The day before Thanksgiving my Dad fell in love with a woman in Birmingham. We had been driving forever, it seemed, and had stopped for a much needed bathroom break at Arby’s off of Interstate 65 south. Before we climbed out of the truck we looked at one another and I said, “I don’t want to buy anything. I’m not hungry, are you?” He replied he wasn’t but even so we needed to utilize the facilities and decided to toss propriety out the window.
We looked rough. Driving does that to people. The drive starts clean and tidy, but after a few hours on the road folks just can’t help looking a bit wrangled. It had been an interesting day in a way that reminds me of a movie I saw not long ago. It started out pretty well, quickly turned into a mess, improved, and became messy again then finished a little flat.
Dad is an old veteran of driving, having worked outside of the state of Florida where all of his immediate family lives. He would drive to jobs that lasted a few months to a few years and, as time permitted, travel to northern Florida to visit. He made good money doing this, and none of us ever blamed him for taking the jobs. When I was a child, he worked a horrible job that paid too little for his experience and worked him half to death so that he could be home with us kids and be part of our childhood. I’m grateful for it, even though it was some of the roughest living I have endured.
So, there we were, gritty from the road and needing to take care of some private business when we meandered into “The Arby’s.” Like most chain business names mentioned in conversation with my Dad, this facility had been entitled with classification that allows it to stand apart from others with the same name. Dad looks at what is in front of him and makes it valuable to him at that moment. I find incredible amusement at this and have adopted the tendency to rename businesses with “The” before the name as homage to my Pops. Also, it’s just fun to do.
As we go through the door, an employee is walking by and my Dad says with a friendly smile, “How’re you?” Maybe it was too much coffee. Maybe it was road noise still ringing in my ears. I don’t know, but I swear I thought I heard my Dad say, “I love you!” In and of itself, this is a little over-done in my opinion, even for my Dad who is inclined to be very friendly to strangers. This is when it happens. She doesn’t miss a beat and while walking to her destination she responds with, “I love you, too!” She has a beautiful smile on her face as she says it. I hear this and look at my Dad with wide eyes and a huge grin, but carry on to my destination.
When I got back to the truck, I looked at my Dad and said, “What just happened!? I could have sworn you said I love you to that girl.” He then tells me he had only asked the question of how’re you and was befuddled over her response to his politeness. His eyes are shining and we are both smiling and for the next little while, as we continued our drive, we discussed his new-found love in Birmingham. This interaction was the highlight of our drive as what should have been twelve hours on the road had turned into sixteen due to weather, traffic, flaming vehicles, accident after accident, and road construction.
I’m glad Dad found love in Birmingham. She seemed like a really nice person.