Note: What follows is only a slight exaggeration.

I remember driving with Shelagh toward Las Vegas Boulevard when the topic of our sons came up. Let me back up. The topic of my remembering I had sons came up. We had been in Sin City for a couple of days, an oldtimers hockey tournament, maybe, and I simply asked: "I wonder what the boys are up to back home?"

Ten words. An honest sentiment from a father of two teenaged boys who we left in Edmonton for a couple of days to fend for themselves.

Note: There is only a slight exaggeration in what follows

"Are you kidding me?" Shelagh asked. But it wasn't really a question, you know, like that brand of questions that are asked to get, you know, answers. "Is this the first time since we've been away that you've thought of them? I think of them all the time."

I then made a bad situation worse by injecting into the conversation the rare essence of honesty.

"Dear, it's nice to get away for a few days."

That received no response. An emptiness as big as the Hoover Dam got into the car.

Note: Following is a slight exaggeration. Only. 

That episode, that little proof of the gulf between loving mothers and loving fathers, came back to me early this morning as, again together in a quiet car, Shelagh and I drove downtown after midnight to pick up Mikey at the Starlite Room where he had gone to listen to Lucero. Shelagh was behind the wheel.

Plumbing the depth of that silence, I sent out a test sonar signal. "Dear," I said, delaying. "How are you doing?"

Things become clear at 70kmh
"I'd be doing better if we had left on time," she said. "Mike texted us 15 minutes ago he was ready to go. He has no jacket."

That is true. It took me a few minutes to wake up and clear the old attic and think clearly after 90 minutes of deep sleep.

As Shelagh piloted her little sportscar around and over potholes, ordering the engine to turn amber stops into amber gos, taking corners at roller coaster speed, it was again just so plainly, painfully clear.

Because there I was sitting in the passenger seat watching midnight Edmonton go by in swooshes of neon and thinking about the Starlite Room and how the late Gary McGowan got it going again. And thinking about what a little adventure it was to get up and head out to pick up our youngest son. And thinking about what I would ask Mikey about the concert. Maybe what the first song was.

Outside the Starlite
And there his mother was, just, like, two feet away, worrying about how he had left his jacket in the car when we dropped him off on sketchy 102 St near the Chicago Deep Dish a few hours ago. And worrying he would be cold. Or already beat up by bad'uns. Or scared that he was about to be beat up by bad'uns. And remembering what he used to look like when he was three years old. When she read him stories like 101 Dalmatians that had the bad'uns in it. Or the birthday cake she made for him when he turned seven. And heaven knows what else.

Note: What follows is not exaggerated. 

At that instant, it occurred to me the mother's heart was wired into the tachometer. A revving tachmometer.


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