Frits is driving the pickup. In the jump seat Adam the Aussie organizes food and music. A newcomer, I am trying to make out the contours of the flat northerly landscape in pitch darkness. Blinking red lights outline a wind farm. Talk is of gas fields below gas fields, our mothers and grandmothers, and the gains and losses of all kinds we’ve had in the forty-five years since Frits and I last met. Adam is 28 and son to Frits’ brother.
We drove here through Germany, a more direct route from one Dutch town to another, just like it makes sense to pass through Canada between New York and Michigan. On the Autobahn, we’d talked of Hitler inventing the concept, our parents’ deaths, and a pilot named Georgie.
Before that, we’d visited Frits’ father, now 95 and in a wheelchair, but the same gentle spirit with humor in his eyes and a ready laugh I’d known as a child. I’d hugged him, and hugged him again, and right now my eyes tear up at the thought of him, telling of his military training, his persistence in not only wooing his wife, but convincing his father that this young woman of questionable background was the right one to marry. Remembering the generous business help he received from her dad, the man I knew as my grandfather.
I’d gotten there by five trains and through a storm that blew trees across roads, roofs off buildings, and generally created havoc in the regions I’d just left, shutting down all railroad traffic right after I left train number five.
We skate across the intervening 45 years between us. It doesn’t matter. Mostly, we are right here, right now, and together. Cousins.
Adam turns up the music and a familiar intro starts to play just as I say to Frits, “the storm is done.” Then we all chant along in full voice, “Into this house we’re born, into this world we’re thrown. Like a dog without a bone. An actor out on loan. Riders on the storm.” Frits continues, “and now the storm is done.”
I kid you not.
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