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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wherein My Father Relates the Tale of the Hand


My father drove the 600 mile round-trip every weekend.

“It was 1960,” he says, fiddling with the woodstove.  “Mumma and I had been married a couple of months, and 600 miles a weekend is small potatoes when you’re 21 and in love.”

He pokes at an unruly log, steps back to consider the flames.  The darkness presses against the windows of their garage/extended living room, a clean, comfy space with carpet-remnant flooring and hand-made, wood-scrap cabinets.  I pull the crocheted afghan closer.

“Chandler, Minnesota, was down in the southwestern corner of the state – over by Pipestone? – an area far too far from my bride, but what could I do?  Uncle Sam needed me.”

He sighs.  “Highway 23.  Every weekend, Highway 23.”

He chuckles.  “Of course, I had to be careful.  We’d go out on the weekends, sometimes I’d even play in that little three-piece I was a part of in them days.  I’d be lucky to get more than five, six hours of sleep the whole weekend.”

“Paul!” my mother shouts from inside the house.  “Are you telling stories again?”

He winks at me.  “No, mumma,” he calls.

My father wanders over to the fridge.  “So anyway,” he says, “come January, I think it was, I get caught in a blizzard.”  He looks over at me, visibly calculating my age.  “You want one?”

I nod, and he grabs two beers.

“This was a real blizzard,” he says, popping the can open and handing me one, “back when snow was snow and the roads weren’t always plowed.”  He takes a deep pull from the can and frowns.  “My 300 miles back to the Air Force base – a trip that should’ve taken maybe four hours in that Rambler I had – was pushing on to seven.”

He takes another drink from his beer.  “Eventually,” he says, “I was forced to stick my head out the window, just to keep myself awake.  Of course, then I was pulling icicles from my eye lashes, but it beat the alternative, if you know what I mean.”

I do know what he means.  I nod and take a drink. 

“Of course, you can only stick your head out the window so many times before even that doesn't do the trick; and I’m realizing that I haven’t seen another car in almost six hours when up ahead of me, way off on the horizon, I see a shape.”

He wanders over to the woodstove, opens its door.  A roaring fire lights the bottom part of the room.  A cat wanders in and flops on to its side, yawns lazily.

He pokes the fire, throws another piece of scrap wood in.

“This shape,” he says, shutting the door, “is getting larger, and I’m thinking ‘what is this’?  I mean, it doesn’t seem like a car or a truck to me.”

He sits down in his chair, a recliner, puts his feet up, retrieves the beer can he left sitting on the end table. 

“And it gets larger and larger, until suddenly I see what it is.”

There is silence.  The fire in the woodstove crackles energetically. 

“Well?”  I say.  “What was it?”

“It was a hand,” he says.  He looks at me, eyes narrowed, nodding.  “A hand.  A hand shot down the center of the road, palm out, and commanded that I stop.”

The cat leaps into my lap.  “ A hand,” I say.

He nods.  “A hand.”

I smile.  “So what did you do?”

He slaps his thigh.  “What did I do?!  Well, I did what you do when a hand flies down the center of the road at your car!  I stopped!”

It is silent again.

“I pulled over,” he says quietly.  “Turned the car off, pulled a blanket over me and slept.”

He takes a pull from his beer. 

“Slept almost an hour,” he says.  “Too cold, of course, with the car off, but you can’t sleep in a driving snow with your car running, it’ll kill you.”  He stops.  “You know that, right?  That you can’t sleep in a car while it’s snowing with the car running?”

I smile.  “Yes, Dad,” I say.

He nods.  It is his duty to remind his middle-aged daughter of the dangers of covered tailpipes, of unrefrigerated potato salad and playing with matches. 

He stares toward the wood stove.  “That hand saved my life.”

I smile toward the wood stove.  “It wasn’t an actual hand, though, surely,” I say.

He turns and smiles at me, taps the side of his nose in acknowledgement of the softball I’d just tossed him.  “It was an actual hand,” he says.  “And don’t call me Shirley.”


43 comments:

Shelly said...

Wow- that's a handful! Really, though, that's an amazing thing, and how fortuitous. I believe in things like that- what happened to you and to your dad- had a couple of things like that, myself.

And, "He looks over at me, visibly calculating my age," that is so my dad...

Jacquelineand.... said...

I have to hand it to you and your dad, you both know how to tell a story!

