This doesn’t look familiar . . .

My doctor let me take off my stabilizing boot and stop using crutches yesterday.  This was a huge milestone.  For the first time in 5 months I could walk around like a relatively normal human being.  It was liberating and wonderful and, to me, meant that I was finally recovered from my surgeries.

For my wife, it meant I could finally drive.

She has been the family’s sole driver since July.  Everywhere we went she drove.  We had help from her aunt and her mom but for the most part she has been responsible for getting us where we needed to go.  Over the last several weeks, I have told her that I was well enough to drive, but she wasn’t buying it.  We had to wait until the doctor cleared me.  So on Monday I was completely unable to operate a motor vehicle then magically over night I was completely healed and able to drive.  Not completely able to follow the logic train there, but whatever.

She decided I was driving the boys to school today.  She will tell you that we decided together, but a careful review of the game tape will show that I was never really asked and never really answered.  It was kind of decided.  Don’t get me wrong, I had no issue with it, I was just fascinated at how our decision was made.  After 5 months of chauffeur duty, she is entitled.

Eli expressed concern at the thought of me driving him to school.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO.   NO DADDY DRIVE ME TO SHOOOOOL. (I know how to spell school, but I am emphasizing the way he pronounces it).  NOOOOOOOOOOO.  ONLY MOMMY CAN DRIVE,”  he wailed as he collapsed on the floor.  With Eli that passes as simple concern.  Charlie took it better.  He just blinked.

This morning we loaded my car with backpacks and bionicals.  Bionicals are toy robots, because we must have toys for the drive to school.  There were extra long hugs and kisses for mommy from the boys.  They both looked less like kids going to school and more like psychic passengers getting on the Titanic.  Off we went to the expressway.  Well, it passes for an expressway in Fairbanks.  Here we have the only two expressways I have ever seen with stop lights.  It’s like the traffic people up here only read the first two or three lines of the expressway definition.

The first thing I did was change my radio station back to sports talk radio.  Music?  Please.  Why listen to melodies when you can listen to has-beens and wannabes talking about the field goal kickers with potential to be taken in rounds 4-6 of the 2015 draft.  Spellbinding.

I must have been into the kicking prospects because we drove right by the major road that is the turn off for Eli’s school.  Hmmmm.  It’s not like I haven’t missed a turn before.  I once passed the turn for my oldest son Parker’s school like 4 times.  But in my defense that was before they put in the stop light.

No big deal.  We can make the next right and back track.  No problem.  Except that the next right wasn’t a turn onto a familiar roadway but more like a right turn into an obscure Stephen King short story.  I wasn’t lost exactly.  Not exactly because i recognized the road in my rear view.  In front of me however was absolutely nothing I remember ever seeing before.  Let me explain now that I have been driving in Fairbanks for 27 years.  I drove the back roads in this area before there was an expressway.  Still, nothing looked familiar.

“Where are we?”  Charlie asked.

“What do you mean where are we?”  In stressful situations I answer questions with questions.

I could hear him blinking behind me.

“I’m not sure,” I admitted.  “I don’t recognize this.”

“Where is my schooooool?” Eli asked.  “I don’t see it.”

“We’ll be there soon buddy,” I assured him.

“We have to get un lost first,” Charlie told his little brother.

“WE’RE LOST?” Eli shouted.  As a typical three-year-old any deviation from his norm is translated to drama.  “OH NO,” he wailed.  “LOOOST”

“We are not lost,” I said again.  However there was a slight whiny edge that was less than convincing.

“But you don’t know where we are?” Charlie sounds more like his mom every day.

“Not exactly.”

“So somehow that isn’t lost?” my wife said from her office through the Charlie puppet in my back seat.  “Maybe we could turn around,” he suggested.  How is it that when a man is uncertain of his location, something as simple as turning around somehow seems like not the right thing to do if somebody else suggests it?

I turned right onto a road that I thought I recognized.  No we were very not exactly lost.

“What did you do, Dad”  It was an accusation not a question.


I kept driving.  This is my town.  It is absolutely impossible for me to be lost.  I am always somewhere familiar.  I can do this.  In my mind I imagined Tony Robbins exhorting me on to greatness in my quest to get my son to shooool.  Then in my mind Charlie came in and throat punched Tony. 

“How lost are we?” He was rummaging in the back of the car.

“Not very.  What are you doing?”

“I am looking for food.”

“You just ate breakfast.” 

“I know, I am looking for lunch.  This could take awhile.”


This was ridiculous.  In my limited defense everything was covered in snow and it was nighttime-dark outside.  Yeah, you’re right, it’s still pretty pathetic.

“We will see something I recognize pretty soon,” I said mostly to myself.  Charlie was still foraging for provisions.


“Yes?” I didn’t like the tone of his voice.

“I can build a fire.”


“I can build a fire,” he repeated.  “You told me once that if we are lost we should stop where we are and build a fire.  Pull over.”

“We are not stopping.”

“Can I call Mom and ask her a question?”

At that moment a light and an intersection appeared in front of us.  Somehow, we had managed to end up at the East Ramp of Fairbanks International Airport.  I sat there stunned and slightly relieved at the same time.  I mean it’s not like we were really lost.


A few minutes and a couple of turns put us in front of Eli’s school about 20 minutes late.  He lept out and ran for the door.  It took a few minutes to get him in his inside shoes and put away his lunch box.  He just sat there with his blank survivor’s stare.

“Mommy pick me up, OK Daddy?”

Charlie and I got back in the car and prepared to leave for his doctor’s appointment.  “You know how to get to the doctor’s office, right Dad?”

“Of course, Charlie.  I just didn’t recognize where we were before that’s all.”  I flipped the signal and turned left out of the parking lot. 

“Sure, Dad,” he said.  “Do you recognize that her office is to the right?”

Thanks for reading folks.  We’ll see you soon on This Side of the Diaper.






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