About thirty miles from Staunton, I realized I was sitting behind an electrical truck I’d chased out of the left lane fifty miles before, my car had a distinct high-speed shimmy, and I was so far beyond exhausted I was a danger to myself and the other drivers. So I drove faster. It was 9:46 Friday night, 11 May, and it would have been Dad’s 66th birthday.
When I got to the house, my female relatives were already sobbing. Someone handed me a glass of cheap white wine. It was as if I’d blinked and we were back in March, only Daddy was dead. I stayed up for a few hours with Darla and Miss Sasha until I was crosseyed and confused. Suddenly, it was morning. I sat bolt upright in my bed on Dad’s office floor, marched myself to the kitchen and started baking. Darla and Miss Sasha slept in. Daria, Dara and Todd went grocery shopping. My brother-in-law Tyler and I stuck our heads out the front door, did Paper, Rock, Scissors about the weather and set up the buffet in the dining room.
Promptly at 2, Dad’s friends began arriving for our memorial barbecue. Packs of nice people – some with faces familiar to me, some not – nodded and expressed their sorrow. Many told stories I cannot repeat because you wouldn’t believe me. Daria and Dad’s ex-wife Summer knew everyone who came down the driveway but I felt the pull of the kitchen. My impulse in a crowd is always to go scour something. At just about 2:30, Daria corralled Todd.
Daria: Take Barry and drag Melody’s car out of the ditch at the next driveway.
Todd: What am I, Superman?
Before you snicker: the country roads were slick, narrow and pitched at wicked angles. It could have been any of us that went for a frightening slide, but it was Darla’s friend Melody, who walks with a cane. Todd and Barry returned to the kitchen fifteen minutes later.
Todd: It’s tow truck time! Who’s got auto club?
Tata: Hand me the phone and behold my truck-summoning powers!
The nice lady on the phone told me the truck would arrive to pluck the little car from the ditch before 3:55 but that I should be standing next to the vehicle cheerily waving my membership card in fifteen minutes. I thanked her, hung up, packed some new yarn into my messenger bag and set off down the driveway on foot. Before I got halfway across the lawn, heads spun.
Todd: What? Where’s she going?
Melody: What’s going on?
Darla: Need a blackjack and a Diet Coke?
Daria: Who’s going with you?
Tata: I don’t need back up.
Geez louise. The car was nose-down in that ditch on a diagonal. Todd had said one of the front tires was hanging in space but I never saw it or the front of the car. I climbed down three or four feet into the ditch and stood next to the car in two-foot tall grass, leaned on the car and started winding a skein of recycled silk yarn into a lumpy ball. Minutes passed, rain threatened, then suddenly delivered. I jumped into the driver’s seat, set up yarn for more winding and opened a couple of windows a crack each for fresh air as torrential rain pounded the Shenandoah Valley. Then things got deeply, cinematically weird.