July 4th

In the summer in Wisconsin, everyone goes the same direction for vacation: Up North. Unfortunately, they also do it at the same time (July 4th weekend), use the same freeway, the same rest stop, the same drive-thru – places that remind us we are only civilized if it’s convenient. It’s enough to convince even the most amicable pacifist that there is definitely an overpopulation problem, and he must do his part by buying a deer rifle and shooting just a few random people.

Some of whom may be relatives.

Some of whom may be my Grandpa, who insists that we enter the McDonald’s drive-thru with an SUV and a trailer. I am not a prophet, but I could foresee a problem with this idea.

We place our order and begin to make the first turn. The left rear wheel squeaks against the curb, as if to say, “remember us, back here? We’re holding up a gigantic trailer attached to your ass.” I smile and nod, sweating.

Now comes the second turn. If you’re visualizing a plotline, this is the climax. The left rear wheel bumps into the curb and doesn’t apologize. The curb refuses to move. So does the wheel. We are just 10 feet from the first window. I realize there is a long line of cars behind us, filled with people who are licking their lips – not for a burger, but for a riot.

And here I am, a 500 pound bride with a 500 yard train, trying to walk down a 5 inch aisle. There will be no honeymoon at the end. I begin to panic.

Grandpa, who suggested this disaster, starts offering directions – “turn the wheel right” “no, the other right” “can you pull forward?” After a few delightful minutes of this, the drive thru employee pops out of the first window like one of the villagers in Beauty in the Beast and enthusiastically declares that I can just pull up to the second window. I spew lava at her, and she pops back in.

Then God intervenes and negotiates a compromise between the wheel and the curb, which they seal with a screeching scuffle.

Flushed with freedom, I do not even drive to the first window; I flatten the gas pedal and aim for the far end of the parking lot, but nowhere on earth will be far enough. There is an outcry of indignant disbelief from the relatives, which I silence by spewing more lava. I hand some money to one of them, which she carefully accepts like it’s a crystal figurine. Then she’s gracefully walking in the drive thru, allowing herself to be an ironic punch line for the sake of sanity.

The car is quiet. The trailer is quiet. Grandpa is quiet. We are all quiet. Waiting for peace to appear in our hearts.

But instead of peace, I receive conviction, which almost always comes in the quiet. I remember, again, that Grandpa can hardly do anything himself. He needs a cane, he needs medication…but he needs to do things. He asks us to do them, so he feels like he’s doing them. Love is not independent.