Friday, January 20, 2006

I sit a long time in the bathroom at LAX, watching feet and luggage pass in front of the stall. Tennis shoes, pumps, boots dragging carry-ons go by. Staring at the disembodied shoes, I realize I am stalling here tonight, wonder if it’s the taxi ride in the darkness that I need the nerve for, or the destination that has me dallying. I was last here in April. In my suitcase then, three pages of carefully thought through notes, scenarios and possibilities: my role negotiator. I really didn’t think I had a chance, he was stubborn and memories of the disastrous hospital stay in February had faded with his doctor’s clean bill of health. I was nervous, dreading what was going to be a difficult conversation, knowing that I had just a few months before the deposit would run out on the place we hoped he would move to in Portland. He wanted to stay in the house he built 49 years ago and yet, he was 85, living alone, and all the carefully thought-out scenarios argued for a move. You would think years of business negotiations would have prepared me, but once a daughter, always a daughter.

Now it’s nearly midnight and with an hour-long taxi ride, I need to flush the toilet and get going. A couple is mugging for the camera halfway down the long underground walkway to baggage claim; her black wool coat and hat stand out from the blue and green mosaic tile lining the hall and its obvious they are madly in love. Loneliness and failing nerves make me reach for the phone, but I know I’d wake him from sleep and I haven’t even reached the house yet, so I put it back in my purse. How many times in the 25 years since I left home have I made this trip? I convince myself it’s just one more trip, stop to pick up a penny someone’s dropped, and step out into the darkness.

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