When I arrive, Dad whispers that he is "tired of waiting for the train." I hold onto his hand, but chicken out about asking where his train will be bound. Because he is my father, my teacher of manners and patience, I visualize for him a shady vintage depot with dust motes floating near the windows and long wooden benches for travelers, and Dad unperturbed by long delays.
Dad and I might be in our 1960s memories standing on the pedestrian bridge above the tracks at the McCook, Nebraska train station waiting for the cheap thrill of the California Zephyr rumbling and snuffing below us? This is about as exciting as McCook ever got, unless you were really into liver and onions. You could get anything you wanted at Larry's Cafe, at the corner of Norris Avenue and B Street. It was a quick walk from the depot or from the "bustling downtown". The grown-ups would order liver and onions. Granddad would order a steak well done with butter pats melting on top, and a glass of buttermilk. Very creepy!! Grandmother would buy Andes Mints for all of us on the way out if we had behaved ourselves. That shiny green foil another high point in McCook.
Until today I never imagined my father as a desperado waiting for a train. My copies of Ron Hansen's novels, Desperados, and The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford are well worn from rereading. I've read most of Hansen's books, and noticed a review of his new A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion in the New York Times.
I can't imagine my dad as the outlaw adjusting the bandana over his nose and staring down the track at the approaching locomotive. He could not have lived less like the old man in Guy Clark's classic song, "Desperados Waiting For a Train," but the aching sadness is the same. Maybe Dad was more of an outlaw than I perceived, as he has sure become a noncompliant resident in the nursing home.
This train is bound for glory, but its arrival has been delayed. When it gets here, I hope there will be no weepin' and a wailin'.
© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder