Virtue & Mischief: Worth the drive


My wife and I have noticed that we’re experiencing so-called “senior moments” with greater frequency these days. Last week, for example, I retrieved from the office refrigerator the lunch I had packed the night before, settled in my desk chair, pulled up to my computer to catch up on some innocuous and – yes, I admit it – mindless sports news, and unwrapped my ham-and-cheese sandwich. I took a healthy sized bite and detected that my incisors had pierced something thin and, in a way that defied adequate description, chewy. I opened the sandwich and quickly discovered the slice of American cheese I’d included was still cozily ensconced in its plastic wrapper. Delicious.

The next day Krista came home from work, took off her coat, set her purse and another bag down, and went to the bathroom. A few minutes later, she realized she had misplaced her car keys. “Tim, have you seen them? I’ve only been, like, three places in this entire house since I’ve been home, but I can’t find them!”

“No, but I’ll look in the car – could you have somehow left them there?”

“I doubt it, but anything is possible. I’d forget where my head was if it wasn’t attached.”

I opened the garage door, searched throughout the van, and came up empty-handed. When I returned to the house, I asked if she’d found them yet.

“No, and this is REALLY frustrating. Where could they possibly be??” she asked no one in particular. For the second or third time she inspected a pink bag she had brought with her and there the keys were, neatly tucked in the bottom, as they had been the first two times she had looked. “Oh, good grief,” she sighed with considerable exasperation. “That’s ridiculous. I looked there before. How did I miss them? Getting old is killing me!” I commiserated by sharing with her my ham-and-cheese sandwich story.

That same evening – Friday – Krista reminded me for the 10th time that I was to take Abby (our 17-year-old amigo) to the Versailles High School “cafetorium” for a formal dress exchange/sale on Saturday afternoon. Krista had even cut out the newspaper article and circled in red pen the time slot: 1 p.m.-3 p.m. “Do NOT forget, Tim. She needs a floor length dress that she can wear for certain musical performances and possibly for homecoming or the prom. It’s tomorrow. It’ll be a great father-daughter bonding opportunity!” she added, somewhat sarcastically I think.

I stared for the 10th time at the newspaper article and studied the time. AGAIN. “Yes, dear,” I replied. “I’ve got it. One to three. Tomorrow. I’m on it. I’ve already talked to Abby about this. I’m taking Luke to his baseball practice at 11. I’m picking him up at 12:30. Then I’m spending some quality time with Abby during the car ride to Versailles and helping her pick out a lovely formal. Lest you forget, I have four sisters – three of whom are older. I’ve had plenty of practice watching young ladies try on clothing while pretending to be interested,” I teased.

At 12:45 the following day (Saturday afternoon), Abby and I entered the car and began the short drive to Versailles. About five minutes into the ride she looked at me with an uncharacteristically serious expression and asked, “Dad? Can I talk to you about something? It’s kind of serious.”

“Yes, of course. You can talk to me about anything. I WANT you to talk to me about anything – especially serious stuff.”

“Okay. Here goes….”

And for the next 20 minutes we had a candid, profoundly satisfying, and no-holds-barred conversation about an intensely personal topic that shall not be divulged here (or anywhere). I was stunned by Abby’s willingness to broach the topic with me, and extremely proud of her maturity and sensitivity. Her mother must be doing lots of things right, I mused to myself. I was almost disappointed when we arrived at the Versailles High School to attend to the dress-seeking task.

“Thanks, dad,” Abby told me as we pulled into our parking spot.

“No, honey – thank you. You amaze me. Truly. Any time.”

As we parked the car, I noted how many cars were in the lot. Must be a lot of Darke Countians searching for a good deal on a formal dress, I thought to myself. We entered the building, walked in the direction of the gym and cafetorium, and approached a pleasant woman sitting at a table with a tray of money in front of her. There were several people milling about, eating food and talking. From the adjacent gym, the sounds of a basketball game oozed out.

“Hello,” I greeted the woman. “We’re here for the dress exchange and sale … but it looks like we’re in the wrong place. Could you direct us?”

“Oh, sir,” she replied, “You’re in the right place … but the wrong time. That’s tomorrow!”

“Huh?” I was in disbelief. “Ma’am, I have the clipping right here!” I pulled it out of my pocket and saw the red ink encircling “1-3 p.m.” I stared at the first paragraph for the first time and discovered to my great embarrassment that the sale was, indeed, to be held on Sunday, Feb. 3 rather than on Saturday, Feb. 2. Both Krista and I had read the article multiple times and we had somehow glossed over the day and the date, though we sure did have the location and the time of day down pat. Oy.

We drove back and continued our conversation, Abby and I. When we arrived and explained what had happened, Krista apologized profusely and smacked her forehead in shame. “I am sooo sorry,” she apologized. “These episodes we’re having are so frustrating! I wish you didn’t have to waste all that time, driving up there for no reason!”

“You’re right, but on this occasion – no worries.” I looked at our daughter and smiled. “Trust me when I tell you that it was worth the drive.”

By Tim Swensen

Virtue & Mischief

Timothy Swensen is the author of the column series Virtue and Mischief. He can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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