My grandfather Harry would come home from working on a boat on the Great Lakes and wouldn’t want to go anywhere. Unless Theo was driving. A guy happy to be on dry land with his wife behind the wheel. He was an affable easy-going passenger. They did loads of road trips.
They had another arrangement. Shortly after Harry came home for a time, Theo would be off. She travelled solo to some interesting places. I admired that in her and have emulated her on occasion. Going solo is another kind of travel. It’s an experience of anonymity and autonomy.
The first book Theo gave me was James A. Michener’s The Drifters. It was purposeful. She was passing on something important.
The love between Theo and Harry, in some ways, was unconventional. Independence is something they both came to value. Time on their own was normal and important. That changes the dynamics of being a couple.
This is another kind of road trip.
Returning from a family gathering in the near south.
I was living on the promise of seeing Fallingwater. And then plans changed for the driver. The man behind the wheel was going home — Raleigh North Carolina to Hamilton Ontario — bathroom breaks only. By then, being held hostage in a vehicle with him was familiar. We had one of our near-fatal relationship-changing arguments outside Pittsburgh.
We stopped. That tells you something about my will. I was ruthless. I didn’t know when I’d be back down that road again.
I dropped him in the parking lot. Did not look back. Took all the time I needed. I’d sat in dark art history classes looking at slides of the place and experiencing a sense of falling in love. Art does that to me. The thought of being so close to that beauty was everything. Passing it was impossible.
A postcard of Serena fell out of a book recently. It’s where I hide memories for surprises. Standing in that alcove looking at her on that day I knew I’d done the right thing. The image took me back to the nice time I had…by myself.
What a horrible thing to visit Fallingwater with your daughter.
I think a lot about the man who knew what was in my heart and decided to drive past.
Of course, things happen as they do. But I cried hard about it this week. Writing is often the turning point.
My dad was not unique. He was a man of his time — the authoritarian. But there’s still no shortage of grossly self-focused men today. Often, they come wrapped up in several active addictions. Many never get right with the people they use and hurt. They miss out on so much real human relations.
The song landed early Saturday morning as a complete surprise. Everything about it fit. The lyrics are handcrafted. And that guitar lick.
Also, it’s been too long since I took a road trip.
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