Roll back to 1985…I just got my driver’s license, and with my dad, in a blue Saab 900 Turbo, we lived our Summer headed for the East Coast…it was a time of bonding, a time of learning who this man really was…a time of just discovering that all roads lead somewhere.
Turns out, we had a lot in common.
Number one on the commonality list: Dairy Queen Blizzards.
The highlight of that trip was driving across our great country, the wind tangled in my hair as it whipped through the sunroof, Bon Jovi blaring through the speakers and reading out loud Peter Jenkins’s “Walk Across America” and stopping at EVERY DQ we saw for one delicious Blizzard after another.
I loved the Turtle Blizzard best.
Dad? He was more of an M&M kinda guy.
Occasionally, while on our Blizzard High, we settled in at a DQ table for a cheeseburger, all-beef hot dog, and onion rings. I can smell them even now. Exhausted and yet exhilarated, wanting the trip to never end. A break in the scenery for something that felt more like home. A place where we were face-to-face.
At each Dairy Queen, I came to see my dad differently than I did the one before.
My dad talked to me about being a kid. I scoffed when he told me about the time he rode his bike to the main street in his small town, and he and his buddy, Lanny, picked up old cigarette butts and tried to smoke them.
We talked about religion.
I listened to his stories, which made me realize my dad is one of the most honest human beings.
When it was my turn, I shared with my dad my memories of his waking up in the middle of the night when I had a bad dream to make me warm milk. I reflected on long summer nights when he shared his love for the night sky and the constellations.
We laughed when I recalled chasing toads across the patio.
Fast forward to the present.
The epic road trip 1985 is one of my favorite memories with my dad.
It was a right of passage.
It was the summer I came to know the man I called Dad as something greater. There was no need to put him on a pedalstool, and he was complex and awesome enough as a mere mortal.
Someday I will drive with my children across the country, one at a time.
My children are more musically apt to appreciate Ella Fitzgerald, Taylor Swift, and Wheezer than they are Bon Jovi. I know now, as a parent, my dad would have preferred Emmy Lou Harris and Willie Nelson.
There is something peaceful, being alone with a child, about listening to their dreams, giving them hope, and being inspired by their enthusiasm for life.
In the meantime, I’ll take a sundae with the signature DQ cone and one of those cheeseburgers, please…..