Highway 31—a long time ago. I don’t remember which tropical storm it was. But the weatherman said it was going to be bad.
So, my wife, my in-laws, and I left town for the safety of Keego, Alabama.
My father-in-law, Jim, drove the truck. I sat in the passenger seat, eating my weight in roadside-stand boiled peanuts.
My wife and mother-in-law rode in an Oldsmobile ahead. Both vehicles were loaded with every wedding photo, heirloom, and piece of fine China my mother-in-law owned.
We drove through rural Alabama, watching the peanut fields fly past at sixty miles per hour. Weather reports blared on the radio.
My father-in-law turned down the volume.
“Tell me about your daddy,” he said.
It was a straightforward question. But for me, it was an uncomfortable one. I stuttered through a few words.
Brother Jim said, “I don't mean to pry. Ain’t gotta talk about him if you don’t wanna.”
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. It was that I usually didn't. In fact,
I'd gone so long not talking about Daddy, sometimes it was like he’d never existed.
That’s just the way death works sometimes.
I tried to open my mouth and say something, but nothing came out.
Brother Jim said nothing in return. He ate boiled peanuts from a plastic IGA bag. The truck got silent.
“My daddy used to take me fishing,” I finally said.
It was a pathetic, and juvenile thing to say. It didn't sound very adultlike. I felt ridiculous for saying such a thing. I might as well have said: “Little Seanie make a poopie, mommy.”
But Brother Jim made no response. He only ate peanuts.
“What I mean is,” I went on in my…