Dad and I sat in the parked car waiting for my ride to come pick me up. Before on-line websites there used to be message boards where folks tacked up information. That’s where I found the phone number of a guy heading up to Chicago. I’d gone home to sort through the rest of my stuff as my parents had sold their house. It would be my last chance in the house where I grew up, and though I wanted to salvage a lot more momentos, I had to leave a lot behind. Since Dad had retired, they were moving to a resort community with a view to spending their golden years golfing.
We waited in a Denny’s parking lot in awkward silence. It had not been a happy transition. For some reason I couldn’t understand: Mom and Dad were worried about me. I’d chosen to live in a commune. I didn’t want to join the rat race and live a suburban lifestyle of middleclass mediocrity. Not that anyone was promising me any of that. Basically I didn’t know how to go about getting a job after graduating college. So we sat there with a box of on my lap filled with glitter candles, seashells and pinecones, and jewelry trees of dangly earrings I would likely no longer wear.
Without saying it, I knew I was a huge disappointment to them. Minutes ticked by. I needed to say something before time ran out. But where to start? Will you come to my wedding? Can I count on you for some help (meaning: money)? Is the abyss so wide we cannot traverse it? If we meet in the middle will we both die? A car pulled into the lot matching the description the guy gave me over the phone.
“Well, this is it.” I looked up from my box.
While home I had tried to needle out of my mom a favorite tea pot and several other things she had once promised me as keepsakes. She was in no mood to be generous. In fact bitter words had passed back and forth, something to the effect that I was little more than a transient hobo, and on my end I asked her why she had to be so selfish; they had more than they needed.
Dad reached behind him in the back seat and from a padded crate brought out a clock in a wooden case that used to sit on a mantel in the living room. It once belonged to his mother. It was easily over 100 years old. He handed it to me.
It all happened so quickly. I’m not even sure I hugged him goodbye. Soon I was on my way, relieved and also at a loss. As we transferred onto the highway, I looked back, but of course Dad was long gone.