Friday, February 7, 2014

On Waiting - Road Trip Diaries

I called Dad last night and he said it had been snowing since 7 a.m. and "we have almost an inch of snow". I had to sort of giggle, as out here, we can get a foot or two in that amount of time.

But he lives near the Washington Coast and snow that accumulates is rare, down near the river where his house is at. Nothing at all like Montana where he lived for years and maintained a small home up until two years ago.  He was enjoying his evening watching it snow, while Big Bro cooked him dinner.

I was thankful for sunshine on the drive home this morning (I was too tired to attempt the trek in the dark last night) though it didn't warm up to Zero until almost 10 a.m.

I hadn't been home for two weeks.  Partner was on the road and Barkley was limping enough I didn't want to put him in the truck just to come on up and putter in the shop alone.  So I picked up some on call, and we hung out at the crash pad,  Partner flying in and out there, when he had a couple days off between assignments..
I always realize when I walk in to the Range, how much I miss it.  But transferring here isn't an option,  right now anyway, my particular position  not available within my particular organization in the nearest big city and would I really want to give up the team I built to be a minion again with a drive into Chicago every day? That's an easy answer. The rest of it isn't  I didn't mind the life on the road  and having two households when I was single. Now I walk in the door and I don't want to leave.

But I love my work, it's part of me and I'll have my 20 years in here shortly and can retire and go be an  "expert witness"  a few days a month for some folks that have expressed interest (for $500 a day I know lots of big words). So for now, I put a lot of miles on the Bat Truck,  Barkley has marked every bush along I-65 and at least once a month  a semi or some idiot in a car with a  "Coexist" sticker, who doesn't understand physics any more than human nature, seriously tries  to kill me.  It's not ideal, but it works.
Sometime the drive is mundane, sometimes it's entertaining, as I find myself watching idiots in old cars that look like they have leprosy, leap across lanes without   looking or signaling like Frogger.  Today such a thing ended in an accident, just a quarter mile ahead.  I hit my emergency flashers to warn the truck behind me that I'm stopping now, as did we all.  There's not much to do then but sit, watching them remove the remains of the vehicle with that amused and profound pity of the middle aged in front of a childish disaster.

While next to me in a semi, some guy with no teeth, winked at me. Oh, please let's get this line moving.

 I wish I had some lights.  There was one day out in the Squirrel Truck, trying to get somewhere out in the middle of no where, only the news choppers giving me a clue as to where I was expected and this old guy and gal in front of me would NOT speed up or let me pass.  Sigh.  On come the colorful  lights no one expects from a 4 x 4 and I shot pass.  Then the lights went off, as I drove right past all the media who totally ignored the little girl with the ponytail and ball cap in the truck  as they were waiting for some guy with a steely gaze, a $400 suit and good hair to show up (they watch MUCH too much TV).
No lights today. By the time I got home I'd been on the road over four hours, glad that I didn't have Barkley with me today.

But when I walked in and just saw his bowls and toys tucked under the table in the den, I missed him. I miss both of them.
When my Dad went to War, he didn't see my Mom for four years.  This was no separation of a few days or a week, with a "I'll talk to you in a few hours".  This was a separation etched in enduring characters upon the face of stone.  They had no Skype, no cell phones, no instant messaging.  They only wrote letters, only hearing words from a page, for those many years. There was no Instagram or Twitter.  He could only stand out on the flight line and call her name, and thousands of miles away, she could stand out on a Montana hilltop and listen for that ghost of a shout through the false promise of silence.

How difficult the separation, especially with death all around, Dad watching the Liberators limp home, only to crash at home base.  He could only watch helpless under the great immensity of sky, a silence still as death around those lost tremulous lives.  Then, that futile flurry of action to save something long past saving, as in the distance, innocence briefly flared and then expired.  How  difficult that must have been for him, knowing his love was home, with her father dead, no one to watch out for her and keep her safe.
She too worried, though no frail thing herself , moving to Portland, taking a job in the shipyards and a rented room. Though she had a college degree, this paid more during wartime and provided for her Mom, her brothers also overseas fighting. Dad would still worry, but she was quite strong.  But I knew she went to sleep in that lonely boarding house with a prayer in her heart and his name on her lips, her auburn hair diffused in soft light, as if dawn had already broken.

They were married within days of his return, their first child born 7 and a half months later, big enough to raise their hopes, small enough she lived only a couple of weeks.  But, for a weekend in LA, on business for a promotion he turned down due to the travel, they were never apart more than the day or evening, until her death.
Too soon, I'll have to drive back to work.  But for tonight, as I wait for those headlights in the driveway, I've a roast in the oven and biscuits to bake, in a house that is actually a home.

I don't know what the future brings, but for now I have these moments, these strings of days.   Like words that crossed an ocean a lifetime ago, they provide that brief glimpse, a claim to fellowship with those illusions I thought had died, snuffed out in the cold and the wind, til one day, it's there, a sight, a word, a flutter of light, of heat, of hope.

I  pick up my little phone and give my Dad a call, just to tell him I am safe.