I've been having a hard time transcribing the next part of my journal. I had come to the part where I wrote on 8/21/11; 10 years ago today, my Father was dying of cancer. That was all I wrote that day also. I never realized just how deep of a taproot my Father was to me till I looked back and saw how much of my life started to come loose after he passed away.
This next bit was written well before my time at the Mission, but it better helps you understand that period in my life. I was asked to write about it and it first appeared in the Chicago Tribune years ago.
On Labor day, my father passed away... and my world changed. 8 days later, the world changed for everybody.
My father had been sick for a while. Cancer had ravaged his body more than we had known as we thought he had another 6 months. He passed away at home in Tampa where he had wanted to be, not in a sterile hospital. My sisters and I all flew to Florida for the wake (I live in Chicago). I decided to stay a few extra days so that my mom wouldn't go from a full house to nothing, to give her a transition period so's to speak. My flight out was to be on Wednesday the 12th of September, 2011. Then 'IT' happened. My mother and I watched it all unfold on TV, surreal to our already wracked emotions of the week before. Phone calls from far and wide came in as our family reached out to each other, while E-mails from 7 different countries showed me that my friends from chat rooms where family also. As the skies went quiet, I realized I may not get home for a while. The options included taking my Dads old car, an 89 Taurus with near 100,000 miles on it... but no, things would be back to normal soon enough I told myself. Then came the day after day of cancellations and building clouds. Of shore, tropical storm Gabrielle was gathering strength, threatening to ground the planes even if the FAA allowed them to fly after 9/11.
I awoke on Friday morning to whistling winds and driving rains... flying out in time to be back at work by Monday looked dim. Without even showering, I grabbed my packed bags, hugged my mother good-bye, and headed out into the storm. My mother had her own car and had planed on selling this one, so while she was worried about me, I was taking the worry of selling it of her hands. The first 3 hours of the drive where in a dark maelstrom of rain and learning the layout off the cars controls, the whole time listening to the radio tell me how Gabrielle was building up strength and heading the same direction I was. Wind gusts of 75 MPH where reported in towns that I didn't know where north or south of me. I just kept thinking that I couldn't stop for food till I had well outrun the storm. By noon I was halfway through Georgia and listening to the president inspire the country on the radio. I spend the night in Chattanooga Tennessee, nestled in the sheltering mountain pass. I walk outside with a beer to see the building next door festooned with giant neon signs advertising fireworks all along it's 300 foot length. Can you get more American than that?
All along the drive I notice a few things. Eagles and hawks are flying everywhere, I'm not sure why. I see our flag flying everywhere, from cars to bridges to the pot bellied truck driver standing on a hillside near a rest stop waving a huge flag. I also feel the community our nation has become in how everyone stops to talk with you like a neighbor. I want to be able to tell people of my Dads passing, but everyone has a sadness welling up in them already. At times on my drive I have to force back tears upon hearing stories on the radio... I need to keep heading home. If I stop to let it sink in I'd be a mess.
1,200 miles later of listening to radio stations through the heartland, the voices of hundreds of callers, I haven't figured out a thing. I just know that 10 days ago I carried my father to his birthplace in an urn, and then he, through his faithful old car, carried me safely to my home.
September 16th 2001