Road Trip

Three of the best days, ever, even though my daughter Sabine and I were taking her sister to catch a plane to Asia. Kacy will be gone for nine months, her entire junior year. The twins have never been separated by that kind of distance, and never for so long.

Hell, they were 18 before they’d spent five days apart.

We drove north from Oregon to Seattle, the girls jabbering at each other and at me. Kacy was especially animated. Normally she’s asleep ten minutes from the door, but on this trip she stayed awake, and every once in a while would blurt out, “Oh! Dada! Did I tell you …?” And she would launch into a story that at least a couple of times would caused Sabine to look at me, or me at her, and wonder almost aloud what tethered her sister to this earth.

We had dinner at a Szechuan restaurant where the pot stickers are hand-made fresh. We ordered favorites: General’s Tsao’s Chicken (me), avoiding the deadly long dried chili pods, and thin-sliced ginger beef with green beans (them). We  shared all of it, though, and left some behind; there was no place to keep it. We stayed near the airport that night so we could take an easy shuttle the next morning. I wanted to avoid potential parking hassle.

Sabine did her best at the huge SeaTac airport, but finally dissolved, crying onto my shoulder. It was time to leave and let Kacy bond with her study group.

Sabine has always been the one with the greatest sense of connection, the one who feels most acutely the loss of separation. This was true when they were 18 months old and we brought the twins out of the mountains of central India.

Then she cried for hours, tiny and sobbing and pasted to my chest in 105 degree heat and 99 percent humidity, probably missing her Aya, her Indian caregiver, perhaps mourning the original loss, again, of her biological mother. We’ll never know. What’s left are echoes of pain.

But she and I’ve had that bond ever since. Even at fifteen, Sabine would call me during especially scary thunder storms.

We drove north from SeaTac to Elliot Bay to look at a sailboat, then had lunch at the marina and continued the father/daughter conversation about life, love, sailboats, and sisters over a cup of chowder and a chicken Caesar (me) and fish and chips (her). She is blossoming at age 20. It’s beyond my comprehension the woman she is becoming. Their mother was a huge influence, of course, and while I did my share when not making horrendous mistakes, I can’t claim large credit.

I can only say that I am so lucky, so grateful, and so joyful at who they are and how much they love me.

During our lunch, my publisher called and said (1) the new book would NOT be out by Labor Day but (2) “I love this more each time I read it.” I let the publisher pick a new deadline without whining about it (October 15) after she explained she has some things to do in the next several weeks, but I was quietly pleased that there would be some time for my own prrofreader (; > )  to go over it, even if on my own dime.

Sabine and I took the Ferry from north of Elliott Bay to Kingston on a stunningly glorious day, 82 degrees clear. Ferry hatches and railings vibrated with the giant diesels, and I said to Sabine, “I think it’s (percussionists) Blue Man Group!” She laughed as I beat the rhythm given to us by the engines.

We listened to music played loud, Alegria and Led Zeppelin and even Pink Floyd, with the sunroof open and the windows down as we drove up to Port Townsend, warm wind blowing the music through our day. We got the last room in town I think, and walked the docks for a few hours while looking at schooner and clipper and ketch. Oh my!

I bought Tom Robbins’ new book (he’s a hero of mine) from Phoenix Rising Books, where Jill, the proprietor, told me Robbins was in his 80s! NO! Sabine got a stone of Chinese mineral and I got a piece of jade, representing prosperity, even as I worried about “no idols before me.”

After a fantastic dinner of elk! (me) and garlic olio pasta (her), she snorted a laugh when I suggested she should tell her mom she was going to drop out of college and take up a career as a tattoo artist.

“Yeah, right!”

We got back to the room and the day wound down.

We left Port Townsend at 10 a.m. or so, after a cup of strong coffee (me) and tea (her) and sharing a wedge of spinach/cheddar quiche Loraine. We stopped to look at tiny “Green Pod” dwellings for sale that are environmentally … “elegant” is the only appropriate word. Beautiful, beautifully crafted, innovative and fun.

They resonated with my girl, who hasn’t a materialistic bone in her body, for their tiny impact, the innovative technologies to save the planet, the obvious lack of compromise because compromise just wasn’t needed. They resonated with me, because excess was eliminated to reduce cost, not ineffable quality, through thoughtful design.

We agreed they would make a very cool beach house.

We meandered along Hood Canal, stopped for gas north of Olympia, and then ambled down I5. I dredged up from deep in my past a story about hunting for flounder there in the flats with a stick, stepping on a hapless fish with bare feet, holding them down with the stick and throwing them to the bank.

I’d offered Sabine the choice of going straight to Salem and home to her mother, or turning left at Portland to go through Hood River.

“I think Hood River,” she said somewhere near Chehalis.

“You aren’t ready to cut the road trip short?” I asked, clearly fishing.

“Um, I don’t THINK so!” she said, making my heart grow three times in size, redrawn each time by Dr. Seuss.

We got gas and had coffee in Hood River, then wandered down to the water park to watch sail boarders and kite surfers. One fellow had a board with a hydrofoil on the bottom, and he flew two feet above the water, with nearly zero wake. We talked about hydrodynamics.

Even when I was an utter bore, she would respond, “That makes sense!”

After a meal of fresh Columbia River salmon (her) and razor clams (me), perhaps the best of hundreds of similar meals, we talked about language. I pulled some parlor tricks out of my bag (Feel your breathing? What about how your elbow feels on the arm of the steel chair? Were you aware of it before I mentioned it? What is awareness, anyway, if we can remember something we weren’t aware of at the time?).

I really was trying to make a point, not just get her to giggle and laugh, though that was reason enough.

I told her we should probably go over Mt. Hood (lot’s of Hoods that day!) rather than up through The Dalles to get her back to her mother on time. I drove at 8 tenths, hitting some high numbers which was a blast all by itself in my rice rocket, like the time we made it from Lafayette to Sisters in a little over 7 1/4 hours. That trip she made the little Wheat Thin sandwiches, we stopped only for gas. She’s the best road trip warrior, I told her again. Ever.

I left her with her mother. It will be months before I see her again. She wept a soft good-bye in my arms. She’s a young woman finding her own place, which is not riding shotgun with her dad.  I left with a large tear rolling down my own cheek, more lonely than I’ve been in a long while.

That’s the bittersweet of connection, I would have told her, had I thought of it at the time. The stronger it is, the more painful that moment when it seems to be gone.

But that’s something she already knew.

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About Erik Dolson

Erik Dolson is a writer living in Oregon

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