Driving the car to the airport in the predawn non-light with Dad at my side saying how nice it was to be here, I tick off the check list of things not done, primary of which is the talk we always have.
Dad says, “we never got around to the heart-to-heart we always seem to have” and I say, “that’s what I was just thinking”.
I say, “I never got to grill you about financial planning and tax shelters” and Dad says, “I would like to help out with Zaida’s college”.
It’s a short ride at this time of the morning, even going the speed limit. I need to drop him off so we don’t have to shlep his bag, but I tell him to wait while I park.
Dad says, “don’t park, go home and go back to sleep,” which is what I said I’d do when I told him not to call a cab.
I say, “I’m not going to go back to sleep, I’ll just be a minute, wait for me at the check-in line”
I restart the car and have to turn my headlights on while a couple unloading a suitcase from a trunk in front of me hugs and then kisses, and a taxi passing by makes me wait. Finally I can pull out and cross the lanes to reach the parking lot, but even at this ungodly hour of morning dark, I have to park in the outreaches of the lot and walk through the cold January airport wind. I don’t like the feeling of walking by myself. I woke up nervous this morning, with a funny stomach and clenching my teeth. Now I warily listen to heels and wheels tapping behind me, then turn to see an executive, a salesman, a short, balding middle-aged man in a suit and oversized briefcase as another mirror image of him crosses to my right. It looks like a pre-crime scene and I push away a shudder, cross on the crosswalk and enter the safe, peopled, well-lit terminal building.
Dad says, “are these shops duty free?” we could shop together.
I say, “no, those are upstairs past customs”
I say, “need a book?” as we shuffle past the newsstand.
Dad says, “maybe a magazine” but there are none we want.
Dad says, “should we go have a coffee?”
I say, “you’d just as soon get up there, wouldn’t you? You have about a half hour, not much time really”
Dad says, “you’re right, I like to beat the lines, anyway”
I watch him through the cattle-driving barriers, knowing he never turns around anyway. When he passes through the screens I turn and head down the stairs, pause to look at Botero’s horse, then walk back the way I came, searching for a parking payment machine and wondering why I feel so oddly sad. If there is one thing I am used to, it is good-byes.
That same crime-scene feeling accompanies me back to my far-away car, but I pay for the parking in utter, comforting solitude and cross no one on the way to my spot. The car starts up perfectly, I pull out and crawl toward the exit, aware that other drivers are already sleepily anxious. The second I’m on the outside of the parking lot, my eyes well up with tears. I wonder at this building, unexpected sadness, ready to pull out any number of justifications, but over the short, uneventful drive home in the same non-light of early morning, I discover that I have felt protected by my Dad, safe from harm and unburdened by the loneliness of responsibility. Now I must put that weak, weepy child back in her box and I tell her, “soon it will be gone for good”. I’m steering home to the people I am protecting, unburdening and keeping safe from harm, but while I steer I allow what is usually contained to blur a bit my vision and soak my cheeks. I can wipe them before I get home.
14 January 2009
Els Prats de Rei
1 day ago