My love language is car rides.
Got an errand to run? Take me with you.
Forgot one thing at the grocery store and need someone to be a warm body in the front seat so that you don’t have to actually park the car? I’m right there.
Have some random Facebook Marketplace item to pick up two hours away? Throw in a grande iced coffee, and I’m your girl.
I have loved car rides for as long as I can remember. There are few things that I find more enjoyable than sitting in the passenger seat next to someone I love and hearing about anything and everything they have to tell me.
This… like so much of who I am, can likely be traced back in some way, or all the way, to my dad.
Mark Timm rarely went anywhere around town without a front seat passenger, and I was always quick to volunteer as tribute. My childhood was filled with weekly trips to the Huntsville Costco (which always included a warm Krispy Kreme donut, of course), quick trips to Kroger, and annual trips to an Apple Orchard on the Alabama-Tennessee line.
I logged a lot of miles with that man, and today, those miles remain ingrained in my being.
In these trips, these miles, I learned about life. I learned about his life, and I learned about mine. I talked through the shallowest high school tribulations and the deepest of pains. I worked through heartbreak in every form. I worked through slight preteen rebellion. I worked through insecurities, and I learned to love both myself and others better.
In these trips we talked about God and faith, and we did our best to seek the thin authentic line buried in the world’s perception of both.
In these trips we talked about life, we talked about death, we talked about the perfect way to cook a steak, and we argued about who was the most talented member of The Beatles. We dissected music, we discussed literature, and one day, on one of these trips, I even told him all about the cute boy I had met at college.
It was also during a car ride- one I was not invited on (and yes, I did sit at home steaming the whole time) that this same boy asked my dad for my hand in marriage.
These trips had merit. A part of me thinks that every car ride has the potential to.
In these trips my dad dared me to think for myself. He dared me to think, period, which I learned in college is something that a lot of people were not, and still are not, really encouraged to do.
In these trips, these simple car rides with set missions that were truly more productive than just burning gas and attempting to solve unsolvable life problems—he taught me a lot. But he also told me stories.
And while the rest of these things, the life lessons and discussions are clearly ingrained in every inch of who I am, what I think, and how I write… it’s the stories that gave these trips every weight of value to me.
My dad was a storyteller, and he was the best at it.
I am not naïve enough to believe that everyone was as smitten with my father’s car rides and stories as I was. I get that other people’s stories may not always be relevant or interesting to someone else. Some people have other ways they’d prefer to spend their time than hearing about a 64-year-old man’s glory days.
But… I mean, that man smoked pot regularly with the voice actor of Squidward from Spongebob, so I know I’m a little biased, but I can’t help but believe that if he didn’t fascinate you a least a little, then it was probably a you problem.
In all honesty, most little girls do love their daddy’s stories, probably more than anyone else can or should love someone’s story. Some daddy’s tell fictional tales of princesses and knights. Some daddy’s just paraphrase a story that has already been written by a man named Walt Disney, but mine didn’t have to do either of these things. My dad lived a cool life, a big life, a comical life, a loving life, and though I only existed in the last 26-years of it, I have an immense privilege of carrying around a brain full of bits and pieces of the true, beautiful, life that he lived before I even entered this world. My dad told nonfiction stories, his stories, and they were the best.
My dad was his stories. These moments, the laughs and loves and crazy twenties he lived… that was him. Stories are the glimpses at all of the stepping stones that lead our loved ones to where they are. It’s what brings them to that place where their road intersected ours. So how can we be thankful for this intersection, how can we even, at times, exist because of this intersection, but have no interest in the paths that were taken to get there?
The stories make the man. My dad’s stories made a damn good one.
This season, I miss his advice. This season, I miss his cooking. This season, I miss his edits and his unconditional excitement to read and add input into everything I write. I miss waking up early, and joining him for a cup of coffee in his den. I miss watching him scroll through a news site, shaking his head the whole time.
But more than anything, I miss the stories. I miss the car rides.
So I guess that’s my advice to you this holiday season. Be safe. Be smart, but if at all possible, go on the car rides. Hear the stories.
Turn off your road trip music for a bit and call your grandparents as you travel from state to state. Sit in that front seat as your parents run their errands. Put your phone down, and listen, really listen. Let them tell you their stories.
Every. Little. Detail.
Let their stories become your own.
Because if you don’t, then one day, your heart might break as you try to remember just one small forgotten detail of a story that he used to tell.
One day, you might want to call him up and ask him what his seventh-grade study hall teacher’s name was again… the one that got so mad when they pranked him by putting the trashcan on his desk every day.
But you won’t be able to.
One day, he won’t be here. They won’t be here to tell the stories.
One day, these stories will either live on through you, or die with them.
Go on the car ride.