There are the late nights, after long days or nights working or returning exhausted from a long trip, when the street light marking the turn off onto my dead end road comes into view, and it’s always the warmest light in the world. Beneath its glow I turn onto my street, and in a minute I’m home.
I’ve lived in the same house on the same dead end street since November 1, 1984. That’s going on 29 years now. In that time, among other things, I’ve completed a career in I.T., raised my children, gained about 40 pounds, and lost most of my hair. I’ve done the math, and just driving to and home from the various jobs I’ve had over that time, I’ve driven down that same dead end street to my driveway over 14,000 times. Add in another 30,000 to 40,000 times running to town to get groceries or running kids to softball or basketball practice or whatever, and I’ve pounded the same narrow half mile or so of pavement in excess of 50,000 times. I know the road’s imperfections, its nooks and crannies, its bumps and manhole covers, so well that I could probably drive it with my eyes closed. I know where the little valleys in the pavement are, and where, after a rain, the deepest puddles form. For years, if I had one or more of my kids with me, I’d always accelerate through them, making as big a splash as I could.
I had endless routines I’d use to entertain my kids with when driving them down the street. One of my favorites was, years before talking GPS devices or Suri or whatever her name is, I had Hank the engine man. Hank was a small man who lived in the engine of my 1989 Ford F150 pickup truck, and whenever we embarked on a trip, as we pulled out of the driveway, I’d ask Hank for a systems report. I’d say, “Hank, how’s the oil pressure,” and Hank, forever loyal and faithful, would answer, in his high pitched voice “Oil pressure is fine and steady.” I remember one time, I hurt Hank’s feelings when I yelled at him for failing to report that there was a puddle just past our driveway, and normally cheerful, Hank turned sad and depressed when I asked him, “Hank, what’s the fuel level?”
He answered glumly, “um, it’s not bad, I guess.”
“Do we have enough gas to get to Milwaukee?”
“What do I know?” he replied. “Apparently I don’t know what a puddle is.”
My kids thought it was funny when I had to apologize to Hank for hurting his feelings.
The years passed and my kids grew up and the laughs my routines used to draw turned into impatient sighs and rolling eyes, and I realized that I performed them as much for my own entertainment as theirs’. Whatever, they were fun while they lasted, and they were part of the universe that a family creates. The center of that universe is the house the family calls home, and for the past 29 years, the pathway to home has been our little dead end street.
Now, when the kids come back to visit, they approach that same streetlight, and I hope it is just as warm a sight for them as it’s been for me all these years. I hope they breathe the same sigh of contented relief and, no matter what stresses or worries occupy their minds, for the stretch of that dead end street to our driveway, they melt away.