Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Big Tree

I’m driving my father to visit an old military friend a few cities away. On our way there he decides he wants to visit some family members who live somewhere in between, so I make a little detour to accommodate him.
    "You’re lost," my father informs me.
    I sigh and say nothing. Between you and me, I'm exactly where I’m supposed to be.
    "I’m serious. You’re lost," he continues, as his eyes start to bug out. “This isn’t the right street.”
    One funny thing I've noticed about my father is that his eyes tend to bug out when he thinks I'm lost. Another funny thing is his eyes tend to bug out in direct proportion to how lost he thinks I am.
    But I’m not lost.
    And I’ve got my GPS to prove it.
    Reluctantly, I tell him this. I say reluctantly, because my father is old school. He doesn't understand how a GPS works, so he doesn't trust it. I don't understand how it works either, for that matter, but I don’t care how it works. I only care that it work.
    "How does it know where we’re going?" he asks me.
    I say something about satellites and car positioning, but, since I don't really know what I’m talking about, the fault is probably mine that he doesn't understand. I have the same lack of comprehension when it comes to how airplanes fly. I understand in theory the concept of "lift" and "thrust," but what I don't get is how a metal tube that can weigh hundreds of tons is able to get off the ground and stay in the air.
    In a related side note, my first mother-in-law didn't believe we landed on the moon, because "there isn't an electrical cord that long," she insisted back in 1969. You probably think I'm making that up, but it's true. I'm not saying the mother of my first wife was the dimmest bulb in the pack, but it used to take her an hour to cook Minute Rice. Once, she asked me what came after “X.” I told her “Y,” and she said, “Because I want to know.” I heard she died in a tragic bank robbery gone wrong. When the crooks told everybody to “Get Down!” she misunderstood, and started dancing.
    But I digress...
    "...and that's how the GPS works, dad."
    "Yeah, but how does it know?"
    "Just humor him," was the advice my lovely wife gave me before we left, so I do.
    "I'll check my map the next time we stop," I tell him. A map he understands, so he says nothing for awhile. As long as he thinks I'm going to do something, it's almost as good as my doing it. It appeases him for awhile. Buys me time.
    But not a whole lot.
    "I don't recognize any of these houses," he says. "I know the house. There's a big tree in the front yard."
    "Hey, what's that?" I say, pointing to nothing in particular. I'm just trying to distract him, but he doesn't fall for it.
    Fool me once, I guess.
    I slow down--going slower sometimes calms him down--but, trust me, I know where I'm at. I’m on the right street, heading in the right direction. Still, he continues to look out the window.
    "Nothing looks familiar," he says.
    Sadly, nothing ever does.
    I can see the house just down the block. I slow down even more, hoping he recognizes it.
    "Isn't that it, dad?" I say, pointing.
    "That’s not it," he says. "The house we're looking for has a big tree out front. That tree's not so big."
    "Dad, I think that's the house."
    "Can't be. The tree..."
    "I don't know, the tree looks pretty big to me."
    "I don't think so."
    "I think it is," I say, and come to a stop. "Look familiar?"
    My father shakes his head.
    "I don't think so, son. I know the house, and this is not it."
   I tell him, "Let me check the address," and pretend to look at the map.
    My father takes a good, hard look at the house.
    "Hmm...  ahh...  well..." he says. "I guess it could be the house. Yeah, I'm starting to recognize it. See how big the tree is? I told you it was big."
    We've been parked in front long enough for his niece to come out to see if we're okay.
    "We were worried," she tells us. "Did you get lost?"
    It must run in the family.
    We step out of the car to greet her. The rest of the family come out. Hugs and hellos are passed around like slices of watermelon at a Fourth of July picnic. As everybody makes their way back toward the house, I can hear my father say: "Yeah, I knew this was the house because I recognized that big tree in the front. That's what I kept telling my son, look for the tree, it's big, but he didn't believe me. Yep, I knew this was the house."
    As I tag along behind them, I look up and down the street.
    Every house on this block has a big tree in their front yard.
When you visit The Duchene Brothers at,, or @JimDuchene, look for the big tree out front.
as featured in Desert Exposure Magazine
Raising My Father  American Chimpanzee

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