I hugged my dad tightly as I stood on the curb at Los Angeles International Airport. The entire traffic-laden drive from his house to the airport, I sat in the back seat on the passenger's side studying him intently. His right hand and his fingernails (my fingernails!), his right ear lobe, his fine but full head of white-silver hair that looks like the edge of a bursting cloud as the sun pierces through it. I recognized the vertical wrinkle between his eyebrows as the one I’ve been cultivating for a few years now between my own eyebrows.
The last time I studied my dad from the back seat, I was also studying my mom on a six-hour drive from Los Angeles to Phoenix for Thanksgiving—probably about 15 or more years ago. These precious, present moments can get away from us far too easily. The sound of a loved one’s voice, the feel and texture of their skin. The smell of their soap and laundry detergent mixed with their own special parent smell. It is my way of stopping time even if just for a brief, impossible, sacred moment.
It is only a year. Maybe I make too big of a deal about it in my goodbyes, but I like to be preventative about regret—and avoid it as much as possible. Sometimes it isn’t possible. My affection for my father runs deep. He is a constant source of love and friendship and has been an angelic, encouraging force in my life. I’ve never gone a year without seeing him, so this feels more significant a goodbye than the normal airport drop-off.
While I didn’t grow up in the apartment my dad lives in currently, he has lived there for nearly 17 years, almost 7 of those years shared with my mom. It has been the “home” I’ve visited for almost two decades and has become familiar and comforting. It is the place I helped my dad nurse my mom weeks before she died—and it is the place she took her very last breath. It is the site of Thanksgivings with family, meeting my nephew for the first time and the place I had some passionate, bonding conversations with my mother about spirituality, life, and the meaning of it all. My dad is planning a move to Northern California while we’re traveling, so the familial feeling of this apartment is also disappearing. A little extra heartache I hadn't considered until our last day in L.A.
Our time in Los Angeles was a mix of tasks related to closing and opening accounts, setting my dad up as a third signer on each account so he can ensure we have funds in our travel accounts as needed; exploration; eating good food and simple, unexceptional (but grounding) time together. The kind of time spent that makes one feel at home—rather than on a vacation.
As for my patient, kind and supportive dad and our long hug on the curb at LAX … I plan to tap into that feeling often so he feels close no matter the miles between us. It isn’t easy to say goodbye to people who bring so much light into our lives. Our hope is that at the end of this year, the light we bring back to share is exponentially brighter than the one we can offer today.
Thank you, dad. For absolutely everything. We are grateful.