From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on Love & Friendship

Journeys with Dad

Before I got my driver’s license and spare time was so rare and precious, my father and I would sometimes go for drives. Before we would leave the house, he would pull out his old tattered map stained with coffee and rips along the edges and study it. I remember watching him sit at the kitchen table, bent over the rumpled paper, his spectacles clinging precariously to his nose. He always reminded me of a mad professor—he had the appearance and diligence of one.

After a while, I would hear a shuffling of feet. He would stand and, without saying a word, take the car keys from the dish where he kept them. He would walk briskly to the garage, a man on a mission—unstoppable, unpredictable. I would have missed him had my mother not called to me in an urgent voice, “Hurry, he’s in the car!” In the garage, he would be sitting in the car, not saying a word, but not leaving, either. I sometimes wonder if he would ever have ever left without me. I doubt it.

On these infrequent trips, I remember my father permitting me to listen to the radio—a change from his typical “this is my car, I’m the one driving, and I want peace” attitude. With the radio blasting, we would hit the highway and follow it for only a few exits. Then my father would turn onto some unfamiliar back road (what he always called the “scenic route”). As we continued on our journey, me singing along with the radio, I would watch as the houses grew further and further apart. I would busy myself counting the number of basketball hoops in the driveways. In my eyes, they represented civilization. They were signs of life on these silent roads. To me, it was all “farm country.” To my father, though, it was peace.

I took for granted those drives into the depths of upstate Connecticut. I took for granted even more the driving lessons he gave me on those quiet, bumpy, obstacle-course-like roads.

After I got my permit, he never once complained when I requested driving time. By then, I knew all of the roads and never had to use the map. Where I took him was my choice. I know he loved those rides. Sitting in the passenger seat gave him the opportunity to take in more of the surroundings. I think that he also took pride in my navigation abilities. He instilled them in me, after all. I am a product of him, and I think he saw that.

Now that I have my license, my father rarely joins me when I go out. I have my own places to go, he says, and he has his own license. I cannot forget, though, how he taught me to find my way, not only on the roads of Connecticut, but also on the roads of life. He showed me that a person can only prepare someone so much, and in the end, there will be no maps. I learned that there is reward, even if it is just peace of mind, in finding one’s own way.

Caitlin Keryc

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