We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. ~Ray Bradbury
Yesterday morning, my alarm went off at 3:15 AM. I dragged myself out of bed, got dressed in the dark and went downstairs to make a cup of coffee. I sat at the kitchen counter, the glow of the under cabinet kitchen light creating a pool of warm light. As I sipped my coffee, the perfect balance – a hint of sugar balanced with a just-right splash of half-and-half – I contemplated whether or not to call my Dad to make sure he was up and ready to go; I was his Uber ride to the airport.
My Dad’s sixth fishing trip of 2019 was another annual trip with his fly-fishing buddies; this trip was to Inklin, British Columbia for Steelhead fishing on the Inklin River. Since the group had to be in Juneau, Alaska the night before, they planned an early morning flight from SFO; they were all meeting at SFO at 4:15 AM.
I am delighted that my Dad is keeping active with these fishing trips, however, as a coach, I tend to ask a lot of questions, and with my 81-year old father, I like to know what the plans are so I can make sure he’s okay.
This trip is an “invitation only” trip that starts in Juneau, Alaska and while my Dad has taken this trip for years, I recently found out that it requires a 50-minute helicopter charter from Juneau to the Inklin camp. I wonder if my Mom had known that little detail? I was a bit concerned about it. A 50-minute ride in a helicopter? That seemed like a long time for an 81-year old.
My Dad assured me he would be okay.
A few days ago, I checked the weather in Inklin: the average temperature is 46 degrees and this week’s forecast was off and on rain, with an average temperature of 36 degrees. I raised my eyebrows when I shared the weather report with him.
My Dad assured me he had plenty of warm clothes.
I asked him what time of day he would be fishing. “The best time is between 5 AM to 7 AM “he replied. It’s dark at that hour, I thought and then let it go.
I finished my coffee, got into the car, and backed out of the garage. The ride to my Dad’s house is less than two minutes, the roads were dark and empty.
My Dad opened the door when he heard me pull to the curb; he was dressed and ready to go.
“You’re all set?” I asked.
“I sure am,” he said with a smile.
He loaded his bag into the back of my car and then climbed into the front passenger seat. I switched on the seat warmer for him; there was a chill in the air.
On the way over, my Dad told me he hadn’t gone to bed, instead, he chose to stay up to watch television and then at midnight, he took a shower, shaved, and dressed for the trip.
“You pulled an all-nighter?” I said with a laugh.
“I guess I did,” he chuckled.
I suspect he may have fallen asleep in front of the television, though he would never admit it.
My Dad said he was looking forward to the trip but said it would likely be his last one.
“Why?” I asked.
“I enjoy fishing and being with the guys, but it’s too cold. It’s just time.”
A little piece of my heart broke when he said this. I had just heard one of the first of his “lasts.”
The conversation shifted a bit, he told me how he was looking forward to being with his friends; he asked about my older son’s SAT exam, as he reminded me to slow down and look for his friend Steve, whom I had already texted. Steve would be at Terminal 2, door 2, Alaska airlines.
Traffic was light in the terminal; as we pulled up to the curb, I could see Steve waiting for us.
“There he is,” my Dad said.
I parked at the curb, my hazards flashing, my Dad got out of the car and unloaded his bag.
I pulled Steve aside to cover a few small details. “Make sure he has his phone, wallet, and passport after going through security. Don’t ask him, check to make sure!” I exclaimed. Steve laughed.
I looked over at my Dad, despite not having slept all night, his eyes lit up as he smiled and kissed me goodbye. I told him I’d pick him up next week.
Before pulling away from the curb, I watched as my Dad, with his slow gait, follow Steve into the terminal, pulling his bag behind him. As I observed, a knot formed in my throat: my Dad looked so vulnerable. I got a little emotional, it was as if I was leaving one of my boys to go off on their own.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and drove away from the curb, thinking about my older son as he prepares for college; his heart is set on a school that is 406 miles away; a little over an hour by plane, over six hours by car. I will probably be repeating the same SFO drop-off scenario this time next year.
Sometimes my Dad and my sons drive me crazy as they test my patience while I help them navigate – my Dad in his golden years, my sons in their growing years – and despite the generation gap, the vulnerability, worry, and concern are the same: will someone take advantage of them? Will they be safe? Will they be happy to see me when they return home? It is hard to let these feelings go. These guys fill my cup.
I am curious to see if my Dad holds true to his word and skips the Inklin trip next year. Perhaps he will forget he had made the comment, perhaps he will remember and change his mind.
My Dad has assured me: he is happy and enjoying life.