Driving I95 South


Putting the phone down and grabbing a sheet of paper to begin the list of what needed to be done today was the priority.  The day started with me volunteering to be the unpaid research assistant for a professor whose work I had found interesting.  My life needed a change and for some reason I picked up the phone on a Thursday morning and hoped he would be in.  30 minutes later my stuff needed to be packed and I needed to be in Florida by the following Monday.

I put both of my parents on a conference call and told them I was leaving, in two days.  That was how long I had to move my life from Boston.  I had handled their moves in the past, so I had experienced this process, but then I had months to accomplish things.

They had only one request, I not drive the entire way by myself.  “Pick up your grandfather outside of Philly and take him with you.”

This was a big ask since I couldn’t stand to be in a room with my grandmother so it had changed the relationship I had with him.  We didn’t speak unless forced to.  It wasn’t either of our finer moments, but families have these issues.  This one just never was resolved.

My car had just enough room for his bag and his 6’4″ frame to sit in.  The rest was filled with what I needed for the next two weeks until the rest of my junk made the trek down Interstate 95.

The silence was horrible.  We had no common interests.  He had said he liked Jazz, which was easy for me to put a couple of CDs in the car to listen to.  Only what he meant was Bluegrass, not the Charlie Parker or Miles Davis I brought.  So that car ride was also made in silence.  The tires and AC being the only sounds until we were south of Virginia.

This drive was new for me.  Spending time with him was new for me.  We were adults, only acting like spoiled children.  It took time for either of us to open up.

It started easy enough because I knew he had traveled these roads before taking his Winnebego around the country after he retired.  I had gone once when I was 12, it didn’t go well.  The fishing was fine, the being left to hike for hours with whomever I could find was great; but there was always my grandmother.  {she’s been dead now for roughly 5 1/2 years and I still can’t forgive her for the names she used to call my brother and I growing up.  Nasty woman picking on 8 year olds!}

I learned a few things during that drive.  Some I knew from talks with my own father, other things I could guess at due to the tones others took.  There were some missing pieces to stories I asked about, details that made sense after hearing another point of view.

By the time we met up with my father, who had decided he needed to fly down and help out, things were normal.  I saw another side I didn’t see at other points.  Three generations sat down and had a beer, which had never happened.  (there is a story about my father, grandfather, and a family friend going to a picnic where no one should have driven home and the basic skill of putting a key in the door was confused by the alcohol involved.  It’s funny now, but no one will ever repeat that process!)

The next day, as my grandfather got ready to leave, the tension covered everything.  He was short, snappy, and just rather unpleasant to talk to.  Some must have been going home to his wife.  Some we all knew had to do with one of my aunts who was a vampire on his time and resources.  He was yelling at me in the car because I didn’t know my way to the airport, which why should I?  I’d lived in town for 24 hours, I didn’t know where to buy food yet!

Things went south quickly.  I called my father from the car to ask him to meet me with the realtor.  My dad knew not to go in the car earlier, he saw something I only learned later.  I bought a place 48 hours after getting into town.  Still own it since by the time I was moving back North the value hadn’t moved and I would have lost money.  Not something an economist could live with.

Living in the South, away from all family and any old friends was necessary.  It came at a time when my live needed a new direction and I grabbed at it like a drowning man.

3 years I spent teaching.  A little college, some autistic kids because I wanted to learn about them, finishing a Master’s Program in 12 months because I had made that the priority not people.  People came later, when I was ready.

Time has softened nothing about my views regarding my dad’s parents.  My grandfather had an excellent reputation with others, one I envy because he worked hard to obtain it.  His name shows up in a few books and his name can get me into a few closed doors simply because I’m his grandson.  I’ve never spoken to anyone other than family about why he acted the way he did with my brother and I.  Most tell me that he was a good man, kind like his own father, and that changed along with my grandmother’s influence.

I would have liked to have known that man.  Driving South gave me a small chance that neither if us could build from.  Too much had happened.


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