At any rate, my story begins backwards: two days ago I visited a company that sells and ships everything from big-screen TVs on down to watch batteries – and most often they’re all shipped in the same cardboard box. As I was watching the young man place an order of products into one of these said boxes, I saw a parade of odd-sized items being rearranged and jostled to fit together into a confined space, and that’s when I thought of my dad.
Every family vacation involved the family car. Over the years, the vehicle was a Chevrolet Kingswood (station wagon), a Volkswagen bus, a Dodge Dart, and a Ford Granada. Now, the first two had a roof rack, so when it came time for my dad to perform the packing chore, this was a piece of cake. There were times when I believe my dad used enough rope to summit Everest – twice – to tie it all down, and he would occasionally tense up when passing under overpasses that Semis had no problem navigating. However, the Dart and the Granada presented my father with a challenge – and it was one I believe he secretly relished. We would get all of the suitcases and travel paraphernalia out to my dad at 3:30 a.m. (One would think that a vacation was about rest, and getting up that early would contradict that notion. In my house, it was all about making good time from point A to point B. Our “scenic” stops were gas station bathrooms in places like Winnemuca, Nevada.) Once everything was delivered out to dad standing before the trunk of the family car, we would stop and watch to see if he could get it all in there. At this point, you did not dare talk, and offering to help was like asking Michelangelo if you could take a couple of whacks with the chisel on David. My older brother wanted to start a pool the night before one of these ordeals to bet on not only whether dad could fit it all in but in how much time. Mom put a kibosh on that one, declaring it would give us bad luck on the journey – looking back, I just think mom knew that she’d lose her shirt. In my eighteen or so years of traveling with the family, dad never failed us. Everything always fit. There was something Zen-like in his approach to this.
Now, in some instances we would seriously pray that nothing would go wrong with the car, not because of our fear of having to face the elements across the desert but because the only spot dad could fit the toolbox was at the very back of the trunk. Forget about a flat tire – the spare was, of course, buried beneath it all.
I’m completely at a loss as to what my sons will find eccentric or humorously odd about their old man. But while I contemplate that, I think I’ll go eat a Miracle Whip sandwich.