My dad came to Los Angeles to see us. He got on an airplane for the first time since 1989 when he went on a mission trip to Puerto Rico.
Six days before he was to get on the plane, a deer jumped out in front of him while he was travelling at 55mph down a county highway near where he lives in Virginia. It took off his right mirror, crumpled his fender and shattered his windshield. All on the first day of his vacation. Needless to say, my sister and I were afraid he'd cancel his trip. He persevered though, made his connection in St. Louis, and landed at LAX like a champ.
Sure, he was shocked and appalled at the size of this monster city we live in. He couldn't get over just how long it took to get, well, anywhere. Sure, he told me that I brake too late, and apparently always have since he'd taught me to drive when I was sixteen. He lamented the traffic and how he hated that his 'poor babies' had to drive so much. On Saturday morning, we even opted out of our planned trip to the beach just to stay out of the car for a little bit. Sure, he doled out more than his fair share of fatherly fretting and advice.
But that's small stuff. He installed a window fan for our too hot valley apartment. He took us to Sports Authority and got us both a new pair of tennis shoes, just like he did every fall when we were little. He hugged us constantly. He took mental (and digital) pictures of our home and the reservoir in Silver Lake where we go so often to run. He tried his 'damnedest' to soak up every bit of our life in California so that when he got home and talked to us on the phone, he'd know just what it all looked like.
It must be tough to see your girls so far from home, navigating a world that is unfamiliar and mostly out of reach.
I have a very vivid memory of the sound his keys made swinging from his belt as he approached the back door of our house on Mt. Vernon Street. When he was away in Puerto Rico on that one solitary trip he took the entire length of my childhood, I spent 14 days hallucinating that sound. I would hear his keys jingling by the back door. I'm sure, more than once in the two weeks of his absence, I ran to the door to save him the trouble of unlocking and welcome him in. At that age, I would have let myself be enveloped in the smell of his hug, metal and jewelry polish, the outside world. I would have let myself be happy he was home instead of worry that he was getting older by the minute and more and more like my grandfather every day.
We dropped him off at the airport this morning and watched him go through security, as worried daughters do. Now we wait for the call that he's arrived home safe and sound. And I sit here, in my cooler valley apartment, wishing for the jingle of keys and a way to make time slow down and money grow on trees.