Get Us to The Airport Alive!

Stop picLee weaved my new Tahoe in and out of lanes with the skill and finesse he’d earned by driving the LA freeways for most of his 70 years.

“Shit for Brains!” he hollered, passing a prius hogging the fast lane. “Pull over and kick his ass Grandpa!”

“Alex!” Donna reached back and a death grip on his knee only to get maniacal laughter in return. “Dad, it’s been raining. Slow down a little.”

“Only three hours before your airplane leaves, Donna.” He said, changing lanes in front of an 18-wheeler – so close I could study the anatomy of every dead bug on the grill. “That’s ridiculous getting to the airport that early. Goddamn terrorists.”

“Lee, that Nissan in front of us is stopping…”

“They ought to line them up, bend them over and…”

“Dad!”

“I see him.” He swerved into the adjacent lane just in the knick of time.

Donna clutched my arm. The kids snickered.

“Grandpa, that’s a CHP parked on the shoulder ahead.”

“I see him, Alex.” Lee kept the wheel steady for all of 15 seconds until the black and white sedan disappeared from the rear view mirror.

He slowed down, someplace in the sixties and it seemed like a crawl. I figured he was thinking of something other than the road. Oh yes, that’s exactly what he was doing. I braced myself, because this could only mean one thing.

An advice speech was coming.

Lee uttered those familiar words: “You know, it’s the type of thing…” This means a speech is coming which makes me nervous when the kids are within ear shot. I imagined what he might say with on this big day:

“When I was in stationed in Guam, I drank enough Red Stripe to sink the island…

Or

“Watch out for those Italian girls, they’ll practically grab your pecker right there on the sidewalk.

Instead, he came up with something deeper…

“You kids won’t be the same when you get back.”

Silence fell over the car.

Jill was the first to speak “What do you mean Grandpa?”

“Travel will change you.”

“Yeah, Alex will turn 16 and I’ll turn 12!”

“More than that, Chris” Lee said, changing lanes for the hundredth time. “Your friends are going to seem immature. It will be difficult for you to acclimate.”

“Not to change the subject, Lee.” I interjected, “but we need the departing flights lane.” Our heads collectively snapped to one side as he made a lateral move.

He pulled into a curbside spot among other cars dropping off other passengers. We got out and I opened the lift gate. Lee was handing us our packs when I experience my last moment of alarm on home soil. This one felt less harsh, probably because I realized and internalized that this trip was indeed going to happen. Beyond this hustle and bustle there was a 747 with my name on it and chances were very good, it would take off as planned and not touch ground until we’d reached London-freaking-England. The kids gave their grandpa extra-long hugs as I took a deep breath and sadly rubbed my hand across the metallic green paint job of my Tahoe. Lee gave Donna some last minute advice followed by a super bear hug. He saved the last for me and brought me in. I was centimeters from his face, close enough to smell his aftershave. Just as my cheek was becoming a bit too familiar with the tips of his stubble, he pulled back and revealed those big hazel eyes of his – always so sincere. They locked in tight with mine. His words were simple:

“You’ll change too, Jeffery.”

NEXT: Turn This Plane Around

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