Our parents are not here forever. I know it sounds awful to start a post like this, but it’s true. It’s something that bothers me because I need to travel 16 hours across the globe to meet mine.
I am a worrier by nature, and sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up imagining the worst. Triggers of a dream slipping from consciousness lead to frantic phone calls home, until I hear mom and dad’s voices over on the other end.
They usually reassure that everything is alright and that I should go back to sleep. That’s what parents do, they tell you they are okay, even if they are not.
Two friends I have known for a long time lost their fathers this past month. The tragic news rattled their worlds as did mine. One of them knew that her father’s declining health was a sign that he might not make it by the time she got home.
She was prepared for the worst when she boarded the airplane from JFK. She was right.
I received messages of his passing away when I was driving across the Badlands with my father and dog.
It was day three of my road trip from New York to Los Angeles. Something I had been planning for months. There were days when things were wonderful and then others when he and I would fight.
“It’s what happens with families. You can’t help it!” A server at a bed and breakfast told me one day. “Families are always work in progress. You shouldn’t be so harsh on yourself!”
I thought I should alter my behavior none-the-less. I decided to curb my instinct to treat my dad like “dad.” I worked hard to give him space, to let him just be. And he tried not to lecture his 30-something daughter all the time.
We had crazy moments on the road trip. Once when we almost went over a dead deer. Another, when we got lost in the Grand Canyon National Forest with no network, diminishing gas, and frayed nerves.
Trees closed in as we drove deeper into a forest, not sure if we were headed in the right direction. I couldn’t see a person or car in sight. Things that look beautiful by day looked spookier by night, making me hate myself for embarking on this adventure.
In the end however dad and I always made it. The car was intact, the dog was healthy, and we met our targets for the day without completely losing it.
When we reached Los Angeles after 12 long days we did a hi five and laughed hysterically through tired eyes. It is something that we will remember for a long time.