“Start thinking about what flavor you’ll be wanting.”
My dad turned his slightly balding head back to the worn steering wheel of our similarly worn Olds. Mom stretched her sun speckled arm over the rough bench seat to gently swat my little sister into sitting still so she’d stop kicking her in the back. My preening older sister set her new Woolworth’s mirror aside long enough to push her developing frame still closer into my third of the back seat.
“Henry, let’s take the spin up over the hill past the Old Iron Kettle. You know I love that road and maybe we’ll see if anyone has any fresh vegetables for sale.”
A chorus of groans sang out in the back seat.
“We went that way last Sunday Dad. Can’t we take another road? You know the one, past the horse farm. Maybe there will be babies.” I leaned my boyish 12 year old frame into his shoulder and pointed a dirty fingernail towards the road now moving into our view.
“You said we might be able to the next time. We’ll even wait for our ice cream “till afterwards.” I hitched up my voice still a notch further to the timbre I knew always received some sort of response. Mom allowed me one of her famous warning looks and I slumped back into my seat. The face in the mirror next to me stuck out its tongue.
“Sorry Tarra-bell, I think we’ll do some sightseeing where your Mother wants today. Maybe next Sunday.” Dad adjusted his own mirror and caught his brown eyes on mine.
Our Sunday ritual consisted of the five of us piling into our car, picking a route and seeing what property in a five mile radius had changed in the past week. We noted every chicken coop that had fallen down from a recent storm, every shanty that could use a paint job, and every lawn that cried out for a better homeowner to tend its eyesore condition. Dad snorted when he saw weeds invading someone’s front sidewalks and whistled when he spotted a For Sale sign on a pristine ranch house that he dreamed about owning someday.
The ice cream cones always started our adventure. We competed to see who could make the cool licks last the most miles. Dad never won. He liked his hard chocolate too much. I still held the record, taking long slow laps around the sides and timing the drips so that they always fell into my awaiting mouth.
Those leisurely Sunday rides lasted together until eventually the boys, records and phone calls competed and took the prize. Dad and Mom continued their own weekend adventures until Dad started on a different kind of sightseeing trip that had him setting his sights on mansions and not on the homes that needed his watchful eye. Mom tended to his falls and faithfully counted out his ritual of mounting pills . She dipped his afternoon ice cream treat into continually smaller bowls to accommodate for his waning appetite. Dad could have won our contests now if we were still competing.
I called that last Sunday and prayed Mom would answer. My heart wasn’t fully prepared to hear my Dad’s voice knowing it might be the last time. I wanted to cling to my memories of sightseeing trips that tickled my thoughts, not listen to stories of arthritis and kidneys and pain. I wanted my dad to still be my dad.
I got my wish.
“Hello dad, it’s me Tarra. I was just remembering some of our sightseeing trips we took as kids with you. Mom tells me your sights are set on another trip soon. Dad, you’re going to get a great mansion there. Better than that old three bedroom ranch back on Kettle Road.”
My dad whistled in anticipation.
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