Saturday was spent driving to Columbus and visiting my wife’s dad.
His wife T.J. is in Florida and knowing he’ d be alone, Theresa thought it would be good to check in on him.
Our visit could not have been more interesting.
We entered his condo, performed the obligatory hugs, and settled into our seats. Theresa sat next to him on the couch to his left as I found a very comfortable lazy boy to his right.
Barely into our visit, he began to recount a story from his youth.
“I started driving when I was 13 years old”, he begins. “My family inherited a 1937 Studebaker and my grandma didn’t drive, so I was given instructions to drive it occasionally to keep it from falling apart. My grandma called it The Machine.”
The next 30 minutes went by almost uninterrupted as he carefully crafted a story about growing up in a small Indiana river town.
As we sat mesmerized, we learned a great deal about my wife’s father.
John “Jack” Ludwig was born in 1943 and raised in Rising Sun, Indiana.
His working career began at ten years old where he sold newspapers. In later years he stocked shelves at the local grocer, and served popcorn for 10 cents at the local movie theater where his mother was the manager and movie tickets sold for 25 cents a piece.
Then at 13 he began driving the aforementioned machine. We learned about it’s manual transmission and fancy column shifter, commonly known as three on a tree.
His story he took us on a journey to the town square when Rising Sun installed their first traffic light.
We learned about the buckshot of salt young Jack took in the rear end as he and his buddies sped the scene of a watermelon heist.
We learned about the coal used to heat most homes and how it was delivered to the shores of Rising Sun from barges along the mighty Ohio River.
We learned how he grew up 1 block from the river on the corner of 4th and Poplar and how his bedroom was upstairs where he had full attic access.
We learned details about some of the pain he experienced as a child.
We learned how he adored his mother. How he left Rising Sun and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and how he was able to pay for his college with the G.I. Bill.
Although our Saturday journey was 7 hours from Mason to Columbus and back, we felt as if we travelled 7 decades.
Reflecting on this weekend, I realize how powerful stories can be.
After our visit I want to visit Rising Sun, because stories provide interesting settings.
After our visit I want to see a 1937 Studebaker in real life, because stories provide details.
After our visit I appreciate how Jack overcame life’s obstacles, because stories give us context.
After our visit I feel closer to Jack, because stories connect.
Wonder whatever happened to The Machine?