Sometimes I think: when the plant closes — and I’m sure it will, probably sooner than later — we’ll finally leave. Jake is off in Fargo. Kristin will be graduated, and off to school. I’m sure she’s not coming back here. Jack is gone half the time, now that he’s working out in the west. Maybe I should think about flying away, too. Follow Jack out west? No. Head east, toward the kids? Maybe, and keep going.
This morning I had to drive Papa one more time to the burn clinic in Fargo. Last visit. He didn’t need to go. The skin on his hand and his arm have been fine for months, you could see that. I called to see about canceling and the woman at the clinic said, “Well, you don’t want to cancel, in case something happens later. You wouldn’t want to have problems with your insurance, not paying for something because you didn’t follow the doctor’s orders.” Just like that, she said it, in that kind of scolding voice that I remember from my old piano teacher, that lady who made me hate playing the piano.
So we went. Papa grumbles about it, getting ready to go, getting dressed. I have to come early. If I say I will come get him at nine, he’ll be ready at ten, so I have to pretend we’re leaving early. He complains about the car, the seats. But once he gets on the road, he’s fine. He stares out the window and watches things pass. You drive away and the road drops down into the Red River Valley. It’s different — there are trees, shelterbelts. It’s flatter.
Most of the time he didn’t talk, but once we got down into the valley, he started making little comments about things he saw. Usually I would get annoyed about it but today it made me smile. I remembered that he hasn’t left the state since he first came here. Fifty years ago. More than fifty years ago. A guy who has been all over the world — Czechoslovakia, Russia, France. I think he told me once he had been in New York. And then got to North Dakota and planted roots and just stopped.
We stopped to get some gas near Grafton. Farmers are out planting, you could smell the fresh earth, a thick heavy smell. And the crabapples. The crabapple trees are blooming. I couldn’t even see the trees but I could smell it. Someone must have had an orchard of them. We had a crabapple tree in our yard when I was young. A wind took it out five or ten years ago, but God, that was my favorite thing in spring. As a child, when I smelled that, I knew that Spring was finally here.
The appointment took about thirty minutes. A hundred and fifty miles each way. But it was a good day. Good to be out of work. It’s been so tense there lately, with the union negotiations and then the guys coming in from Korea from the company who might buy us out. Nice to just get outside for a change, not have to be looking at my calendar every fifteen minutes to see if I’m forgetting a meeting. It really made the restlessness go away. It’s Spring and Papa is OK and whatever happens with the plant is OK and we’re all going to be OK. Even if we stay here.