flight, call your father to wish him a happy birthday. Confess that you're going to Columbus, but only mention that you're going for a haircut (and only mention it because he, too, is getting one, as part of a birthday day off). Do not mention that when you leave your salon, you will keep heading south, park the car in the remote lot, catch the shuttle bus to the terminal, and check in for a 4 p.m. flight to Nashville. Call your brother to let him know you're on the plane.
Interrupt your end-of-flight conversation with your seatmate, a mortician, to call your brother and let him know you're on the ground. Retrieve your bag. Walk out the door to find your brother waiting for you. Zip off into the rush hour traffic and finally get to see the home to which your brother relocated even before you left for England.
Eat large portions of barbecued pig for dinner. Shop for food and drink. Place second call of day to parents. When asked what you will do with your break, say, "Grade papers," which is no lie--simply a statement that leaves out all the other things you're doing. Like learning to play Pain and Velocity Bowling and Guitar Hero. Not to mention where you're doing them.
Sleep on the couch. Get up early to grade some papers. Watch a bit of Barack Obama continuing to be the most presidential man in the country. Resist the impulse (yet again) to make a pact with your brother that if one of you collapses financially, s/he can move in with the other.
Pick up your horoscope (which is also your brother's) for the day:
You like to make big decisions and fly by the seat of your pants, but today is a good time for planning things out to the last detail. You should be able to come up with something approaching genius!And go off into the morning to launch sibling adventures...
At the end of a day packed with comings and goings, walking and eating and shoe-shopping and vegetable-chopping, see your parents. Have said to your brother ahead of time that this time, you will know whether they knew your secret all along: your father has been wanting to give you a couple of presents lately, and if he's brought them down here, it means that he probably knew.
By bedtime, stomach full of pasta and salad and bread and wine, go to sleep near your new-old copy of a guide to architectural standards and a Keuffel and Esser Map Measure, while your parents sleep in a king-sized bed at a hotel across town. Figure that maybe next time, you'll really really take them by surprise.