The last weekend of long was filled with anticipation for me. I was off to visit my elderly father in Phoenix, Arizona. I use the term elderly in a loose manner as he doesn’t look elderly to me, nor does he behave as such. A boy’s brain in an aging body it seems. I thank God for that.
I met my sisters at the airport and immediately our togetherness could have become a pilot for an unscripted reality show. Even at the airport, we got lost before finding each other. From there it went downhill whenever our sub-compact rental car opened it’s doors to us. Contorted in every-which-way, we felt caged in small can of tin on wheels of four. Minus an opener.
My youngest sister was the designated driver. It was only after we made a wrong turn coming out of the airport that I realized she needed glasses for distance. She couldn’t read a single sign. “Kim,” she playfully squawked at me, “I’m a great driver when I know where I’m going!” “Kellie, you don’t know where you’re going because we’re in Phoenix, not Dallas!” “Yes, but I’m really good when I use your eyes!” Seriously? Seriously??! “That’s fine,” I responded, “but my eyes are not behind the wheel!”
What should have been a 45 minute drive to my father’s house ended up taking two and a half hours. My GPS helped to re-route us while my younger sister’s did the same from the back of our seats. Every few seconds or minutes voices were heard guiding us. “Make a U-turn, proceed to ramp,” or “Merge on to I-10.” Again and again and again. Have you ever tried listening to two voices at the same time? It was very confusing. Even more so because one of them had a British accent. No luck in turning it off. I tried. Several times. The British accent was along for the ride!
Finally we called my father. Five or six times….At least. I can’t imagine what he was thinking. It was nearly 11:30 pm. He had been waiting for our arrival since 9:00. Like any father, he was worried and scared, wondering what could have happened to his three daughters.
Guiding us into a parking lot of a nearby restaurant, San Tan Flats, his voice crackled in disbelief through the speaker of an I-phone. “Oh you girls, do you see the stuffed bear to the left? Turn right. Drive until you see a For Sale sign at the end of the parking lot.” We did before somehow ending up at the restaurant’s hulking emerald-green dumpster. Our bright lights caught a raccoon scampering off in the distance of the desert darkness.
“Dad, what do we do now?” my sister asked, in panic. I could tell my dad couldn’t believe his ears. “Back up, back up, turn around and follow the smoke from the campfire. Go out the nearest drive to the first road. I’ll stay on the line.”
Bless my father’s heart. He did stay on the line, hearing a big thud as we drove over a Saguaro that had fallen during a recent storm. Car lights, bright from our rental car soon shined on the best of him. Standing in the middle of the dusty desert road he stood wearing baggy jeans and a loose yellow shirt. On his feet were tennis shoes, glowing in fluorescent white. His legs were balanced straight, even and wide apart. His arms of two lifted high towards a clear endless sky with hands swaying back and forth in a frenzy as if to yell, “STOP! Turn off the engine now, before it’s too late!”
In spite of our trials of lost and found my father together with all of his children had the very best time. Rare because the five of us were all together with him. During the weekend we went to the American Legion where he sang Karaoke and danced the night away with his girlfriend. Yes, she is so kind and they are happy!
My sisters and I woke in early mornings to share coffee under quiet, peaceful canopies of leftover stars. We walked at dawn to discover horses who neighed, mongrels who barked and flowers that bloomed “Hello” from nothing more than dry cinnamon dust of a desert crust.
Then the inevitable happened. Such sweet sorrow to say, “Good-by.” A whisper in my ear from my father. Choking up he said, “Your mother would love to see all of you kids together like this.” Hugging him tight, I whispered back, “She does, Dad.”
That’s what life is all about. Love and bonding. Togetherness. No matter how far apart, get together again. Create new memories. Laughter. Even the mini-trips of lost and found with my sisters will forever be with me. I dare say one of my ribs might be broken from laughing so hard. No matter. All was worth it.
From every second in the desert dark to each minute of my father’s mark…..All above is in my heart forever.