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June 22, 2010

The father, the car and the neverending road

My parents and the dog and the Family Truckster have finally crossed into California, they're staying in a mountain resort just north of Palm Springs. I needed to get myself up that mountain.

My mom had to park The Rig (that's what they call the big motorhome) and drive down to Orange County to see Grandma, who'd taken to bed. Dad and the dog stayed behind, up on a mountain. I told my mom she was vying for Sainthood.

"More like The Betty," she told me.

Dad's been on the iffy side of well for more than a month now so it was exciting for me just to be able to see his face. And they're in my time zone! I rented a car because I didn't want to burn out my clutch driving in the mountains. My mom warned me it was a slippery road, full of hairpin turns and sharp drop-offs. But I didn't listen because had I listened I would never have attempted the ride.

Here's something you may not know about me. I am full-on crazy afraid of heights. I don't think about it very often, since I am rarely driving myself 7,000 feet up the side of a mountain. I stay firmly planted on the Valley, and when necessary I take pharmaceutical help to sit on a cushy airplane and have a well-trained pilot escort me to some destination that comes with wine in mid-flight service. So when I found myself on the very living edge of a DAMN MOUNTAIN CLIFF, with nothing but clear blue sky on the side of the road, I had to refrain from ralphing into my own handbag (it was a rental car, after all.) I stopped at one of the turnouts only long enough to tell myself that I was a wussy and a wimp and my mom had driven a whole motorhome up this sheer suicide cliff and here I was peeing myself in a rented Nissan Versa while the soundtrack of Hair blasted on the CD player.


I made myself sing Manchester, England seven times while I drove up that mountain so slow I honestly could have walked it faster and I am a fat chick with the aerobic fitness of a ham.

This angle makes it look like an easy drive. But it was impossible to photograph the scary parts because I had my eyes closed. Hah.

It was worth it though, to see my dad and the dog.

I love my dad. Not knowing, not being able to see his face, that's been the worst part. When you see someone you see them smile, grimace, frown, cough, laugh and you can judge for yourself how they are that day. I can know how he is when I see him. My dad has been the very center of my universe, the only steady and constant person in my whole chaotic life. I moved in with him just before I turned 12 and it was like reaching shore after churning in the sea for eleven years. Every day he's been the singular thing I could count on. I brought him ginger snaps and Lotto tickets and chocolate milk. It seemed like a poor thankyou for a lifetime of anchoring.

I brought the dog a bone:


That dog gets cuter every time I see him!


And he smiles:


I stayed through Father's Day and my mom came back to the mountain just in time to drive me down it herself. She sighed because I had to take half a Xanax and go to my safe and happy place while she drove because I have no balls and I am a pathetic excuse of a family member. I sweated so bad coming down that mountain my flip-flops started to slide off! How is it that I can sit on the cramped and angry freeways of Los Angeles all day and zen out with no problem, or how is it you can drop me in the middle of Turkmenistan and in an hour I'll have you in a hotel and drinking a cocktail ... but try to get me on a boat or a high cliff and I panic. Panic. The kind that's almost paralyzing. I fool myself into thinking I am brave but a little drive up a mountain to see the one person I love best in the whole world and I start sweating so bad I may have lost a bra size. My hands were sweating! My ears even sweated.

When I got closer to home and my city greeted me with crawling traffic I sighed with relief. I said, "I love you, traffic! I love you and your slow-n-go predictableness! Let us now relax and sing all the words to Age of Aquarius!" Which I did, with gusto.


Others in traffic were more aloof:


- - -

Oh, and it's my birthday. I'm old! My girlfriends are converging tonight at a restaurant with plenty of wine and we'll all pretend I don't have wrinkles. God love 'em.

Posted by laurie at June 22, 2010 10:54 AM