Conversations in a Car

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Tim Black, father of two daughters, Courtney and Taylor, taught hundreds of high school students in Stuart, Florida for over 25 years. He is now retired, writing stories and living his life simply. Tim’s daughter Taylor died in 2001 of a brain tumor at the age of 18. The work of this stage of his life is learning to truly live in the face of loss. The following story is a heart conversation between Tim and Taylor on their way to an important event in Tim, and probably Taylor’s, healing.

“Conversations in a Car” by Tim Black will appear in the Winter 2007 issue of Living with Loss Magazine: Hope & Healing for the Body, Mind, & Spirit.

By T.W. Black

“I can’t believe you saved this car,” Taylor said to her father as he turned the ignition of the 1991 Tercel, the green turtle of Taylor’s high school days.

“I couldn’t give it up,” her father smiled wistfully.

Taylor laughed. “Dad, you are the only man I ever knew who watched Oprah and cried along with the women.”

“Guilty,” he smiled.

“And during It’s a Wonderful Life every year at Christmas time. You sobbed like a sissy, dad.”

“You did too, Tale.”

“When Clarence got his wings, sure. I couldn’t help it. Boy! They’ve really redone East Ocean Boulevard haven’t they?” She said as he turned the old car onto the main drag in Stuart.

“Four lanes, sweetheart. Only two when you were here.”

“I wish we had time to go to the beach.”

“At night?”

“I always liked it after twilight, dad. Just the stars and me. Too bad you don’t have time.”

“We can go, sweetheart.”

“No, no. You have to meet mom. Some other time.”

“Okay,” he sighed. “Remember when you wandered away at the Statue of Liberty. I nearly had a heart attack. You were always wandering away, Taylor.”

“I guess I was. I guess I never realized that they were steps in a journey. This bridge is new isn’t it?”

“Yes,” the father said as he crossed span to Sewall’s Point. “I forget you haven’t been here in five years.”

“Yes. Five years. I guess in your mind I’m still 18 and your little girl.”

“Uh huh,” the father smiled. “Sometimes you are much younger. In your softball uniform. You girls were so little the fathers had to pitch in the games.”

“And you beaned me,” Taylor laughed

“Wait a minute, Tale. I yelled for you to get out of the way and you just stood there and got plunked. And then you cried.”

“Of course I cried. I was eight years old and my dad had just beaned me with a softball. That’s a funny name for the ball. There was nothing soft about it.”

“I didn’t mean to bean you.”

“And those other fathers yelling child abuse and everyone laughed. Except me. I cried.”

“Okay, okay,” the father said. “How many times do I have to say I’m sorry.”

“Infinity,” Taylor laughed.

“You and infinity. That was your favorite word as a child. Infinity.”

“I love you infinity.

“Yes, you always said that.”

“I always meant it, dad. So my dear sister Courtney told you I smoked pot before school huh?”

“Yes. I never knew that.”

“Some things are best kept from parents.”

“But why?”

“Dad, it was high school. It was the only way to get through high school. High. Get it?”

“Yeah…Ha ha.”

“Bad joke. C’mon, dad. I learned them from you.” She began to sing. “I guess it doesn’t matter any more…”

“Buddy Holly?”

“Sure. You always played Buddy Holly on I 95 those summers we went to Nana’s. And Sergeant Pepper and the Mamas and Papas. You indoctrinated us, dad.”

“I corrupted you?”

“We didn’t see it like that.”

“Is that why you started smoking pot, Tale?”

“Geez, dad. In the end it kept me from barfing. …” she sang again. “I guess it doesn’t matter any more.”

“Hmmm. Pot? Is that why you never rode to school with your older sister?”

“Courtney? She was a goody two shoes. She never did anything in high school except forge notes for other kids.”

“Yes, she told me that.”


“Last year.”

“After the statute of limitations had run out. Watch your speed in Sewall’s Point, the place always was a speed trap.”

“I know.”

“I always felt like I was in Courtney’s shadow with you, dad. She graduated form his high school with an A.A. degree from junior college. I could have done that too.”

“Yes, I think you could have. But you didn’t apply yourself.”

“You didn’t apply yourself in high school either, dad.”

“Who told you that?”

“Who do you think?”

“You’ve been talking to Nana?”

Taylor laughed. As they drove north on Sewall’s Point road past the houses on the Indian River, docks lit by lanterns like so many fireflies, they slowed for the stoplight by the marina. Taylor loved to catch fireflies when she was little, the father thought.

“Remember when we road on Frances Langford’s yacht, Tale?”

“Yes. That United Way fund raiser when you and mom were still married.”

“Uh huh. What was the name of that boat?”

“The Chancellior or Chancellor, something like that,” Taylor said.

“Yes, that was quite a day. She was quite a lady, Tale.”

“She sure is. Up on the hill to the left, dad. Isn’t that the old F.I.T. dormitory?”

“Yes. It’s an assisted living place now. The rest of F.I.T. they turned into a park.”

“Didn’t you teach classes there?”

“Adjunct stuff. Before you were born, sweetheart. Before the college went belly up. Now look at it,” he said as he turned into an entrance to the palm tree lined park. Lights from the second floor of a two story building beckoned a stream of people from their parked cars. Some of those people meandered about the second floor veranda until dimming lights, like a theater cue, invited them inside to their seats lined row upon row in front of a slide screen.

“I’m glad you came, dad,” Taylor said.

“Only took five years.”

“I guess it takes longer for some, dad.”

“Not your mom though.”

“She’s different. It’s okay though. You’re here.”

“Uh huh.”

“Go, dad. Mom’s waiting for you upstairs. You’re on your own from here. I’m not going up with you.”

“I know. I know. “

As he locked his car door he smiled at his daughter then walked from the parking lot up the stairs to the second floor of the building. His ex-wife met at him at the top of the stairs and gave him his candle. He noticed that she had been crying. He knew that throughout the world on this day, hour after hour, this ceremony was being repeated.

He took the candle from his ex-wife, gave her a hug, and began to cry. His tears dotted his “Compassionate Friends”* program, but at last he was here. After five years he was here and midway through the ceremony as he watched the slide of Taylor fill the screen, his salty smile eased his sorrow.

*The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting: That their light may always shine” Sunday December 9, 2007 around the globe.



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