Just after Thanksgiving Fiasco Part 1 – the country club, the evening continued…
The blizzard was coming in mightily. You see, in November of 1991, the world hadn’t begun to experience the benefits of global warming yet. We left straight from Thanksgiving dinner and planned to beat the storm by driving through the night. Dad would drive. Mom would take the passenger seat to narrate the road conditions like a banshee. My sister and I would ride in the back seat, which was like a ball pit of junk. We had candy bars, books, markers, make up, stuffed animals, pillows, blankies, diaries, scrunchies, cards, stickers, and all the other items we would need if this Jeep suddenly became our Donner Party shelter.
My father was the right person to navigate this ship through the storm. He’s a suburban dad with a riding lawn-mower and all that. But really Viking blood runs like ice water in his Danish veins. I mean, one time, he carried my piano up a flight of stairs. Alone. Just carried it right up, maybe because in related news – he was also a competitive body builder. Another time he called home to let us know he’d driven himself to the Emergency Room for a quick appendectomy, but he’d be home later that day. And he was. Aside from the feats of strength, he looks like a regular guy. If you didn’t see him arrive to work on his low rider Harley, you might mistake him for Ned Flanders.
Around midnight, we’d made it to what a city slicker might call the backwoods of Wisconsin, where the folk are loose on laws. “Is there any chap stick in this car?” Dad asked. My 6-year-old sister innocently handed him a cherry red lipstick from our stash, which he applied generously. Mom was losing her voice, my sister was tripping on Dramamine, and my blood sugar was pulling a kamikaze maneuver after all of those Shirley Temples. The three of us were a wreck, so Dad pulled off the highway for a break. A lesser man would have turned off the car and walked slowly into the night blizzard. But not our dad.
He drove into a gas station. The-kind-of-place-that-is-open-after-midnight-on-Thanksgiving is where you can fill up on gas or diesel, have a beer and a smoke around the folding table in the warm house, and buy a case of buckshots on the way out. The type of men who patronize the-kind-of-place-that-is-open-after-midnight-on-Thanksgiving are gruff, don’t need and/or wear sleeves, and probably arm wrestle for fun. These are the manly men my dad might like to swap stories with for a while… if he didn’t have three hysterical passengers wearing velvet party dresses sitting in his SUV in the parking lot.
My father strolled into the warm house giving an upward nod of the head, as if to say, “Howdy.” Silent eyes tracked him and his smudgy sparkly red lips, as he walked to the cooler and pulled out a six-pack. He probably looked like a post-show drag queen who’d forgotten to take off her fake lashes and make up. “Just this and $20 in gas,” Dad said in a low voice putting the six-pack on the counter. The cashier replied cracking his knuckles, “You ain’t from around here, are you?” The folk seemed menacing.
Back in the car, Dad handed Mom the six-pack and implored her to drink one to settle her nerves before he would get back on the highway. In the overhead light of the Jeep it was all too clear. Mom said, “Dude. Are you wearing lipstick?”