“I’ll wait in the car”

My dad was a good sport. He always picked me up from swim practice. He always drove me to the mall. For life in suburbia, parental quality was measured in a parent’s willingness to get in the car and pick up their kids. My dad was always there.

He would bring a book, usually something on Japanese history or Buddhist philosophy. No matter what we were doing, he’d say, “okay, I’ll wait in the car.” Sometimes he’d be sitting there for hours, he claimed. When he forgot his book, he’d admonish himself, shaking his head, “I should have known better” as I finished a three hour goodbye to my latest best friend at swim practice.

In typical dad fashion, he also saw it as his responsibility to fill all our vehicles with gas. As a collector of old beat up cars and with two daughters who “knew” how to drive, he would often spend the whole afternoon taking different cars from our driveway to the gas station and back. When he got sick and couldn’t drive anymore on his medicine, it was so important for him to fill the car for us that my sister and I risked our lives in one of the most harrowing journeys to the gas station I think we’ll ever experience. With him behind the wheel and his oxygen tank in the back seat, he pulled out of the driveway straight into a bush, unsuccessfully tried to swipe his grocery store rewards card into the machine, and then forgot his credit card twice at the pump before collapsing back into the car. The drive back was as scary as the drive there.

But we knew how much these things meant to him. He had been doing them all our lives. Even at his most sick, he still wanted to care for us the way he knew how. He still wanted to drive us around. He still wanted to wait in the car.

A Coffee Mug’s Life

Our mug collection is robust and varied, crammed and stacked on top of one another in two full kitchen cupboards. Each feels important, but when I am having a particularly sensitive day, I always pick the mug with a cow.

I have a confusing relationship with this mug. It makes me contemplate the life of an object in relationship to its owner.

Several years back, I had spent a few days picking out this mug in The Netherlands when I was visiting with my now-husband, then boyfriend, Mark. At the time, Mark and I were both living in the States, one of us in Boston and the other in NYC. As we had both come many times before to the Netherlands separately, this was the first time we came together, as a pair. Our debut.

For this important event, I wanted to pick out something special for my dad. All the weed paraphernalia felt too gimmicky; the tulip key chains too generic. With my dad being a compulsive (instant) coffee drinker all day long, a mug felt just right. I carefully selected one with a cow that spoke to me, projecting a level of absurdity I knew he would enjoy.

When I came back home and gifted him this mug, it immediately became his favorite. I’d find it propped up on his bedside table, by him watching TV, always half full of cold coffee he had forgotten to drink before making himself another cup, in a different mug, also somewhere forgotten in the house. Each time I’d come to see him, I’d look approvingly at this mug, remembering all the trips to The Netherlands I had made, and despite him never having visited himself, all the times I had thought about him there.

Now that absurd cow is looking back at me as I write this post, half full of cold tea. When my dad passed away a few years ago and I was packing up both his things and my own to prepare for my move, this was the one non-clothing item I decided to take with me.

But even though I purchased it here, it still feels strange to use. This mug has made the same journey my husband and I have done many times – from The Netherlands, to America, and back. This cow is back home, yet it had an entire life before this moment. Like me, it sat with my dad outside on the porch smoking cigarettes. Like me, it kept my dad company while he watched the Pats or read a book. Hopefully, we can give this cow even more memories, different than the ones before, but still with the same amount of love. To many more years with cow cups. Cheers.