It’s clear we’re above the East Coast. Sprawling green farms dotted with white farmhouses and honest-to-God red barns slide below us. Everything’s lush; it’s like looking down on the broccoli section at Safeway. Thick emerald tree cover and drizzly wisps of cloud slowly burning away in the rays of the emerging sun. I press my nose against the glass; eyes devouring the architecture of another world.
If it weren’t the closest airport to their house I might have avoided the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (“Everyone still calls it ‘National’”, my transplanted barber told me earlier). I stand with my bag in the D.C. dusk, waiting for my father who is unusually late. I call his partner at home.
“Where are you?” he asks.
“I’m at the airport.”
“Yeah, I’m looking at the sign now. It says ‘National Airport'”.
“Actually,” I say, “There’s kind of a new shiny building over there that looks more like an airport.”
“Oh! Oh, you’re at the old terminal.”
My father is waiting for me in the baggage claim of the new terminal. I see him a hundred yards away; a hesitant figure scanning the crowds for my face. He’s never had the natural ease of other fathers, other men in the world. He’s always seemed stiff, reserved, pleasant. Like there’s a layer between him and emotion. His unease reflects mine; my emotions constrict in his company. When my mother would get angry with me she’d say “You’re just like your father”, knowing it would sting. I am quiet like him, shy like him. But I was her, too…her passion and her temper and her selfless abandon. Her generosity and her need. I am both of them, but her death has made me value the part of me that is her more than the part that is him. In missing her I seek out what she left in me. When my father told me he wanted us to be closer because she was dying and soon he’d be my “only support”, I ducked my head, resenting his presumption. I didn’t want his support; I’d done well enough without it. I am here under obligation but driven by something else. Three weeks ago he had dreamed about her, dreamed they had been going through papers together. The next morning he had searched for her name on the Internet, and found me instead, found my site. I know my mother is orchestrating forgiveness. She’s pushing us together and because I love her so much I’m letting her push.
He sees me coming; his eyebrows raise and he smiles nervously. It’s the first time we’ve seen each other since he read my site, since he unearthed my resentment, since we talked, haltingly, about the memories we’d rather forget.