Going My Way? My Daily Commutes With Dad

The Massachussets Turnpike is dear to me. Back in my last two years of high school, my dad and I logged more than 7,500 miles on the bit of Tarmac that stretches from the Weston tolls to the Cambridge exit and back again. While most of my classes have since retreated in memory, every crack and curve of the Pike sits in sharp relief.

Dad and I were the dynamic duo of the morning commute. At 7:15 we threw our cereal bowls in the sink, grabbed briefcase and book bag, and leaped into the car. As we sped toward the highway, Dad gauged the traffic and set out to beat our best record. In the evening, after crew practice, he swung over from work to bring me home for dinner.

In those minutes at dawn and dusk, the world consisted of him and me and the car that carried us. It was then understandable that the conversation often turned to pistons, torque, r.p.m., and radar detectors. I learned how to change a tire and how to make it home in a blizzard. Dad also showed me how to drive with no hands, but I'm still working on that.

The car ultimately proved a finite subject of conversation, however, and often we would just listen to the hum of the engine. Sometimes this was interrupted by Dad's instruction on the Dow Jones, or I might relay the latest from Mr. Meyers' calculus class. Monologues were definitely allowed: We had the time. Our speech ebbed and flowed calmly as the dividing lines in the pavement passed swiftly beneath us.

Looking back, the simplicity of it seems delightful. Though ``quality time'' and discussion sessions were unknown to us, we created somewhere in those precious hours a common experience. Dad and I finally stood on equal footing and shared something that was just ours - the car. It was our treehouse, and inside it our friendship was sacrosanct.

The commute wasn't always harmonious, though. Dad and I often treaded on unfamiliar territory once the discussions strayed from engineering and physics. We clashed over politics, my clothes, his attitude. I spent some car rides in bitter silence.

But the chassis and the seat belts held us together. No walkouts, no locked doors. No room for loud emotions. Just the straight and narrow highway, and Dad's fingers softly resting on the wheel.

Anger was forced to dissolve in the face of our quiet routine, and the hours we drove in peace began to make the few spent in discord seem absurd. How can you resent someone who has told you all there is to know about spark plugs?

When I graduated and left home, our commutes disappeared as inauspiciously as they began. After all, what had brought them about was mere convenience: I needed a ride and Dad was going my way. Yet the miles we shared must not tell the whole story, since these days Dad still offers to take me down that stretch every now and then.

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