The Pilgrimage

Last week I flew home to bury my daddy. My oldest boy picked me up at the airport and whisked me off along the Pacific Coast to my aunt's house. It wasn't the easiest or the shortest way to make it to my father's funeral, but it was the best for us. Flying coast to coast only to ride shotgun in a car for another 8 hours or so, just so we could be together for those hours.

My aunt lives in my grandparent's old house, the one I remember first and longest and she gave up her bedroom for me, so I woke up the next morning feeling almost like my 5 year old self before  everything started to go sideways. The house was quiet as I tiptoed down the hall to the bathroom, how many times had I done that before? Finally making it to the couch, opening the blinds and peering out into the street that really hadn't changed as much as I had.

The smell of freshly mown hay, the golden hills, the distinctive feel of the breeze, the trees the dirt, the scenery of my childhood. Sights, smells, sounds, all pulling me back in a vortex to another time when I was young and unencumbered by grown up worries. A time when the best day was waking up early to watch Saturday morning cartoons with my daddy, or catching Papa first thing in the morning as he sipped his black coffee at the kitchen table.

I held it together during the funeral service until someone asked me how my momma was doing and then suddenly out of nowhere I couldn't see for all the tears, couldn't breathe enough to answer the man without blubbering all over him. Me, the dignified one, but at that moment I realized that I'd come full circle. I had returned. The boomerang life of a grown child beckoned home by the passing of a father. And I remembered the day we packed up and left everything I had ever known. Now here I was paying honor to my father standing next to my own grown son.

We walked away from the gravesite, and drove away from the town I was born in and I flew away from the state that I called home for the first 18 years of my life. And I came home again, to my kiddos and my man, and my family. And in me and my children my daddy lives on, in their smiles and their laughter. There is a place in my heart that will always be missing, but it is soothed by the knowing that he goes on.


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