Al Batt: Sometimes the old memory improves with age

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tales from Exit 22, By Al Batt

We don’t forget to worry.

My mother insisted that worrying was like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. The problem is that we like rocking chairs. We’re rockers and worriers.

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We worry about becoming forgetful, but we’ve always forgotten things. We’ve left a trail of lost gloves and mittens leading back to our first years. Anyone get 100 percent on every test ever taken? I see no raised hands. We’ve always forgotten things. I present this for your consideration.

I’d just finished the morning’s chores.

It was a long walk from the barn to the field where my father was moving a tractor around, but I didn’t mind. I enjoyed walking then as I do now.

I could have driven the car I’d just purchased to the field, but that would have made too much sense. Besides, it needed its rest.

My father dismounted from the tractor with a grunt. I was supposed to replace him in the tractor seat, but that wasn’t going to happen. The tractor had stalled.

“Where’s your car?” he asked. My mother had taken the family car to town to buy groceries and the pickup was on the disabled list.

I told my father I’d just polished the rust on my chariot and it got the best mileage while parked.

My father sighed audibly before telling me that he needed to get a part for the tractor. This required a visit to Einar’s Hardware, our major trading partner. He’d have to walk back to the house to get my car to drive to town.

I’d paid for my rusty steed, but my father had forked out for the insurance. In return, Dad could use my car whenever needed, no questions asked.

He told me to dismantle a bit of the tractor so it could be fixed promptly upon his return. Before he started hoofing it home, he asked if there was anything he should know about the car.

I told him that I didn’t have a spare, so he should be careful not to lose the key.

He said he’d have another made at Einar’s.

“Oh,” I said responding to a late-arriving thought, “you might want to turn down the volume of the radio before you start the car. WDGY can be blaring.”

He gave me a knowing nod.

I asked if he wanted me to run home to get the car and save his ancient legs the torment.

He told me that he was still above the grass and one day my walks would seem uphill, too.

I did my best Bette Davis from the movie “All About Eve” and paraphrased what her character (Margo Channing) had said, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

”Ride” replaced the word “night” in the original line. It made more sense I thought — a bumpy ride over a bumpy night. In reality, it made no sense, as my car had no seatbelts. It barely had seats.

Father shook his head and still grumbling, off he went at what seemed a glacial pace. I wanted to say, “Don’t forget to write,” but I feared he might recoil at that. I hoped turtles or snails wouldn’t pass him. I smiled as I pictured that happening.

I completed the mechanical task quickly. It was no mountain for a climber like me. Then I waited and waited and waited. What on earth could he be doing? I couldn’t call him. We didn’t have cellphones in those dark days. We had smoke signals.

I’d stuffed a couple of articles clipped from newspapers into a rear pocket of my blue jeans. They were riveting, but I’d read them all twice as I’d waited.

I began to worry and be angry at the same time. I hoped my father was OK, yet I was mad that he cared so little for my valuable time.

I walked around the idle machinery. It was like a rocking chair, it gave me something to do.

After enough revolutions that I figured I could have made it to the moon and back or at least to the house, I shoved my hands deep into my jean pockets. There was my elderly jackknife in my left pocket and my worry stone and car key in my right.

My car key!

My only car key! I’d forgotten it was in my pocket!

My feet grew wings.

I ran home, both lickety and split.

Today, I remember that my car key is in my pocket.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Saturday.