Drive-Thrus with Daddy

I don't blame the adults that were in my life for teaching me bad habits inadvertently; that would be really harsh. To be truthful, the kind of knowledge we have about food and nutrition today wasn't there when my parents were young, and the generation before that, forget it….they were just happy to have food at all. Living that lifestyle, working all the time and always being pulled in a million directions doesn't always make for the best decision making when it comes to food.

Fast food in particular can be one of the worst choices people can make; but it became a staple for my father during his years working as a field technician for a company that made and repaired commercial computers, copiers and printers. My dad worked on the road all day every day and he survived at convenience stores and drive-thrus through the work weeks. I'm sure those fast food breakfasts were the reason he enjoyed making great breakfast for us on the weekends, but that's a different story. However, those trips to fast food joints were also what made those bring your daughter to work days extra special.

Bring your daughter (now bring your child) to work day. I don't know what childless adult thought that one up; but my past-self both thanks you and hates you for it. Both my parents took me to a take your kid to work day, going with my mom meant that I got to sit in a cubicle and pretend to do real grown-up woman office work. My mom was a legal secretary so there were old things she would let me play with and I enjoyed going to work with her; but going to work with dad, was a entirely different kind of experience. Dad's job seemed really magical to me as a kid, he got to drive around in his car doing anything that he wanted and he stopped at all these cool places where the people in the buildings knew him by name and were always so excited to see him. Little did I know they were just super excited to get their computer equipment up and running again; but I saw it differently. My dad was the coolest guy, and when he was done fixing whatever it was that needed fixing, we were going to get something awesome to eat!

My dad made it seem like those meals were our little secret because mom didn't like us having fast food a lot. Additionally, when I was allowed fast food I was only allowed to get a kids meal; but when I was with dad I was allowed to order anything I wanted. I was with my dad when I had a Big Mac for the first time; and the first time I had Wendy's Chili he was sitting right there with me; that day was pretty special.

My dad's favorite fast food was probably Wendy's and it was because of the chili and the frosty. The first time I remember going to Wendys' with my dad on a weekday he had taken me to work because I had a doctor's appointment that day, so not an official take your kid to work day, but I still think it counts. My appointment was at 11am, which meant I went with dad to his first two calls that morning. I had to sit in the hallway with nothing to do at both places because the copiers my dad was servicing were in rooms I wasn't allowed in. After dad was done, things only got worse because then I had to go to the doctor; where they gave me shots and I hated it. By the time all that was over dad could tell I was in a pretty sour mood, so when we got in the car he turned to me and said, "you hungry?" Arms folded across my chest I nodded at him. He didn't ask where I wanted to go, he just drove. He put on the beach boys and we sang Help me Rhonda and California Girls and before I knew it I was smiling and laughing again and when dad pulled the car into the parking lot my bad mood was a thing of the past.

I hadn't been to Wendy's before because there wasn't one near our house. But dad drove all around the state for his job so he knew all the fast food places. My dad was a naturally thin guy, all he life he was basically a bean pole and even though he did get a little plump later in his life (before he got sick) he was never what I would have called a "fat guy" ever. So eating junky food was never really that much of a big deal to him. We went into to the restaurant because even though my dad drove around all the time and ate fast food a lot, he told me that he didn't like to actually eat in his car unless he had to. He said the food always tasted better if you went inside. I don't really think that's true, but I believed him and indulged.

I asked if they had happy meals at Wendy's; my dad laughed and said no. Then he bent down so we were at eye level together and he said, "but today, you don't have to get a kids meal, if you want I'll get you the same thing I get. What do you say?"

"Really?" I said gleaming, "What do you get?"

"I get the six piece nugget meal with a frosty." I smiled and he continued, "and a junior cheeseburger."

"Wow, I could get all that?"

"You can, if you want, and there's one more special thing I get, that we can share if you want."

"What?" I said

"Chili!"

"Daddy," I said defiantly, "they don't have things like that."

"They do, and it's really good. Should we order?" I thought for a second, my hand under my chin, then looked at him and said, "let's do it!" We sat at that table and ate our food and I talked to my dad. I told him about school and asked him questions. It was a really well spent afternoon; and the chili did in fact turn out to be super delicious.

After lunch I went with my dad to a few more of his stops, then had to sit in the car when he went into his office to drop off his paperwork. On the way home we stopped at McDonalds and he got us both vanilla ice cream cones. The cones were gone when we pulled into the spot in front of our house, but before we got out of the care dad turned to me and said, "if mom asks, the ice cream never happened." I nodded my understanding and he winked at me.

I didn't realize at the time that underneath those really fun days with my dad I was actually learning that alone in my car I could eat whatever I wanted and that no one needed to know about it. That was a practice I took into adulthood and never even put it together, but it makes total sense now. It's a feeling that tells me that if no one sees it, it doesn't count as food I've eaten. I still fight those urges today, and sometimes when I drive by fast food places I haven't been to in a long time, or ones that have no locations near where I live I want so badly to drive-thru and get something. Just a quick stop, no one needs to know; and as long as I throw out the trash no one will ever know….but now a days, I know.

Me knowing that something was bad didn't used to be enough to stop me, but I'm learning through it and realizing that I'm worth more than the few minutes of joy that bad food gives me. I'm also learning that I can still have those special memories with loved ones, and they don't have to revolve around the food we're eating because my company is enough. I know now that was all my dad was focused on, it was about spending that time together and the fast food places were just where he went for lunch. I don't blame him because my issues with food aside, those days when he took me to work with him were some of my favorite times I ever had with my dad. It was in that time we were in his car together that I learned so many things about him. It's where I learned about our shared love for books; especially works by Stephen King; it's where he taught me about sports and I got see how passionate he could be about fun and games; it's where I got to know him and I wouldn't trade those rides in the car, or those lunches sitting at a plastic table eating burgers and fries for anything in the world.