The trip took just under 30 minutes. Past Weber State College and along the road leading to the Wilshire Theater before turning onto HWY 89.
Next up were two steep hills. Down one into strong wind gusts passing through Ogden canyon and then up another marked by a water tower. We weren’t far from Hill Air Force base where my grandfather worked for many years. As a young boy I’d glance to the sky hoping to catch a glimpse of an F-16.
My sisters were relegated to the bench seat facing backwards as my father drove the station wagon. Being the oldest child had its privileges. My father taught drivers education, but that didn’t stop us from encouraging him to speed down the hills.
“Come on Dad! Let’s do a hundred. No cops around!”
Usually, he was too busy playing air piano on his leg to songs like “Horse With No Name”. One time we coaxed him up to 85. I doubt the old wagon could go much faster even with a favorable wind.
I took this journey from Ogden to Bountiful hundreds of times. Both sets of grandparents lived just blocks from each other. We’d stop to visit one and then the other.
But this last trip left me feeling empty.
We took the same route. Weber State is now a University and the Wilshire was torn down to make room for an Albertsons. The station wagon was replaced by a U-Haul. Nobody was forced to ride backwards. This time it was just me and my dad on our way to grandma’s home on South Davis Blvd.
Grandma has been living in a care center for the past two years and is ready to sell her home after realizing her heath will not allow her to return to the place she calls home.
My dad and I were there to pack and remove the last few items. I emptied jugs of water that looked like those found carrying moonshine on the Dukes of Hazard. I unplugged and packed a dual cassette player and boxed issues of National Geographic that were nearly my age.
Could it be that 40 years worth of memories can be neatly packed into a few cardboard boxes?
I ran naked through my first sprinkler at this home surrounded by dozens of oak trees. I experienced my first train set and learned to love homemade lemonade. I spent hundreds of hours playing my grandpa’s Atari 2600. My body could barely contain the excitement when he took me to Gibsons to purchase Asteroids after I helped mow his lawn. I sat on the leather seats of his gold Grand Marquis and bopped up and down on the ride home. A happier 10 year old boy could not be found that day.
But the joy of that young boy was replaced by a feeling of emptiness this weekend as we loaded the few remaining boxes onto the U-Haul. I took one last walk around the house. The grandfather clock wasn’t there to remind me of the time with its chimes. The pool table was gone as was table with thick glass top.
The house will be put up for sale in a few days. And the next time I return to Utah, it could very well belong to another family.
But I realized something this weekend.
It’s not the house or the yard. It’s not the oak trees, light blue shag carpet or water fountain off the back deck.
It’s all those sticky vinyl seat station wagon trips with my family. It’s the time spent listening to my grandma and grandpa tell me stories of their lives. Like how my grandpa earned two dollars a day picking fruit. Or hearing my grandma describing the feisty personality of her own mother.
They knew how to listen as well. They were never distracted by a cell phone or text message. When I was at their home, I was their main focus, and I loved it.
As we made our way back to Ogden, I decided it was best to refrain from asking my dad to speed down the hill into Ogden canyon.
But I did look to the sky thinking about my grandparents and searching for that elusive F-16.