Okay. Today’s theme music: Willie Nelson, “On the Road Again.”
Because we are. Or will be shortly. Today Kay and Billie and I head for the farm in Texas. We’ll meet my dad’s sister, my cousin Mike and his wife Sissy, and have tonight to visit. Tomorrow is the big day, the funeral. Lots more family and many friends will be there then, and there’s a lunch after the burial, and then probably lots of people dropping by the farm afterwards. We’ll spend the night there again on Saturday night and head back to Egan on Sunday.
Traveling days, driving days. And that makes me think of Dad again.
Because, you see, it all started with him. Maybe, now that I think about it, it started with Mother and Dad buying a house in Beaumont on Detroit Street. That’s the street I came home from the hospital to. Indeed, my birth announcement was themed: I was the 1951 model — complete with squealing lungs. Destiny.
When I was in first grade, I was the little Rice Festival Princess from Egan Elementary School. I had a huge (and I mean HUGE) dress, complete with hoop skirt. It was so large that a state trooper had to carry me up the steps to the stage because the skirt wouldn’t fit between the banisters. (There is a photo somewhere that my mother took of that moment — complete with the hoop skirt flipping the dress up, leaving a view of my lace-trimmed undies.) What was I most excited about? Not anything about the dress, or the competition (I didn’t win.) Riding in a convertible, on the back of the back seat.
Yes, the dress was okay. I just remember that standing and having it pinned and fitted was a pain. No, it was the convertible that was most important to me.
Only two years later I learned to drive. Mother was ill — panic attacks, severe anxiety disorder. If she had a panic attack while driving, someone had to be able to drive us home. I was elected.
We had a 1955 Chevy Bel-Air car, two-door, pink and gray. Dad took me out to the road by the ballpark, and the first time I tried to drive, I flooded the engine. We had to walk home. Within two years, Mother just liked having me run errands here in Egan to the little grocery store. Ten. I loved it.
Then there was the 1956 or 1957 Chevy truck my granddad Ware bought. I learned to drive that too, as all the grandkids did, I guess. That was the first manual I ever drove — and it was a shift off the steering wheel. Three gears and reverse. We got to drive in the pastures, never anywhere else. That truck is still at the farm, and it still runs.
In fact, I remember every car Mother and Dad ever had. Even the first one, before the ’55 Chevy. I remember standing up in the back of that 1948 (I think) Plymouth, with my head hitting the roof liner.
Only last week, Dad and Kay were laughing about me as I was mowing the yard here. It’s a riding mower, of course. What were they laughing about? That I love driving. “If it has 4 wheels and an engine, she’ll drive it,” Dad said.
So when we hit the road in a few minutes, that’s no problem for me. We’ll talk, and maybe play some music. But I’ll be driving and remembering Dad. Every mile.