Monday afternoon I had lunch with my dad. I’ve lived 3,000 miles away from my parents for the last four and a half years, so a weekday afternoon meal with a parent is a rare and special treat. He had been in Boston for his high school reunion (40 years!), and managed to make his flights work so that he had a three hour layover in Philly.
At the airport, he climbed into my car as if it was something he did regularly, and we picked up a conversation as if it had been one we had started earlier. Seven minutes into the drive towards cheesesteak land I stopped the conversation abruptly to half-turn to him, squeeze his knee and say, “I just love that you are in my car!” He showed me the grin he reserves for those moments when he is overflowing with love for his kids and said, “and I’m so happy to be here!”
We pulled up to Geno’s for a steak (the beauty of going there at 4 in the afternoon is that there is no line and plenty of parking spots right in front), and as we got out of the car, I coached him on the “proper” way to order (he hasn’t lived here in 50 years, the memory could fail). Being my take-charge (ahem, bossy) self, I then ended up placing the order for both of us.
Sitting there at a plastic table, in the late afternoon sun, as the wind threatened our cups and napkins, I finished my sandwich first and so had the opportunity to watch my dad eat. I studied his face in the way one does when they are confronted with something that was familiar long ago, re-remembering the lines and expressions, noticing the changes the last six months have wrought. He was wearing the same style of sunglasses that he’s favored since I’ve been making memories. He looked solid, familiar and completely comfortable.
After we finished eating, we wandered up the closing-down Italian Market, and over to DiBruno’s, so he could get a sandwich for the flight. They were completely out of bread, and had one single pre-made veggie sandwich left. My dad started chatting with the guy behind the counter in the way he always does, and wound up with a pile of sliced roast beef on that sandwich, at no extra charge. I bought him a latte at Anthony’s, and then it was time to head back to the airport.
Pulling up to the curb, I handed him the paper bag I had packed back at the apartment, the remaining third of the Passover ham and two mini sized bottles of Chivas inside of it. He tucked the sandwich in on top and started to get out of the car. I popped it into neutral and pulled the brake so that I could get out and give him a big goodbye hug. With that, he headed into the airport and was gone. As I drove away from the airport, I had a moment where I wondered if the last two hours had even happened. Had it been real? He came and went so quickly, that it was hard to even miss him, as I hadn’t gotten a chance to get used to his presence.
No matter the speed of the visit, I was happy to have him for any length of time.