Someone To Trust

On Saturday Linda and I drove to Waco to celebrate Father's Day and dad's 80th birthday .  The weather was sparkling clear and hot.  Gigantic cumulous clouds rose tens of thousands of feet in the sky and marched in stately rows above the landscape, looking as dignified as the New Jerusalem coming down out of the heavens.  With Linda driving we bumped along Chalk Hill Road to West Davis, then right on West Davis to Loop 12, down Loop 12 and Spur 408 to I20. We cut back east until we reached I35 south and the drive to Waco.  
As we drove I wondered how many times I've made this trip in the last forty years.  The first time I recall doing it was when mom drove me to Dallas for Explo 72.  I was sixteen years old.  The I20 overpass was under construction.  Its concrete pillars loomed bareheaded against the early morning sky as though guarding the entrance to the land of Oz. 
My most vivid memory of the trip south, however, was after my first semester in college. 

I was coming home from a miserable semester at Oklahoma Baptist University. After catching a ride to Dallas with some classmates, I met Dad waiting for me there.  The weather was  wet, cold and uncharacteristically foggy.  As a matter of fact it was so foggy that it was impossible over some stretches of the interstate to tell where the pavement ended and the shoulder began.  I35 has known its ups and downs since it became an official interstate highway.  1974 was not a banner year for the road.  When we reached those sections of highway where lane markers were unpainted an insidious feeling of nausea set in.  It felt for all the world as though we were flying through the clouds.
A drive that usually takes an hour and one-half at most took us almost five hours that day. We might have waited the weather out, but it was late in the day on a Saturday and Dad had a sermon to preach on Sunday. I rode shotgun, terrified by the wall of blank white cloud that had marched down from its proper place in the heavens to squat on the North Central Texas landscape.
Dad had a citizen's band radio in his car he used to hail truckers, trading reports of stretches of the road each of us passed.  Somewhere south of Waxahachie, between Italy and Milford, we settled in behind an eighteen wheeler and followed him all the way into Waco.  He and Dad traded jokes all afternoon and evening.  At one point, we lost sight of the tail lights of our traveling companion and dad slowed down.  I glanced nervously over and saw the knuckles of my father's hands white against the steering wheel. 
After what seemed an eternity, our friend's voice came crackling over the CB radio, full of mirth, as though he had just enjoyed a great joke.  "Well, good buddy, I just took a tour of some poor farmer;s field.  I lost the road and next thing I knew I was tip toein' through the tulips.  I thought I'd lost the highway for sure.  You guys o.k. back there?"
I don't remember what Dad replied, but I'll bet if you ask him the story you will get a better version of it than I have managed here.
If I were being truthful with you, I would tell you that I am not quite sure of the quote above.  That is the way I remember it.  Truckers really did talk like that back in the mid-seventies. 
Memory, however, is a tricky thing.  All we know so far indicates that our memories tend to change with time.  Family stories are more likely than others to change to suit families' needs.  In addition, we are all natural performers.  Human beings love a good story and I don't think anybody loves a good story better than a Grace.
While my memory of the Great Foggy Ride Down Interstate 35 has undoubtedly changed in some of its particulars, one unique emotion that rode with me down the highway that day was and is and will ever tell the short-hand version of the way I see my father.  I was terrified for the two of us.  I also knew that if anybody could get us through the fog and home safe, it was Dad. 
Over the years I have felt many things about Dad.  I've felt anger at his stern ways, exasperation at his unwillingness to say "yes" more often than he did and that is just the beginning of the list.  But when Father's Day comes around, the one sure thing I know that I have felt and will always feel about my father is trust.  He was a man to be trusted in difficult circumstances.  Now, having just turned 80, blind, weak and sometimes confused, I still trust him.  And I thank God he had his hands on the wheel for so many years of my life.

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