It’s been almost three years since my father died. The passage of time is terrifying. It blinds. It mutes. It forgets. Yet every time I fly home from wherever I’ve been, I pass the space, the rows of chairs to the right of security check, where he always sat, waiting for his daughter to return from college, then from New York, then from God-knows-where, I travelled so much to run away from things.
My husband waits in the pick-up lane, car turned on, sometimes he’s smoking a cigarette by the curb. It’s actually faster that way — pick up and go. But Dad always parked and waited inside the airport, right where the limousine men stand with their dry-erase signs, right where I could see his face light up when he saw me. He was always early to things, maybe twenty minutes, maybe an hour. He always went the extra mile.
Every time I fly home, I pretend he’s still there. Using my powers of imagination, I see him for a brief second. Sometimes I chose what age he is, younger with his wild mass of black hair or the years right before the cancer, a bit too thin, the warning sign we all missed, silver hair, receding but still wild. The image is fleeting. It breaks my heart a little each time. But still, I say, “Hello Dad, I’ve missed you, it’s good to be home,” and he responds, “Salut, ma cherie” and kisses me on the cheek.