I’m multitasking as I drive to my parents’ house this hot, sunny day. I’m holding the steering wheel with my left hand while my elbow exerts pressure against the side window. My right hand holds a scrap of paper at the ready.
I have a heightened of awareness of traffic as my eyes dart back and forth between my surroundings and the spider that keeps moving from bar to bar of the defroster grate on the dashboard. My fear of spiders hasn’t subsided with age. Each time it disappears into the open space between the bars, I imagine it wants to hide and grow, then emerge as a giant to attack when I least expect it.
The soft interior panel that usually covers the door is in the trunk underneath everything I’m bringing to the house for the estate sale I’m organizing. With Dad long gone, preparing my boyhood home and my parents’ property for sale to help pay for Mom’s nursing care is an unpleasant task that has fallen on me and taken up much of my summer.
I rolled my window down yesterday, only to have it freefall, completely disappearing inside the door with a loud “thunk”. That’s why the door panel is in the trunk. I removed it so I could raise the window before the arrival of an expected rainstorm. New parts are needed for the window, but I temporarily shoved it back up, where friction holds it in place. That’s why my elbow is jammed against the glass – to keep a bump in the road from sending it freefalling inside the door where it might shatter.
After four hours of emotionally draining work at the house, sifting through decades of memories and readying them for sale, I drive home, multitasking again as I keep window pressure and steer with my left arm, occasionally using my right hand to drink water from a bottle.
Stopped by a traffic light, I noticed something moving outside the driver’s window near my elbow. It was another spider. This one was black, furry, and menacing! It was as big as a tarantula, or at least the size of a nickel. I was horrified when I noticed the window had slipped down just enough to leave a small opening along its front edge. The spider was heading straight for it. I dropped my water bottle and reached up into the door’s framework with both hands to find the bottom edge of the window and shove it back up, closing the gap.
As I waited for the light to change, keeping even more pressure on the window, I watched the spider explore the outside mirror, my overloaded mind racing, but thinking of nothing in particular. I picked up the nearly empty, crackling plastic bottle and took another drink of the delicious water as I mentally stepped back and looked at the scene I was playing. I saw myself driving a car with no interior door panel, with wires and control panels hanging everywhere, holding the window up with my elbow and warily watching that bug.
I suddenly remembered my dad and his old Buick, the one with the wood-grained sticky paper he put on its sides to cover rust. The one where his temporary solution to a broken passenger door latch was to tie it shut from the inside with clothesline. That was the last straw for Mom. She refused to ride in it, telling him to either get a new car or do his own grocery shopping. A new car showed up two days later.
In that instant I realized how much I’m like my dad and broke into a spontaneous tear-producing laugh, likely fueled by the emotionally draining task I had just been performing at their house. I hurried to swallow the water I was drinking before I spit it out. Twenty three years after Dad’s death, I suddenly felt close to him, like he was standing over me and smiling. I believe he was.
This episode is going to require some heavy introspection of the current state of me, but my dad was an honest, faithful, and hard-working man. He fought some of the same battles I did and some I didn’t. He played by the rules and expected others to do the same. He was a straight arrow, a good guy. I indulge myself by thinking he’d be pleased with what he would see if he was here today, and for the moment, I’m good with that.