Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

1989: More Things That Mattered To Me

In early 1989, the year I graduated from high school, my dad lost one of his kidneys to cancer, which was another one of the things from that year which served as a marking post for pathways to come.

Four years later, Dad passed away due to the re-emergence of that cancer, this time in his lymphatic system. He died a week after his 46th birthday.

I was 22 years old at the time, living in Orlando, and mired in what I wrote about in Collect All 21! as The Dark Times. When I realized how sick Dad was after calling on his birthday, I made the trip back up to Ohio.

And though I didn’t manage to re-track my life overnight after his funeral, saying goodbye to Dad was a sort of two-by-four to the head that hurt like hell, but also opened my eyes and started me thinking an awful damn lot about what really matters.

Bizarre thing is, I’ve never considered it in that way until just this moment. I’d like to think that even if Dad had never gotten sick, eventually I’d have come to my senses and righted my ship, but who knows how much longer I’d have stayed stuck in those bleak, draining years? Too much longer, and maybe I’d have alienated my friends and family beyond the point of reconciliation, and my life now would be very different.

It didn’t happen immediately or easily, but in the year after Dad’s passing, I did start getting my act together and started trying to mend fences and build bridges and apologize and forgive and generally not be a self-involved stubborn jackass anymore.

All this, of course, was four years (short in some ways, bitterly long in others) distant from 1989, but that year is where the roots lie.

I remember not going to school the day of his kidney surgery, spending the time at the hospital where Mom and Dad worked, and talking to Dennis, my dad’s friend and fellow anesthetist, after the surgery.

There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Dad would be OK. I wish I could say this was some sort of deep-seated conviction or faith, but the truth is, I don’t know whether it was genuine certainty and optimism or simply a refusal to deal with the darker possibilities.

At any rate, for a few years, he was OK, and things were mostly normal.

We went to Orlando that year for Spring Break, as usual, although we stopped along the way instead of making our usual straight-through overnight run. And while we were there, another bit of fallout from Dad’s kidney cancer manifested itself. This one, though, was a good bit: Dad was Corvette shopping.

Apparently, owning a Corvette had been a longtime dream of his, so, fresh off his bout with cancer, Dad was in a buying mood. And we were looking in Florida because, he said, cars down there never had to contend with winter road salt.

He wasn’t looking at the post-1983-makover editions: Dad wanted, you know, one of the cool Corvettes, when they still had the big, swoopy front fenders and the pointed noses.

“Seriously, how freaking awesome it would be if he got one and I had to help drive it back from Florida,” I remember asking my buddy Aaron, who joined us on these trips.

That didn’t happen, but not long after that vacation, Dad got his Corvette: It was an ’82 – the last year they made them in the old-school style.

I remember the first time he let me drive it, out on State Street, on the wide-open stretch west of Alliance. Dad was encouraging me to punch it a little and I was nervous as hell and afraid to blink, but I gave it a little boost, and there was an adrenaline rush and me grinning and grinning like an idiot, Dad sitting in the passenger’s seat watching and smiling.

That year, for either his birthday or Father’s Day, I got Dad a pair of leather driving gloves.

The Corvette was so long it barely fit in our garage, and even though Dad insisted on covering it every night with an old Peanuts bedspread, he was never selfish about the car: He’d let me take it out to get ice cream, or to go pick up my brothers from one practice or another, or even to just go drive around.

Once, just barely creeping out of the driveway, I backed over a toad. I felt horrible. It’s a gorgeous night, friends and neighbors are hanging out, I’m a high school senior with Corvette keys in my hand, and I’m standing in the yard with a lump in my throat over this freaking toad.

The car had removable T-tops and a cassette player and a loud-ass speaker system, and I tell you this: There’s probably nothing you can do on any stereo setting that will ever make music sound as good to me as it did mixed with the wind whipping around while I had Radio K.A.O.S. or The Pet Shop Boys cranked, or, depending on my mood, maybe a little Moody Blues or James Taylor’s Greatest Hits. And if “The Boys of Summer” came on the radio? Hot damn.

I drove the Corvette on prom night and took spins around the block with friends the day of my graduation party. (The block in question was a five-mile route with a couple stretches out among the cornfields, so, yeah: benefits of living a bit beyond the suburbs.)

Eventually, cars became just a way for me to get from place to place, and road trips became about the journey and not the wheels. Every so often, though, I’ll see a silver early-1980s Corvette, and Jenn will notice me looking at it a little longer than I need to.

August 21, 2009 - Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Music, Ohio | , , ,


  1. […] down, I’m in the mood to return one more time to 1989. (My three previous visits are here, here, and >digs through pile of cassingles, Swatches and floppy disks< oh yeah, […]

    Pingback by A Sudden Sense of Liberty. « Cornfield Meet | December 28, 2009 | Reply

  2. […] that’s me behind the wheel of my Dad’s 1982 Corvette, and right this second I realize how surpisingly easy it is to remember exactly how it felt to […]

    Pingback by These cakes are no lie. « Cornfield Meet | May 14, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] Music Co. just for this song. Several years later, after my dad died, I got behind the wheel of the 1982 Corvette he had bought when I was a senior in high school, not long after he’d lost a kidney to […]

    Pingback by REM: Photographs on the dashboard, taken years ago. « Cornfield Meet | September 27, 2011 | Reply

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