I know it's Father's Day but Earl wouldn't have been the father he was if not for Pat being the mother she is. So, I can't think of one without the other.
As a kid, I loved riding in the car at night. I'd lie down in the long back bench seat of the Plymouth and stare out the window above at the stars in the broad Texas sky as we slid down the highway. WBAP from Fort Worth was always the soundtrack. George Jones or my boyfriend Buck Owens would sing to me as we traveled home.
It may be when I travel that I miss him the most.
Other than those car rides, I never got to truly travel with Dad. He was always traveling, though. Before I was born, he was in the Army, which took him to Vietnam, Thailand, Germany. Who knows where he traveled. After the Army, he worked in the Sudan, Brazil, and later in Manny, Louisiana before the bottom fell out of the oil industry. He brought home Chanel No. 5 home to mom from France when he had a layover in Paris. She still has a bottle in her bathroom, the bathroom they shared for over thirty years.
Once on a work trip, I sat in a restaurant having dinner in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport At a neighboring table sat a little girl with her father. She counted out Sweet & Low packets as her dad, probably in his late 20s listened to her and drank his gin and tonic. She was drinking a Shirley Temple.
This made me think about how I never really traveled with Dad. I know the reality of it--he being who he was then--would not have been the same as the scene I was watching at the neighboring table, but I wondered, still.
When I was that girl's age, Earl would have closer to the age I was as I sat in that airport than he would have been to her father's age. He would have been in his late 30s, retired from the Army and unaware that there was poison inside of him that would wait another thirty years to fully blossom.
He was a rough and tumble guy, my Dad. Travel stories from him were always full of adventure, even when they were about something as mundane as flight delays. He used to tell this great story of coming home from the Sudan or somewhere, drunk and jet-lagged and ready to get home. He was flying Delta. Back then the slogan was "Delta: We're ready to fly when you are." Apparently there was a delay that night and after having dinner and what was surely a good number of drinks, he approached a gate agent and said "I'm ready to fly, why the F aren't you?"
So, yeah, Dad was probably not the kind to travel solo with a six year old girl. But that's ok. I'm really more sad that we never got to travel together as adults.
On the plane home, I sat next to an older man, probably about the same age my father was when he died. He had a sort of glimmer in his eye that reminded me of Dad. He was going to visit his grandkids. I asked if his wife was still alive and he said very much so, but she doesn't travel. But he was happy knowing that when he went home, she'd be there. Apparently, like my mother, she prefers to stay home and doesn't fly.
We chatted for much of the flight with a reading break in the middle, both of us reading on our iPads.
I wondered as I read if Earl used to chat up seat mates on flights. And as I learned about this man's wife who doesn't travel, his retirement from GM, I wondered if Earl told people in planes about all of us--his girls and his wife.
What did he tell them? What was his vision of us?
Whatever it was, I suspect it was glorious and kind. He certainly kept putting himself on the line for us. I hope in the end that we were worthy of it all.