I am on highway 69, somewhere in the Southwest, with no G.P. S. and clearly lost. I am in the driver’s seat, an anomaly for me, since I have rarely driven great distances in my fifty plus years, but this time I am at the wheel. The speed limit is seventy, but as I zoom up and down the mountainous road, dipping and swerving, weaving in and out of cars, I am passing everyone. The top is rolled down on this convertible-this nameless contraption, but I am wild with the wind and where the speed is taking me. This is the journey I have waited for my whole life.
Now I am on the Belt Parkway, cramped in a little red Hyundai, traveling a road littered with cars heaving and sighing with exhaust, when they are not bothering to blare their angry horns. I am as satisfied as I had been on the open road. “It’s not where you end your destination, it’s how you have arrived,” announces my Father, but it is just a dream.
Lately, I can’t stop thinking about driving, my least favorite activity. I am not really thinking about driving, though, I am thinking about my father, dead now for forty years. I am recalling his love of his old beaten-down Oldsmobile, which he polished till the moon shined. He loved to drive, and would gladly go out of his way to drive a friend, a neighbor, a family member anywhere because, as he said, “When you go out of your way, you always end up in a better place.”
“Do you mean,” I had asked him when I was ten, “it’s okay to travel to Queens when your destination had been Brooklyn?”
“It’s more than okay. It’s better. You’ll earn travel points and, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.”
I had thought that my Father was crazy.
At age fifty-six, I dream about my Father often. Sometimes, it’s a momentary flash: still glimpses of his large hands and ears, moving at rapid speed. More often it’s with the curious compelling desire to know him as an adult, to wish he could meet me now and catch a whiff of my life. I know he would appreciate having two lovely grandchildren, a young man and woman, both of whom have made good choices in their lives.
I drive with my Father and we trail the map. The car is never new or fancy, but it travels well, and meanders up and down the coasts, stopping at small beach towns to grab a clam sandwich and a cup of coffee.
“Daddy, meet Ira,” I tell him. Ira is my husband, and he also loves to drive. My Father embraces Ira’s handsome face in his elephant hands and kisses him.
“How will we drive?” asks my Father, knowing they are both fans of taking the wheel by the horns.
“We can take turns.” Ira is so seriously smart, something my Father surmises, and he already loves him.
I am in the passenger seat, by choice and I tell my guys, “Let’s go to Denver, Daddy. I know you hate to leave New York, but….”
“That sounds like a plan.”
And we are off, light-speed ahead.
Daddy, I have gone out of my way, more often than not. I have welcome friends and family, always, and we have climbed treacherous mountains, traversed landscapes that are so unusual, that they can’t be seen by the naked eye. This is magnificent terrain, and I don’t need a vehicle to get there.
I have earned my travel points, and the road is bumpy only sometimes. I wish you could see this great country. I’d gladly hitch a ride with you, and we could take others with us, too. In truth, we wouldn’t have to go anywhere. “Pam, you have arrived,” echoes of your voice and of your compass.
-- Pamela L. Laskin