Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Return of the Long-Lost Dad

Entry for June 17, 2007:

I got up at 5am British Summer Time (midnight in Ohio). It was broad daylight: the sun had risen at 4:28. Mikio had insisted upon driving me to the airport (for which I was very grateful), so he picked me up at 6:30, and I was off on my trip back to the US.

I had been up until 12:30 am the night before, doing the things one does before one leaves on a trip: cleaning the bathroom; backing up computers, charging all the little electronic devices, uploading photos, and of course packing. So I was pretty tired as I waited for my flight at the gate at Glasgow Airport, trying to finish my Self-Appraisal entry before we left.

But at the same time I was excited and pleased in anticipation of seeing my kids and Diane. It had been five months since I had seen Kenneth, Brendan & Mayumi, the longest I had ever gone without seeing them, and Diane had come over ahead of me almost 4 weeks earlier, to look out after Kenneth after he got out of college for the summer.

The flight to Newark was relatively easy: Mostly, I graded an MSc thesis and dozed from time to time, listening to my iPod. We were a bit late arriving, so I had to rush – insofar as that is possible with the long line in Newark – to get to my connecting flight. However, when I tried to board, I learned that the airline had without telling me decided that I wouldn’t make the connection and so had given away my seat! After some wrangling and more waiting, they finally let me on the plane, ahead of some standby would-be travelers, and I was set for my final leg… or so I thought.

Thunderstorms (“thundery showers” in the UK) are a common occurrence this time of year in the eastern US, and there was a line of them to our immediate west. After taxiing on the runway at Newark for an hour, we finally got permission to fly south around the thunderstorms. Apparently, in order to save fuel, circuitous routing is now frowned upon in the US; various passengers around me complained unhappily about the delay, and the new restriction on Americans’ freedom to go anywhere they want at any time. But finally, we got our permission and were on our way to Detroit.

The flight was uneventful, taking us over the familiar sights of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Lake Erie, Ontario and finally Detroit. As we flew in over the south suburbs of Detroit, I could see the grid pattern of big and small roads, outlining sprawling neighborhoods, strip malls, and big box stores, so different from Glasgow’s irregular density. So large yet so fragile, I saw it as an artificial thing, powered by the illusion of cheap fossil fuel. How many more years, I wondered, will we be able to sustain this level of energy consumption?

We landed out of the east at Detroit Metro Airport on a runaway I don’t remember having come in on previously. But we were quickly at the gate, and I was soon striding rapidly down Concourse B, through the tunnel to the main concourse (with its light sculpture of shifting, flashing lights and rumbling new age sounds), eager to bridge the minutes until I would be with Diane again… She was waiting at baggage claim; I practically ran to her, kissed her and picked her up into the air in a large hug, over her embarrassed mild protests. At last!

We chattered at each on the way back to Toledo, past the familiar sights. Our neighbor Tim was working in his backyard; he came over to the fence to say hi and started talking with us. After a couple of minutes, Kenneth got impatient and came out the backdoor to greet me. I said, “It’s your long lost Dad, returned at last!”

Kenneth and I rested until Brendan and Mayumi arrived from Cleveland; then we all went out to our favorite Chinese Restaurant, Jing Chuan, for a belated celebration of my birthday. I had a mild headache from sleep deprivation & a really bad case of jet lag, but I was home and with my family, and I was happy.

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