Niagara Gazette — Two weeks isn’t enough time to become a good parent, so I dismissively said to him, “Well go.”
Curtis looked about the bright pumps, the streaming buzz of red and white lights on the highway, and the busy, churning parking lot and then asked, “Where?”
Rest stops were pretty much cookie cutter in those days, consisting of two double doors near either end of the building — the one on the right for the restaurants and the one on the left for the lavatories. With one hand on the gas nozzle, I pointed with the other to the building and said, “Over there.”
“Over where?” the dancing lad, with urgency, said.
There was a red Syracuse Post newspaper box next to the left lavatory door. “See the red box over there,” I asked and Curtis acknowledged. “There,” I said, and off he dashed.
I turned my attention back to the car, was nearly finished filling the tank and was thinking about emptying my own when the lad returned. Puzzled that he had gone to the bathroom that quickly, I asked him, “Curtis, did you wash your hands?”
“Wash my hands?” he said; and then added with exclamation, “Where!”
The car could have taken three or four more gallons, but I stopped pumping anyway. Too embarrassed to look around, I ordered him to immediately get into the car. I returned the nozzle to the holder, paid for my gas and then sped away from that rest stop — still having to ‘wash my own hands,’ so to speak.
Sadly, Curtis died 10 years later. It is still hard for me to even drive past that rest stop today without both tearfully and laughingly recalling the last set of incomplete instructions that I gave to him that night — that picture that I had painted in the mind of my not easily embarrassed godson’s head — all those years ago.