Dad’s place in the driver’s seat has always been a given, similar to “Dad reads the newspaper first” or “The sun rises in the east.” Though AARP has ambushed my siblings and I, when visiting, we acknowledge Dad’s inalienable right to drive us wherever he chooses.
Lately, however, Dad defers to his lovely wife, whom he married a year after Mom’s passing. That he permits her to chauffeur him — during broad daylight — demonstrates that the times are a-changin’.
However, on this rare daddy-daughter date, he wouldn’t allow me to drive us to the restaurant. Nor would he let me pay for lunch.
He would as soon wear a tattoo or vote for a Democrat.
We rode in his truck with windows open and air conditioner blasting, Dad’s way of dealing with Louisiana’s heat. Our destination: his favorite Mexican restaurant, to which my digestive system and I privately referred to as El Diablo’s.
Chugging along, I unzipped my 60-something disguise and tossed it away. Once again, I was a little girl, bouncing on the seat, riding with Daddy.
Upon arrival, he greeted the proprietors, using his missionary Spanish. A retired pastor, he runs an unofficial restaurant ministry at favorite spots, hugging owners, servers, and busboys. He often tips them and asks how he can pray for them.
Dad recommended the burritos. I ordered one, though I prefer quesadillas, because I wanted to share his delight. Thankfully, the cook that day possessed un-nuked taste buds.
Mmm, delicious. We munched away and sipped from ice-packed glasses of Pepsi, the way we like them — though as usual, he tried to convert me away from diet drinks.
My dad the missionary, circa 1952
We recalled Mexico more than 50 years before, when our family wandered town squares, eating tacos or tamales, basking in sunshine and cantina music. I remembered a few less-than-wonderful moments: outdoor bathrooms and icy showers.
He recollected the usefulness of the phrase, “No comprendo.” Once at a checkpoint, Dad handed the officer an Indiana fishing license. Impressed by its stamps and signatures, he waved Dad through.
After such a huge meal, bouncing on the old truck’s seats didn’t hold the same magic. Not sure Dad would remain awake, I poised a hand as close to the steering wheel as I dared.
We returned to the house my great-grandparents built. Dad opened windows, turned on air conditioning, and dropped into his Dad Chair. I flopped onto the sofa, and our off-to-Mexico venture together ended, appropriately, in a shared siesta.
And a drowsy but fervent hope for another daddy-daughter date like this … and another … and another. …
What special time have you shared with your father?