189 / 365 – Encircled

FINN TILLARY

People don’t know North Dakota, except they fly over it and they look down and they see nothing. Brown maybe, and a grid of roads. I guess that’s what a lot of people think of as empty. When I was in the army, I’d be out with guys and if I said anything good about North Dakota, they’d say, “Man, I don’t know how you could like it. What’s out there? I’d at least want to see a big building, or a mountain or a hill or something.”

It’s open, but it’s full. I’ve known guys can’t deal with the opposite — a big city, or being surrounded by big mountains. Maybe that’s me, too. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t live in Chicago. My dad once had us all out to Colorado for the big ski vacation. Everybody got new ski gear, all kinds of bright blues and yellows and oranges and we packed all this stuff up in the van and drove it all the way to Grand Forks, and unloaded it and checked it in and bounced through three flights — there to Chicago and then to Denver and then to some little mountain town, I don’t remember. And then we had to pack up all our bright new gear into a little car that was way too small and head up to a resort. And my dad was getting agitated the whole time, and the whole week we were there, he was on a short fuse. Blowing up at everyone after he had a drink or two in the evening. That’s when he still drank a lot. I had never skiied before but I was learning and Ben was learning and Christine was complaining the whole time because she kept falling down in the snow and thinking she’d broken something. And I thought, Man we all have this nice stuff and for what? We all hate this.

After we got back, my dad apologized, one of the rare times he ever did that, and said he thought being circled by all those mountains made him feel trapped, like an animal or something. I thought he was crazy, but I thought he was crazy a lot in those days.

After that, the only place he ever wanted to go for a vacation was Florida. Hit balls around a bunch of golf courses and not be cold. He thought that would be great bonding for us, if I would go out with him and a bunch of other old rich guys every day and hit balls around. I think Ben did it for awhile. By that time I couldn’t stand doing anything with him. I’d try to make up some excuse, like I had a basketball clinic or the work was really stacking up at the shop, so I couldn’t go. Usually he wanted to go in the winter, which is basketball season anyway, so it worked out. And I could say, hey, it’s more important for you to go sit on your ass in the warm sun that to drive through a snowstorm to watch your son play basektball. And it was. But I didn’t care.

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