This is a true story of an average family driving fifteen hours in one day to get home! Perhaps, many of you can relate?
The acronym, OPP, is used in this story. It stands for Ontario Provincial Police.
My father, the consummate road warrior, meant business. Radar detector standing sentinel against prowling OPPs, the new Peugeot rolled along at a fantastic speed. The sun was bright, but Ontario’s November weather strained out any cheerful radiance. Sitting behind my father, I depressingly stared out my window.
The highway was featureless. Signs gauging our progress, in kilometers, only confounded me. Two hours complete, the return home from visiting family in Detroit was still thirteen hours further. This ride was always grueling and tedious. Only one planned stop, mid-way to pee and inhale food, proffered any sort of relief. My father tackled this drive as he did home improvement, chores and workouts. Unpleasant tasks were dispatched as quickly possible, preferably, all at once.
My backseat companion was my sister, Rachel. She was four years my junior. She sat behind my father’s girlfriend, who was amiably trying to make the best of the trip. An agreed upon invisible barricade separated me from my sister. Any perceived violation of the treaty was promptly called out.
“Move over! You’re on my side.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Your pillow is touching me!”
My father never tolerated bickering.
“Quit it! Both of you. It’s a long ride. You’ll just have to make the best of it, so zip it!”
The amiable, carefree, grandeur of July consistently catches me of guard. August has yet to cover everything with its smothering, hazy oppressiveness. Gone is rainy June weather, typical of Cape Cod. Nights, still relatively cool, host clear skies affording amazing opportunities to stargaze along the shore. Constellations, Scorpio and Sagittarius, hang high in the south, while the Summer Triangle glimmers straight above. Arrival of the perennial onslaught of tourists, coupled with inexperienced summer help, had created utter havoc with local businesses a month earlier. Now, with kinks worked out, stores are moving and grooving, serving four times what they might at other times of the year. It’s the height of the season. A sense of hope permeates, promising plenty of time remains to squeeze all the fun in.
As a means to exploring the passage of a year, artists have richly painted scenes full of imagery detailing the stages of a human lifespan. I keenly resonate with this creative device employed to personify the seasons. Youth portrays the essence of spring. The prime of adulthood represents summer. Autumn is characterized by the newly retired, enjoying the fruits of years of labor. Old age depicts winter. Accordingly, July is the zenith of growth and vitality. Oxymoronic in nature, it is the crossroads where young and old meet. The festivities, annually occurring this month, echo this middling of the tides of time. Fourth of July is a riotous event displaying national pride, hope in the future and honoring the history of this great political experiment. Also in July on Cape Cod, the Wampanoag Powwow celebrates the continuation of the tribe, while paying reverence to an ancestral way of life. Lastly, July signals the arrival of Cape Cod’s annual county fair. It has changed considerably from the agriculture event it was in days long past. Yet, enough exhibits of livestock and garden produce remain inducing a sense of nostalgia.
A memory from visiting this county fair distinctly reminds me of an experience where I felt “old”. This wasn’t the first time I had reckoned with the reality of my age. I “died” a little when I realized my hair was thinning, reluctantly gave up my goatee because it was mostly gray and nearly fainted upon discovering my co-worker was younger than my kids. A younger me laughed listening to “Older” by “They Might Be Giants” Haven’t heard it? Check it out on Spotify or Youtube. See… I’m still hip. Maybe? The lyrics go something like:
“You’re older than you’ve ever been…and now you’re even older…and now you’re even older … and now you’re even older….”
Terrifying, yet true! Relax. Listen and take heart. The memory I’m about to share with you is an effective antidote against the downside of getting older. All the fuss about aging is due to our insistence on splitting every aspect of life into good or bad. Think of a time you struggled fitting a facet of life into one of two polar opposites. Usually, things are not that easily rendered down in such fashion. I enjoy pondering the adage, “There’s a thin line between love and hate.” Anyone who draws breath, walks this planet and shares their life with another will leap up and shout, “Amen!” My point? Most things lie on a spectrum. This includes getting older. I propose, if you look carefully, you will identify a key moment when you realized aging isn’t all loss and pain. There is joy in remembering the way things used to be. One becomes the steward of the stories, the perspective, the wisdom and the history.
Please click on the link to my historical writing portfolio page to read an amusing story about the time my twelve-year old son didn’t know how to use a telephone. Spoiler: the phone was avocado green, plugged into the wall, and used a rotary-style dial. Can you hear the disco playing?