I remembered a car trip on a summer day. Just my dad and me – my favorite way to travel. No little brothers to share his attention, no mother to doze and snore in the front seat, admonishing us all to shut up - just the two of us speeding along quiet country roads. In those pre-air conditioned days, all the windows were rolled down, letting a wall of hot summer air rush in.
Sometimes I sat up front, on the long bench seat next to my dad. If I got tired, I lay down and rested my head on his leg as he drove along, his freckled left arm turning pink, then red in the bright sunlight. Sometimes we sang together – but not the songs you might think. “’Twas a cold winter’s evening, the guests were all leaving…” we would begin, and we would sing one of his old college drinking songs with great gusto. My mother despaired that neither of us could carry a tune, but we liked each other’s singing just fine.
Although I liked to sit up front next to my dad, that day I had clambered over the seat, and lay stretched out on the back seat, my bare feet (a no-no when my mother was along!) propped on the open window. It was hot in the car and the air blew in the windows with a monotonous roar. I stared absently at my wiggling toes as the telephone poles rushed past, the wires between them looping quickly by. It was a moment of pure contentment that I have never forgotten.
I wondered at first why that memory came to me yesterday as I drove home through the fine, driving snow of a January afternoon. I had spent the day with my dad, trying to get some of the myriad tasks accomplished for his move to an assisted living facility a block away from the house where I grew up. We made several stops: the doctor’s office, the pharmacy, the bank. At each stop, the seatbelt in my car confounded my dad, as he pulled the wrong end of it or couldn’t click it safely closed. Each time I did it for him.
My dad drove me, and now I drive him. It’s really pretty simple.