Many years back I went for a routine ride to the store to with my father-in-law, “RW”. Melanie and I had been in North Carolina for a short time and as RW strapped in shotgun in Mustang Sally on a hot summer day, I remembered the cooler climes of New York’s Hudson Valley. And that his daughter was now 600 miles away from “home.”
Well Mustang Sally had no AC and it wasn’t long before our shirts were tie-dyed with sweat, and beads bolting from our foreheads. RW, a man of few words, kept to his persona and lowered his window a bit further. I knew him enough to know what was next. A Camel, no filter, and he was the only person I ever let smoke in my car. He was my father-in-law.
But he was so much more…
On the way to the store, he seemed to be taking inventory, offered smoke signals and bits of tobacco grains to the parts of town unfamiliar to him. He nodded, glanced my way, looked around, nodded some more. As we pulled into the parking lot RW waited a moment, started to open his door, then paused. He looked down to his boots and said, “You’re a good driver.” Then in his cowboy fashion, leapt from the saddle before I could say a word.
There are conversations only fathers and sons can have. Doesn’t matter if he’s your dad by blood or vow. Just like mothers and daughters or mothers and sons or fathers and daughters, the conversations are unique to the connection and the space between. And we shouldn’t mess with them or reinvent their method or meaning. I knew what RW meant and it had nothing to do with driving. Everything to do with precious cargo.
RW has been gone over a decade. I’m over a decade older than he was when he first came into my life. It doesn’t feel that way as, for me, it’s all one verse. Each time I take the wheel I think of precious cargo. And sometimes on summer days I wait a bit to hit the AC.
Photo credit: Dave Poore (unsplash.com)