“Oh for god’s sake,” Dad mutters from the driver’s seat. Uncle Carl struggles in the distance, back to the car, hands shaking at his center, trying to finally coax out a stream of piss.
“He really is a dick,” I joke to myself, causing Dad to roll his eyes. New Year’s traditions never change for us, no matter how silly: a sea-salt water flush, a drive to Old Willard’s, a few minutes of digging, and then, well, you get it. Burying the crap from the old year to embrace the new.
Oh, and a quick stop on the way for Carl to piss on his ex-mother-in-law’s grave.
Carl gets back in, defeated. “Yeah, gotta see one of those piss specialists. Bad luck for the new year.”
Hearing “piss specialists” almost makes the trip worthwhile. So does witnessing Uncle Carl’s second embarrassment in Old Willard’s Field. As Dad and I clean up, Carl finally rises, buckles his pants, and storms back to the car. 0-2. Loser.
It’s the final stop on our trip that always gets me. We park in front of a house, fenced but always open, and every year Carl stares, my Dad silently nudging him to get out. I feign ignorance to the badly kept secret and turn up my ipod. It’s hard to feel bad for a guy who won’t see his kid, but there’s a sadness on his face that’s uncomfortable and disarming.
Dad turns the ignition but this time Carl stops him. He gets out. His long walk up the driveway is filled with short glaces back and changes of pace, seeking encouragement with every step, until he makes it and knocks on the front door. As he goes inside, my Dad and I nod to each other. During the long wait, the morning air seems to crystallize between us, like prescription lens, and traditions don’t seem so stupid from my back seat. When Carl gets back, there’s a satisfied grin, as if he knows this will be the best year of all.
He grabs his rumbling stomach, ready to head back to the field, to bury the old and embrace the new.