Me? I don't get giant hands or voices from the back seat. Nope, I have a bratty guardian angel who kicks the back of the seat. Whatever works I guess.

Pearl said...

Shelly, he still asks me, "How old are you again? 25 now?" :-)
He told me that story years and years ago. Might've been a teenager... Funny how your comment yesterday reminded me of it...

Pearl said...

jacqueline, hey, we takes what we can get! :-)

Camille said...

What a great story Pearl and what a good lookin' Dude standing by his (powder blue?) Rambler.

Pearl said...

Camille, he's a knockout, isn't he? :-) My mother is no slouch, either!

Sausage said...

Great story, I am going back to read it again. I bet the joy of being handed a cold one is still fresh...

Geo. said...

Great story, Pearl. You and your dad deserve a big hand for that one.

Pearl said...

Sausage, there's something to be said for a cold beer next to a roaring fire!

Geo, I expect no less, sir. :-) (My father would appreciate that comment.)

Daisy said...

Can feel that cold wind still, Pearl. Glad he pulled over, and didn't freeze. Love is a grand and mysterious thing!
Daisy's Barbara

vanilla said...

Never ignore the hand!

Teresa Evangeline said...

Oh I love this, goosebumps and all. Your dad is such a cutie-pie, and one cool dude.

Great story.

Pearl said...

Daisy, he's still in love. :-) It's inspiring.

vanilla, agreed! We don't ignore the hand!

Teresa, born in WI, living in MN. We do grow 'em attractive up here. :-)

fishducky said...

NEVER ignore the hand! Individual fingers are another story.

Stephen Hayes said...

This sounds like such a "DAD" story. I can imagine my dad telling it, even though we didn't get much snow in central California.

TexWisGirl said...

i can see where you get your storytelling abilities...

Pearl said...

fishducky, oh, I wish I'd said that!

Stephen, thank you. :-)

TexWis, the man does tell a mean story!

Sioux said...

That story could go into a Chicken Soup for the Soul book--about angels or divine intervention or something similar. Check out their website. (Hey, it pays $200 per story!)

I love the photo too.

Buttons said...

Wow I love this story. I cannot believe how lucky your family is as far as someone from beyond taking care of you.
I bet this story keeps you going I know it certainly makes me smile. B

Silliyak said...

The best part of this post is that your dad had a hand in it.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

That is one good story--and I bet hearing him tell it in person was even better.
Love's a strong force--600 miles round trip every weekend. Whew.

Rose L said...

That is eerily weird!

Hilary said...

I think your dad needs a blog of his own. You Shirley got your story telling ability from him.

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

Talk to the hand,,,good idea...":) GREAT story!

jenny_o said...

Wow - another mysterious intervention...

The part about your father giving unnecessary advice to your grown-up self cracked me up. I am frequently guilty of doing that; why, I don't know!

Great story!

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Your family seems to get other worldly advice fairly often...voices from back seats, hands flying down the road....and you all seem to be good listeners.

Linda O'Connell said...

What a dapper young man your dad was. Glad he heeded the hand.

Gigi said...

I love, love, LOVE your family - adopt me?

Good to know about the snow and the running car thing....not that we get that much snow; but still, with global warming and all you never know.

mapstew said...

I'm smiling. A big smile. :¬)

xxx

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

I didn't know - about the snow and sleeping in a running car. A wise man, is Surely!

HermanTurnip said...

Very cool! I, too, was sporting a big smile while reading. :-)

jeanie said...

Gorgeous story - and storytelling!!

The Elephant's Child said...

Aha. You get your courage and your empathy from your mama, and your story telling skills from your father. Have you ever considered that you might be hogging more than your fair share of talents?

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Great story, Pearl! You had me hanging on every word!

River said...

Your dad has his own guardian angel.

Roses said...

Your family has awesome guardian angels!

Auntie sezzzzzz... said...

Precious!!!

And thank you for your sweet comment over on my blog.

Gentle hugs,
"Auntie"

esbboston said...

I miss snow. Sometimes. I have iced roads for maybe 3 weeks of the year. But I have a four wheel drive, too. It is a truck that actuaLLy can be purchased with snow plow options.

esbboston said...

You should try writing sceenplays.

esbboston said...

You should try writing screenplays.

Pat said...

There is nothing like a Dad. But who's Shirley?

Eva Gallant said...

Apparently skill at story-telling runs in the family!

esbboston said...

Comments are acting strange in blogger again ....