I recently bought my daughter a cool blue 2005 Mini Cooper SE Convertible. It's hot. Really hot. When she leaves for college in August, I'm going to drive it. Yes I am. I've been thinking about this: I want to practice jumping in the drivers seat and screeching out without opening the door. I've seen it done in the movies. It may be anatomically difficult, and I may injure myself, perhaps irreparably, but it goes with the turf. You see, I gotta get myself a little mid-life crisis.
My crisis is I never had a mid-life crisis, and I wonder what I'm missing. Clothes? Same old, same old. Hair? Less. Same house, same job, same church, same wife (yes, honey) and so on. But I love all those things. What to do? I figure I can kick-start the process with a supped up car. Right?
It takes me back, way back. My first car was the gold '72 Camaro I bought in 1974. Oh yeah. I went right from dirt bike to a "What you got under that hood a 350 V-8?" Camaro. And I was dangerous. I'd crank up the 8-Track of Led Zeppelin and let it go. The night I turned 16 my friend (who was a whopping three months older and had his license) and I drove all night over four counties. Just because we could. 9 mpg. Gas at $.32. So, I guess I had my mid-life crisis at 16.
I want to drive top down. Play Fountains of Wayne. Get an attitude. Drive between the pumps at gas stations. Parallel park in spaces the size of my inbox. Connect. Chat with the drivers at stoplights. Wear 24/7 sunglasses. Out there. You gotta get out there. Try out extroversion, see if it's all they say it is. Stop listening to myself think all the time. Play "Traffic and Weather," by Fountains of Wayne, with their frothy attitude and roadside hipness. Turn it up.
When my daughter leaves home, I'll cruise the high school lots, hang out in her favorite coffee-shop, trace her absence all over the place. Even listen to her music. The Blend. Sirius 20 on 20. Summon up her smile, her wit, and her 18-year old life in the present tense. Existential.
I'll drive her car to work, to lunch, to get ice cream, to the mall, to church. I'll hang out in parking lots. I'll do nothing. I'll post statuses like "what's up i'm in my car eating at taco bell how about you?" or send pithy or inane or innocuous 140 character text messages to other people who like to send 140 character text messages. Because that's just how they do it. Stay connected. Watch YouTube silly videos, because she did. Drive just to drive and on cool nights leave the top down and turn the heat up high. I'll drive downtown and think of all the conversations we had and all the things "dad you don't understand" and the accomplishment of getting her to laugh at a dumb joke and her hair blowing in the wind. The same wind that blows across her midwest college town. The same wind.
And about October, when it's too much, I'll hit I-40 and head due west, her mother and I, queue up a playlist of oh about 400 of my favorite songs, and watch the miles pass. 24 hours. 16 to 17 songs per hour. 400 songs. Lots of sun and wind and particulate matter. Truckers butting each other to establish dominance, says Bruce Cockburn. Rumours of Glory. Plenty of time. Tick off the states --- Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri --- and cross the "miss the mississippi and you" and somewhere out on those Great Plains, amongst the tallgrass and wobbly cowboys, east of the Pecos and West of the Ozarks, I'll find her.
Nope. Nope. Probably just stay right here. Drive her Mini. Touch up our empty nest. Practice the rest of life. Decorate her absence with memory. Write letters. Read melancholy poetry. Wash the Mini. Pray hard. Live life. Let go.
And miss her.
I'll miss her.
And when Christmas comes and she returns, soaked in independence, with new vocabulary and a midwest-tinged plain-speak, with stored up life that I missed because she was there and we were here. . . well, so she can have the Mini SE Convertible back, because it suits her and I'm tired of being beat to death by the wind and riding on the ground, numb in my posterior. I had my little mid-life crisis. I'll be over it. But I'll never, never get over her. I won't. We're like "traffic and weather." We just go together.