Chapter 18. Cream Pies and Ohio Buckeyes: Defying My Dad and Going to College

I can remember getting in my little 1973 green Mercury Capri and motoring the entire half-mile through the streets of Dresden to Popeye's to find my Dad. I was 17 years old, and winter was hanging on with determination, as February snow settled on the bare tree limbs and rolling hills of central Ohio. Seeing the beauty only made me more hopeful and courageous as I edited an imaginary conversation in my mind.

Easing my manual transmission into neutral, I turned the key off and forced myself from the security of the car. My boots crunched across gravel and ice until I got to the fingerprinted glass door of the restaurant. Swinging it open, I passed through, spotting my Dad immediately.

His dark, puffy eyes poured over receipts and order forms and work schedules. I studied him, noting the way his finger traced the paper in front of him. I watched his weight shift from one foot to the other, saw his brow crease as he processed what he was reading. I loved him so much. I wanted to please him. But I knew that I had to figure out how to balance two conflicting voices: stay . . . or go.

"Hi, Dad." I sucked in my breath, gathering moxie. He looked up from his work and the beginnings of a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. "Can I talk to you, please?"

"Sure. Just a second." Passing the hostess stand, he walked to the dessert case, extracted a fresh piece of coconut cream pie, pausing only to pour steaming coffee ...

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