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Enjoying the Ride
There are a lot of things my dad and I don’t see eye-to-eye on. When it comes to things we agree on, the list is pretty short. Which might be why we don’t talk much.
But the one thing we do have in common is books. I think I owe my love of them to Dad. He’s one of the few adults I know who read every night. He has a strict schedule: eight-thirty to nine-thirty is Reading Time. During Reading Time, you can’t ask for a glass of water or a bedtime story. You can, however, bring your book in and read next to him, which I used to do when I was little. Not anymore, though. I don’t really remember why I stopped.
It’s a drowsy Saturday afternoon, the autumn kind that you don’t have much to do with except read. My book is sitting next to me on my fuzzy purple bedspread, battered and dog-eared and finished. Why do good books have to end right when you need them? It’s really frustrating, if you ask me.
After a quick scan of my room, I realize that I have nothing to read. “DAD!” I yell, walking out of my room and down the stairs to the office. “I have nothing to read!”
He turns around from his computer screen and holds up one finger, his signal for I’m making an important business call, so can you please be quiet for a minute? I nod and stand in the hall, staring at myself in a large decorative mirror. I’m kind of a mess right now. Frizzy brown hair up in a messy bun, old sweats, glasses. Basically the uniform for Doing Nothing.
Finally my dad comes out of his office. “What do you need, Bethany?” He sighs, and looks tired. I feel kind of bad for making him drive to the library, but I really need to go. Badly.
“I finished my book and I need to go to the library. Please, Dad?”I open my eyes wide. Unfortunately, unlike my little sister I never did learn how to employ the puppy face. Maybe it’s a youngest child thing.
“Mom has the car. We can bike, though. We just have to be back by five, because I have a phone conference.”
I think about this. The library’s about five miles from our house. “Sure! Give me five minutes!” I know no one will really see my Doing Nothing outfit, but I’d rather not wear my rattiest tank top in public. Throwing on a T-shirt and sweatshirt, I slip my feet into a pair of furry boots and redo my bun. Then I gather up my library books. This might actually be fun.
Silently, Dad and I start towards the library, dipping and diving and swerving in and out of trees set ablaze with their newly fiery leaves. My books bounce in my bike basket, threatening to fall out. The most beautiful thing is the way the forest is teeming with life, though. I can see squirrels darting up and down tree trunks and more than a few twittering birds overhead. The sky is just this huge bowl of blue Kool-Aid, and I can’t get over how pretty the world looks right now.
After mile after mile of winding paths and weighed-down-with-leaves trees, the looming brick library approaches. I can’t help but smile; the library is one of my favorite places. Just the feeling that there are so many things to learn and stories to discover that you couldn’t possibly get through them all makes me feel so… so alive. Like the beginning of The Lion King.
Shelves line the walls, filled with books of every shape and kind. We’re lucky; our library is a tall, open building with massive windows and two floors. You could just get lost in there forever.
I make a beeline for the teen fiction section, but Dad stops me. “Bethany, I want to show you something.” I follow him, but thoroughly confused. We never really shared book recommendations before.
Dad leads me over to a display of classical books. “This is one of the greatest,” he says, handing me a yellowing paperback. To Kill A Mockingbird. I heard we had to read that for English in high school, but other than that I haven’t thought much about reading that book.
“Um, okay.” I take the book and a few others from the young adult section, and then check out. Dad does the same, and then we’re back on the way home.
The road we took on the way to the library is now filled to the brim with cars, so we decide to be safe and take back roads. Now a car only goes by every once in a while, so the road is mainly crowded with deer slowly making their way back and forth across the street.
Suddenly, we hear a crash and an angry noise from a car. Dad and I brake and turn around. One of the cars hit a deer, which was now lying on the street, dead. I feel my jaw drop basically to the ground. “D-Dad…” I whisper. I’ve never seen anything die before, except for maybe a fly.
“It’s too short, huh?” Dad says after a while. “Life?”
He’s right. Life is really too short. What if it was Dad instead of that deer, and the only nice memory I had of him was reading with him years ago and one book recommendation? Or if it had been me? I’m suddenly all too aware of the fact that something like that can happen to any of us, any second, and we have no idea really what’s going to happen. You can predict and hypothesize and guess all you want, but in life you’ve really just got to hold on tight and hope you don’t fall off. And enjoy the ride, of course.
We get back on our bikes and weave through the trees once again, each of us thinking our separate thoughts under the Kool-Aid sky. Maybe my dad and I don’t see eye-to-eye on much, but hopefully life is just long enough to figure that out.