My father, David, loved to drive long distances.
It was a joy he could indulge in frequently after we moved from Pittsburgh to Maryland when I was 10, the day that John Glenn went up in space. Traveling back several times a year we would pile into the station wagon for the four-and-a-half-hour drive. The Maryland mountains spilled onto the PA turnpike after the traditional lunch in Breezewood, City of Motels.
Arriving in Squirrel Hill, the first stop was often the Hermann and Hoffman bakery, a collage of marble and rye breads, cakes and donuts in my uncle Murray’s bakery. Next, we would visit with the family of my mother’s only brother Leonard. Also required was the Morrowfield apartments where my religiously observant great uncle I.J and his sister Irene lived. Then on to the assortment of Hoffman family members who lived in the neighborhood.
For every trip, my father was behind the wheel. It wasn’t that my mother didn’t know how to drive or that she couldn’t have spelled my father for part of the trip. My mother just did not do any of the driving. That was a given, somehow, no questions asked.
As the youngest of three children, being the only girl perhaps allotted me some room to prod him with special requests. Oh, my how he loved me, his Madame Queen. When I had my own driving license, I used that benefit to ask if I could drive on the trip back from Pittsburgh. My mother stood in disbelief at this request, as if it was a courageous request. I might have guessed from her reaction that there were deeper reasons that she did not share the drive, but I was not curious enough to ask. My father said ‘Okay’. My mother was stunned.
The trip seemed uneventful. I don’t remember any of the details except one. My father had fallen asleep at one point.
After we arrived home, we all went straight to the kitchen. I stood with my back against the sink resting from what was to me a long trip. My mother was at the small door leading from the entranceway. My father was drinking water by the kitchen table where he launched into his report on my driving by saying, “You didn’t use your turn signal when you were getting onto the highway”.
I was exhausted and started to cry. My mother tried to intervene to protect me, but I waved her off defiantly. Through my tears, I blurted out, “I just drove all the way home, you fell asleep, and all you can do is criticize me?”
He apologized. My mother stood silent.
We never talked about it again, but you can bet your life that every time I get on the highway, I use my turn signal.