• Cara Van Leuven

How To Prep for a Road Trip

For nearly three years, and probably more, Tom has been chasing Pappy Van Winkle to sample. For nearly the same amount of time I’ve been trying to make amends with my family. The farmhouse, for all its beauty and charm, has never been full of family laughter, drama, unflushed toilets and everything else that goes with the package.

Monday, for the first time in years, I talked to my mom; my stepfather had passed. Hurt feelings and resentment were pushed aside as Tom, myself, Buck and Shiloh loaded up the cop car and headed for Louisville.

I worried about the ducks who were being attended to by Pops — we created a duck winter resort for them. A local artisan crafted their new red dog house and their former home, a dog crate, served as their corral for the outdoors. The pond froze over so their new water source was a heated dog dish and they were provided a slow feeder, reminding them, they really don’t need us for anything.

I thought about the white lights we bought used at the Marine Flea Market adorning the front of the house. I hoped our live tree didn’t run out of water. Fire is a constant concern and the thought of something falling in front of the space heaters upstairs (where we don’t have duct work for heat) could send the house up in flames.

Really I thought of everything I could think of to take my mind off the fear of seeing my mom and sister and niece and nephew and brother-in-law. I had no idea what the reunion would be like, but four hours later there we were - in the driveway of my mom’s new condo in Louisville.

To my surprise, and probably despite myself, seeing everybody wasn’t just good, it was entirely fantastic. The weekend unfolded into dinners shrouded in teary laughter. Issues were openly addressed, a first step to redemption and positive changes.

There was one lowlight - my mother’s condo. It spoiled us as we naively go about farmhouse living forgetting we live in a somewhat primitive and slightly intolerable environment. Despite having a water softener, the well water is still not drinkable so we live off gallon jugs and boiled pots of water for coffee. On a lavish day we set the thermostat to 67º. My mom gets cold if the temp falls under 75º. Oh, and a shower! Yes, a shower. We are still bathing in the clawfoot tub.

Three years later and I the word I Louisville is back in my vocabulary. Three years later and I have the return of a low-functioning family and don’t miss the hole I felt not having them in my life. And three years later Tom found himself tolerating wild children, an incoherent mother and a wildly inappropriate sister — all while finally enjoying 2oz of Pappy Van Winkle.