I didn't ask my father that Saturday morning or ever before, as best as I can recollect. It just happened, sudden and unexpectedly, like the best things tend to do.
My father exited the parkway, as he and I had done thousands of time before, and he pulled over onto the dirt shoulder. Then he turned to me, sitting in the front passenger seat, and spoke five words to me that he had never before said in this particular order.
"Do you want to drive?"
I was 13.
For the next few miles, on a relatively straight and wide tree-lined backcountry road, I steered his maroon Oldsmobile Cutlass as best as I could, the strange combination of speed and power rumbling through the thin rubber soles of my Keds.
No white-knuckle moments came to pass with oncoming traffic or errant deer or, more likely, immobile objects like trees and brick-fortified mailboxes.
There was no cold, nauseating caving of the chest and stomach from the sight of marked Crown Victoria being glimpse in the rear view.
Just me and my Dad, together, cruising through a world standing silently beyond the tinted windows.
When it ended, my father and I never spoke of it again. We couldn’t because our ride had concluded a phrase I was far more familiar with in our household, "Just don't say anything to your Mom about this."
A few years ago, sitting at the kitchen table or in a bar or at a ball game, unexpectedly he brought up our adventure.
"I still don't know why I let you do that. I must have been crazy," he said. "But you were ready."
I like to think that he was right.
Thanks for all the years of believing in me, Dad.
Happy 71st birthday.
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