This past Tuesday, I had enough of trying to assemble IKEA furniture and decided to take the boys out to visit their grandfather. We drove the back roads to the highway that had been, in my youth, just two lanes but recently had been upgraded to four. My brain still screams at me that I’m only supposed to do 100 km/hour on that road and my foot doesn’t seem to understand that its not actually the case.
We drove through the small town that I have driven through ten thousand times before and I realized that it isn’t such a small town anymore. It has a Walmart and a Starbucks these days.
We drove past the spot where my dad has worked part time for over 40 years. Actually it might be closer to 50 years now. He started there the summer he turned 18 and has been there through three different sets of owners.
We turned off the road at the churches. Except there’s only one church there. I asked my dad why it was called “the churches” since there has only ever been one there in my lifetime. Turns out that at one point there had been two, but he didn’t ever remember the second one.
I drove the road to the farm based on muscle memory alone, I think. I mean, I was paying attention and all, there are some tricky corners up in those parts. But I didn’t have to think about what comes next. I know what comes next. Hell, I learned to drive on those roads. There are a few new houses, some new people living in old houses, but not much has changed since I moved away 17 years ago.
We drove up the driveway at a pace that kicked up the dust on the dirt road. I’ve been doing that for as long as I’ve been driving even though I know it drives my dad crazy. He greeted us at the door and was immediately surrounded by questions about cows. Boy #1 has recently decided that he wants to be a farmer. I suppose at some point I’ll have to send him out to Grandpa’s farm for a summer to make sure that he REALLY wants to be a farmer.
They checked out the barn. I had several mild heart attacks and questioned how my siblings and I had ever survived growing up there. Dad filled me in on his plans for the barn. Apparently it takes about 100 years for cement walls to start giving up. Wood floors give up at about 80, in case anyone is wondering.
I left the boys with grandpa so that I could go and say hello to my grandparents who are buried on the top of a hill halfway into town. It’s been far too many years since I stopped by there but there was peace and comfort found sitting in front of their stone and just thinking. I took a walk around the rest of the cemetery to pay respects to the other people I knew there. There are too many now.
From there, I drove the road that had taught me how to drive, right into town to pick up dinner for the boys and my dad. The pizza place is the same as it was when it first moved into town. And frankly, I am still not convinced that I’ve ever had better. The grocery store is different, but the same. It feels smaller but the layout hasn’t changed. They still rent out DVDs and keep track of it in a spiral bound notebook.
I laughed at myself for automatically locking the van doors while I picked up food. In all of my years, I have never, ever locked a car door in that town until then. I guess the city is getting into my bones now. I drove back to the farm at a pace that is not for tourists.
And there were my boys. Covered in hay and smelling like the barn. Big smiles on their faces full of stories about what they saw. We had dinner on the front step and the boys got to ride on the same tractor that I was driven on at an age younger than they are now.
The house may be in need of repair. The barn may be falling down. It may not feel like home anymore, but that’s where I grew up. There is comfort in travelling the roads where your feet used to be planted. That’s something that I’ve forgotten in the last few years.
I’ll have to go back again soon.