“Dad loved to go on drives. In southern New Mexico, there weren’t a whole lot of exciting destinations, but we went out and found adventure. We’d get in the latest ford he was driving, and hit the road.
There were rules about driving with Dad.
You had to look immediately at whatever he pointed out along the way: “See that coyote over there by the big bush? See him? Right there! You aren’t even looking! Over THERE by the bush! Now we’ve passed him!”
You had to sit patiently in the passenger seat when he pulled over to take a catnap after feeling sleepy at the wheel. You had to hold Tippy, the dog, on your lap and let him sniff out the window. You had had to listen to classical music the whole way, and you had to surrender the whole day to wherever the wind took him.
Sometimes we took his motorcycle and went up mountains and through windy roads. We would stop in tiny railroad towns dotting the expanse of mesquite and cacti, buying hostess cupcakes and juice barrels to put in the backpack bungee corded to the sissy bar. And then we’d stop somewhere nice and have a mini-picnic. I was taught to lean with the motorcycle when we turned. Sometimes, I got tired, and Dad would feel me start to slump against him and my grip around him slacken and he’d give my helmet a few knocks to wake me up. It never occurred to me that I could fall off. I felt safe with him.
When my father was dying fifteen years ago, those are the things I wanted to thank him for, and those are the things I most miss after all this time. He wasn’t a perfect dad by any stretch of the imagination. And, looking back as a grown-up, I can see that he didn’t know what he was doing any more than I do as a parent now. But, he did his best. And all those drives added up have left a place in my heart that’s both empty without him and full of all the memories that have made me love him… because, from my grown-up perspective, every mile was proof that he loved me.”
– Rebecca Kahlsdorf
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