About 25 miles south of Indianapolis and 5 miles north of Martinsville, I turn off the highway on Old State Road 37 and pull into the Marathon gas station that we used to refer to as, “The Little Store.” The farmers no longer gather there at sunrise to talk about the weather and visit with Kathy because she sold The Little Store years ago. Instead of rotisserie chicken and fried biscuits it now smells of cigarettes and disinfectant with a hint of curry. The new owners are nice but it doesn’t feel the same. The cashier doesn’t know my name nor does she seem interested in small talk.
After filling up my tank I continue on Old 37 and roll the windows down, breathing in the smell of fresh-cut grass and feeling the warmth of the late summer sun on my arm. The big red barn that I’ve always envied is starting to look a little more weathered but that only makes it appear more rustic, more romantic. Turning on Maple Turn Road I see the stunted corn unharvested in the fields, another example of the devastation caused by the summer drought. The heavy rains last week stemming from Hurricane Isaac spurred the growth of weeds giving the fields a strange look, as if autumn, spring, and summer arrived simultaneously.
The pile of lye used to cover the putrid carcass of a deer hit by a motorist last year still sits on the bridge, reminding me to keep on the lookout for deer and other wildlife crossing the road. In the 13 years that I have driven this road I have never hit one but I know that it’s only a matter of time.
I drive past my old babysitter’s house and smile at the memories of playing basketball, Duck Hunt, and tag with people I’m still lucky enough to call my friends. The family has moved into town where my babysitter now owns a small antique shop filled with rose-covered tea cups, wrought iron furniture, and beautiful Ball jars filled with buttons and knick knacks.
As I drive past the dam of the lake and see the point where my father’s house sits I feel an overwhelming sense of comfort. I turn into the neighborhood, drive down the row of large maple trees that, despite Foxcliff Security’s best efforts, are toilet papered every Halloween.
I take a right down Devon Drive, and descend the hill to the last house, the house that my grandparents built 39 years ago, the house where I learned to swim, the house where my grandfather died, the house where my father sought refuge after my parents divorced, the house that became my home after my mother died. The gutters are riddled with holes, the trim around the windows is starting to rot, and the house is in dire need of a new paint job but all I see is my father, barefoot, cleaning the grates on the Weber, preparing to light a fire, to provide for me in the way that he knows best.