Pouring over concrete at around 70 miles an hour, down some country road passing corn and wheat throughout central Wisconsin, on a hot summer day, I remember my fascination with the short spreads of an illusion of water in the middle of the highway. We’d roll over a hill and just at the crest in what seemed the valley of the next dip, the water appeared though it was gone again, like seconds on a clock, a transparency.
I asked my dad why that happened. He called the phenomena an illusion, or better stated a mirage, that when it was so hot out, the atmosphere played tricks with our minds and left us with an image of hope.
I remember always being fascinated with my dad. There he was, his good smile, a little raised lip to suggest he liked to speculate, and he was happy to have my company along on a road trip. See my dad, was a salesman, he handled beer accounts throughout Wisconsin for the G. Heileman Brewing Co. I would tag along and when most of his accounts were in bars on the highway, he’d have a beer with his account managers, the owners of the bar, and I would with a few quarters either play pinball or if they were empty, the pool tables. I played a lot of games by myself, and then my dad would join me depending upon whether the sale had gone well. If it didn’t play out to his satisfaction, we’d sometimes have to leave right in the middle of a game. But at twelve years old my dad would never let on to being upset, at least not until we got back in the car. Then the drive would be silent for a few miles, until my dad returned, and began another story for his fascinated listener.
My dad and I had some rituals that were very special in my life. He was on the road a lot so these rare occasions were times I could never take for granted. I learned a lifestyle from my father without even realizing it that years later I would practice on my own, and indirectly pass on to my son. That lifestyle was to be good to people, no matter the circumstance, always look for the pleasure of knowing a person could feel happiness rather than hurt. My dad said a smile could make a person’s day, and also sell an account. He was a helluva salesman, my dad; of course at twelve, I was an easy sell.
Sunday nights were my favorite times to spend with my dad. This was probably his busiest day out of the workweek. During the week he’d be on the road, sometimes gone for the entire week, but usually at least three or four days. I learned to look forward to the weekend, when he’d be home, and he’d make dinner, hamburgers on Saturday nights, and finish the weekend with a couple of porterhouse steaks, and American fries and the FBI, or Mannix, or later Kojak. We’d watch the shows together with our massive steaks, he’d have a couple of beers, and me a Nesbitt pop, usually an orange soda. Just being with my dad would leave me feeling complete. He really didn’t have to do anything except include me in his life. That was always so important to me, and it would be years later that I would realize why.
(to be continued)