From Oak Street we watched passers-by; studied ourselves in storefront windows. We made decisions there on how to spend our time, our money; learned what is essential, what to toss into black trash bags and lug to the curb. We studied many doors, decided which to enter, which to wait outside of to see who might emerge. We stood on Oak Street’s many corners; decided where to linger, which intersections to cross. Sometimes we were caught unaware; an event or an intersection chose or crossed us.
My father parked his Chevy on Oak, strode into Joel’s Wallpaper and Paints. He noticed my mother—her long, chestnut curls, the high school ring on her finger. In seventh grade my father had stopped walking the road to school; he walked the road to the mines instead. My mother’s ring, my father figured, would make up for something he lacked.
Sometimes our bodies carry us as we travel the length of the street to the church or the drug store or the local bar. Sometimes we hop in our cars or bum a ride from a friend because we are too lazy to walk or it’s cold and it’s raining. And sometimes we travel far, in vehicles we hope are reliable enough to deliver us. We might pack our bags and hire a moving van and travel to a distant street. We might get stuck on our way back home.
My father died last year of Alzheimer’s Disease. His words could no longer carry him to familiar places. They’d get stuck in his brain. He’d find himself in a world filled with fear, sometimes with wonder. A bee became a little bird. A tomato plant, an apple tree. Yet my father’s words repeatedly took us to Oak Street and the wallpaper store and my mother and her high school ring.
Now my father’s street is underground on a hillside in the country. Sometimes I sit above him as a car swishes through the valley, then the cries of goats carry me up the grassy hill.
Two summers ago, my son drove a Chevy Blazer cross-country. He hiked through the Rockies, rafted down the Yampa River, slept on a cliff in Wyoming. My daughter spent that summer dissecting an old woman’s body. Sometimes the body is traveler. Sometimes vehicle. Sometimes road or destination.
My father was a car dealer. Two nights before his death, his body tied to a geriatric chair, he was selling a car. You’ll never find a better deal than this, he said to no one we could see. My father’s body dropped him off somewhere beyond us one icy January morning.
Now I imagine my father’s body carrying him back to a chair we place in the middle of our field. He comes at night, carves cars from bars of soap. Sometimes he leaves an antique Lincoln. Sometimes a Cadillac or a Ford. On the ground wherever his feet have been, I kneel; recover the shavings he’s cut away.
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