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The Driver - A Tribute to My Dad
My dad could easily be known as, The Driver. He has driven all sorts of vehicles including most types of farm equipment, school buses, his share of Volkswagen Rabbits, and 18-wheelers, which he currently drives in the oilfields of Western North Dakota. Since he gets paid to drive truck, I guess you could even say he is a Professional Driver. But for me, personally, I will always appreciate those times he has been my personal driver, oftentimes, with his faithful navigator by his side, my mom.
Many Trips to Minneapolis
Probably one of the most frightening trips they ever took with me was when I was six months old and needed to go to Minneapolis for my first open heart surgery. (It was about a 12-hour drive.) My dad was only 23 years old at the time and the biggest town he had ever been to was Fargo, North Dakota, which wasn't all that big in the early 70's. Somehow they managed to find their way to the right place. As many times as they made the trip to the Cities on my behalf though, it never got easier.
Besides a trip on a train in the dead of winter, I think my dad drove me to every appointment I had in Minneapolis from six months to 18 years old. He took the wheel and my mom took the map and the two of them always got me to where I needed to be - sometimes getting lost along the way. Who knows, maybe when he drove me to Fargo to begin my college career, he thought his driving days for me were all behind him. Unbeknownst to both of us, there were many more adventures in store.
Driving and Singing
When I was in college, I suffered a setback with my heart condition and ended up in congestive heart failure. My parents faithfully made their way from western North Dakota to Fargo - a 400-mile trip. After I was discharged from the hospital, I had to go to Minneapolis to see a cardiologist. This was in December - not a good month to be driving in North Dakota and Minnesota.
On our way back to North Dakota, we were starting to head into a snowstorm. My dad and I tried to make the best of it by singing along to Conway Twitty:
"My one and only prayer is that someday you'll care
My hopes, my dreams come true
My one and only you
No one will ever know
How much I love you so
My prayers my hopes my schemes
You are my every dream
But it's only make believe"
We really belted out that last line! Another one of our favorites to listen to was Johnny Cash, especially his song, Ring of Fire. Even though we were having fun, my mom was getting a little anxious about the weather so we stayed over in Fargo before heading home. I made a full recovery over Christmas vacation and was back in school the next semester.
Not long ago we were east bound and down,
There is a place in Carolina, it had to be found.
A good trip in many ways, not a scrape or a single bruise
It was quite a few miles, it was quite a cruise.
Illinois, Minnesota, Kentucky and Tennessee
There was lots of scenery for us to see
Toll bridges, towns, cities and eight lanes
Sometimes lots of fun, sometimes lots of pains.
The CB sure helped to find the route
A helping hand is what it is about
We got there safe, we got there sound
A town in Carolina had been found
The trip home was lots of fun too
The time was short - the miles quite a few
Clarksville, Mound City, Rapid City, on up the road
The pickup ran great, empty or with a heavy load
It was a well-blessed trip all of the way
Next time we might take longer - or even stay!
Michael D. Lawlar, May 2000
After college, I worked at various newspapers and was excited about the chance to work for a publication called The Farm and Ranch Guide. At the time, I was living in a town called Williston and the interview was in Bismarck - about 250 miles away. It was November, another unpleasant month for travel in North Dakota.
Wouldn't you know it, there was a snowstorm and I wondered if I should even try to make it to the interview. My dad, who subscribed to and enjoyed reading The Farm and Ranch Guide was bound and determined to get me there. He drove me through the storm to my interview. They were so impressed that we had braved the elements, they called me that night to tell me I had the job!
Unfortunately, while working there, I got sick again and needed another heart surgery. This time I would be traveling to Rochester, Minnesota which is even farther than Minneapolis. And this time, once again, my faithful driver and his navigator made the trip with me. My dad had to return to work after my surgery so my mom and I managed to make it home on our own. I spent six weeks at home recovering. Three months later, my parents made the trip again with me when I had to get a pacemaker implanted.
The Move Down South and Home Again
Probably the longest trip my dad ever drove with me was to North Carolina. My sister and I decided to move there together after both receiving job offers.
My little Dodge Neon and my sister's Dodge Daytona were loaded up with our belongings. My parents pulled a U-haul behind their red Ford pickup and we were, as my dad liked to say, "East bound and down."
The first day of traveling we only made it as far as Minnesota! And the next to Indiana. It was a long drive - about 30 hours. Finally we made it to our destination - Raleigh, North Carolina. After helping us unload and unpack, my parents had to drive all the way back!
About two years later, I decided to move back home. My dad bought a one-way ticket to Raleigh. We fit everything I owned into my new Hyundai Elantra and the two of us took turns driving non-stop to North Dakota.
He later did the same for my brother when he moved back home from San Jose, California.
To Mayo We Go
You would think that after getting married, my dad would no longer have the responsibility to get his daughter to where she needed to be. But five months after having my daughter, I needed to get back to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota to have my pacemaker battery replaced. My husband and I did not want to take my daughter all the way there together and look after her medical needs while traveling. Instead we thought it would be best for him to stay home with her.
About four years later, we were in the same boat. My battery needed to be replaced and once again, my faithful driver stepped up to the plate. All along the way, we listened to good music, had good conversation, and as he usual, my dad pointed out various kinds of trees, asking me to guess what kind they were. I was really bad with the trees but did much better with the cattle breeds!
We took turns driving on the way down, but on the way back, I was unable to drive. We slipped out of Rochester minutes after I was discharged from the hospital. On our way through Minneapolis, we ended up getting lost. I can't even blame my poor map-reading abilities on my anesthesia still wearing off. I really do have difficulty when it comes to reading anything while in motion. We knew we had to call the navigator. Sure enough, my mom was able to get to a map, tell us where we were and got us going in the right direction again!
Our most recent trip to Rochester was our last trip together (so far!) I am thankful for the times my dad has been there for me. We had such wonderful father-daughter bonding time on those trips. I will be forever grateful for a dad who is always willing to go the extra hundreds of miles for me!
I love you dad and Happy Father's Day!