My dad's early and generous Christmas gift to me was a new set of tires for my car. He humorously made the appointment for today at 7:30 a.m. and suggested that we both go. I stayed up until 2 a.m. last night to blitz old friends with Christmas e-mails, my version of the Christmas card.
I felt a little blitzed myself this morning when we drove to the shop in my car. Of course the shop did not open until 8 a.m., but Dad wanted us to be ready when they got there. He and I put ourselves in the interesting position of giving the car to the shop in a strip mall that had no breakfast possibilities. At least I thought we would not be able to eat breakfast.
"Surely that Food Lion has a little diner in it," he said as optimistically as a new, working Santa.
"Dad, Food Lions don't have diners," I said as calmly as possible. I knew from experience that arguing any of his unusual falsities with even an ounce of emotion bore no fruit. "I have never seen a grocery store with a diner."
"All Food Lions have diners," he said.
"That's good. Does Illinois have Food Lions?" I asked.
"Nope," he said. His argument was falling apart already, but I doubt he knew it. Oh well. If I wanted to tire out this dog, I had to let him run free.
We walked into the Food Lion. His eyes darted along the overhead signs as if he could not remember whether the diner was between the bread and candy aisles or the health and frozen food aisles.
Oh God, please do not ask a cashier where the diner is, I thought desperately. If he tried to talk to anyone, I would have faked a hamstring cramp. My dad loves to stretch in public, so any sign of muscular discomfort would have averted his attention from the alleged diner.
I did not need to play the hamstring card. My dad patiently walked to the deli and poked his head around.
"Oh my goodness," he said. "This Food Lion doesn't have a diner."
I did not say a word. Maybe he believes what he said, I thought. Surely his neurons had connected. He figured out that he was in a grocery store and, in fact, should be outside of the grocery store to begin his search for a diner.
"Let's walk around to the other side and see," he said. The neurons had not connected. The best end to this story would have been us finding a lovely diner in the cheese and milk aisle, but then I probably would not be writing it. We found no diner, and my dad was OK with that.
"What a great idea a diner would be," I could have said. "Why have all this food and no diner? Better not mention it to anyone, though. Maybe we can sell the idea later."
I decided that such a comment would only enable future misunderstandings like this when I might not be around to feign bodily harm. I love my dad, and I would be the fool for him no matter what he does.
We walked outside and, incredibly, saw the 501 Diner across the street. Maybe I was the fool after all in this Christmas miracle.