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Monday, November 10, 2014

Wherein My Father Relates the Tale of the Hand

Because it is snowing (11 inches expected), and because I drove to Lutsen and back (500 miles) this weekend. 


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 and demands that you stop!  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.”


Delores said...

The hand of the Universe delivering a message....real to all who see it.

Mac n' Janet said...

Gotta hand it to him, that's quite a tale.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
I love that your stuff is so eminently re-readable ... and that your Pa can tell a tale as well!!! YAM xx

(Saw on another 'Minnesnowta' blog that you are under the white stuff... tsk... Wrap warm gal!)

Pearl said...

Delores, when the hand says stop, ya stop!

Mac/Janet, I see what you did there. :-)

Yam, And I'll TAKE that hug! Up here on the 48th floor, the whole world is white. Zero visibility right now. Why, anything could be going on down there in the real world...

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

It seems that you take after your father in this way. Visions, voices....

jenny_o said...

Driving in snow is one of the most mesmerizing, hypnotizing, near-paralyzing experiences you can have in a car. No wonder he saw a hand. Lucky for him that he got home safely. Actually, lucky for all of us here reading, too!

Daisy said...

So sorry to hear you are dealing with snow already. Seems way too soon to me. I don't know if we are supposed to get snow, but I know there are some very cold temperatures coming our way in the next couple of days.

I'm glad your Dad paid attention to the hand. He sounds like a wise man. :-)

Catalyst/Taylor said...

Wonderful story, Pearl.

Elephant's Child said...

A wonderful rerun. Thank you.
And I am jealous about your snow... Heating up fast here. Too fast.

Barbara said...

I love your dad! And it was an actual hand telling him to live. Glad he saw it...otherwise we might not have you Pearlie girl!

Jono said...

You came all the way up to Lutsen and didn't call?!? I am crushed!

sage said...

Great story! I wish my father would tell more stories

Linda O'Connell said...

Wow! You and your dad had me. The hand of fate?

Lin said...

He's lucky he got the whole hand not just the finger.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Love your family stories, Pearl! There's such a wonderful sense of being there and hearing his story exactly as he told it!

Sioux said...

Your dad--a handsome fellow.

Jo-Anne Meadows said...

What a handsome man and what a bloody great dad

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

I'm loving cozying up, with a mug of hot cocoa in my hands, to one of your stories about one of your dad's stories. And that picture is priceless too.

Stay warm and safe over there. xo

River said...

the Hand still makes me feel warm and fuzzy, for without it Pearl may not have been here to regale us.