Louisiana—I’m driving a sunny highway. The weather is perfect. The cane fields are brilliant green.
I am going to visit my father’s grave.
I still have a long way left to go—four more states left, to be exact.
Louisiana highways are jagged. When I was eighteen, I drove these highways to Dallas in a ‘79 Ford. The uneven roads were so bad they nearly rattled my truck apart and gave me permanent drain bamage.
Daddy rests fourteen thousand feet above sea-level in Colorado. His ashes are part of a mountainside. We scattered him when I was a boy. I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t been back since.
Throughout my adult life, I’ve meant to visit, but I haven’t. I don’t know why.
My father was a stick welder. He traveled wherever work was good. Work led him to Colorado, as a young man. He lived there in a trailer. He always said he loved that period of his life.
He used to talk about those days and tell me things that I was too young to understand:
“Every man needs to find himself,” he once told me. “And that mountain’s where I found me. When I die, it’s where I wanna be scattered.”
He only said it in passing, but it was stenciled into my mind.
Mama said he lost weight in Colorado. She said he ate a steady diet of canned beans and beer. When Mama went to visit him, she said he was so skinny he only needed one back pocket.
She tried to fatten him up, but that was impossible. Daddy was a long-legged, red headed sack of bones. He had freckles that weighed more than he did.
I was angry with him after he pulled his own curtain. I wasn’t furious, mind you. I felt the same kind of anger you’d feel when you bite your tongue by accident—you’re more disappointed than angry.
And that’s why I haven’t been back, I guess. Going up his mountain would’ve been like biting my tongue all over again.
I’m getting off topic here.
The point is, I didn’t just NOT visit him all those years, I went out of my way to avoid him. Once, I travelled out West, it cost a small fortune. I was there two weeks. I’d planned on seeing his resting place, but I changed my mind when I got there.
So, I drove right by him. I went to Flagstaff, Arizona, instead. I rented a room at a motor inn. I bought a few souvenirs. I drove to the Grand Canyon. I sipped a beer. I cried. I chewed a lot of sunflower seeds. I visited a few antique stores.
Then, I went back home.
I feel ridiculous about that. I still do. Of course, I WANTED to see Daddy, but sometimes I do dumb things.
Maybe I didn’t want to remember certain parts of my life. After all, the last time I saw my father, he’d lost his mind. It’s a long story—one I don’t mind telling, but not here.
My last moment with him happened at two in the morning. His hands were interlaced behind his head, he was walking toward the blue lights of a sheriff’s car. Officers tackled him. Lots of yelling. Guns drawn.
They put him in the backseat. I saw his face through the window. He stared at me, but he couldn’t wave because of the handcuffs. And that was the last time I saw his face.
I don’t know, maybe that was more than you wanted to read.
Anyway, I’m not a boy anymore. I’m braver, and I’m happier, and I’ve learned a lot about me. I’ve known happiness in many different forms. And kindness. Today, I am a grown-up. A skinny, long-legged redhead with freckles.
I’m a big kid who remembers when a smart, but misunderstood man once told me that every man needs to find himself.
Four more states to go.
I’m sorry it took me so long, Daddy.