Every single day I wonder if he’s okay as I check the internet for the news. My computer mouse shakes as I read the headlines, “Taliban attack leaves 25 dead in Afghanistan,” “US troops attacked,” “Over 3 dozen militants killed in Afghanistan.” There are no reports of people dying in the town he’s at, but only a couple towns’ away people are losing their lives. The news is bittersweet it’s not him this time, but it’s someone else’s Dad.
It had been a year, a full complete year, since I had last saw my dad. He had missed my birthday, Christmas and my senior prom. It was supposed to be different this time, but it wasn’t, he would still leave a week from now and I would still have to say goodbye. This was it, and it was way overdue. I had been waiting to get the hug I deserved and needed from my father after not only a day’s long work, but a year’s long work.
I woke up more excited and ready for the day than any other day that year. It was the day I got to see my dad, and I could hardly control myself. As I drove to the airport, I made sure to count the number of Volkswagen slug bugs I saw on the way to make sure I punch him a couple times to keep him up to date. I couldn’t help being distracted as my foot pushed down on the pedal a little harder to make sure I’d be there on time. There it was the sign that read “Norfolk International Airport.”
I got out of my car and walked in and searched those blue TV screens hoping they didn’t read “delay” or “cancelled.” I searched and found it, Delta 3478 “Arrival time 11:09 A.M On Time.” I then walked to the gate, and immediately noticed people getting off the plane and approaching the gate all with smiles to find their loved ones on the other side.
Then I saw him! His tan military bag slung on his back reading in faded sharpie “MEDER.” My heart swelled with pride, “he’s so strong,” I thought, “and he will protect me until the day’s end, every day of the year.” Playing games with me, trying to hide I notice his bald head peeking from behind other passengers and I know in that moment that my daddy is safe. It’s him. He’s wearing the same shirt I remember him in. “ARMY” it reads in black letters popping out on the grey background. He’s wearing his tan cargo shorts like he always does. His face has a little more wrinkles than I remember and it’s now starting to look like a road map, but not quite. He gets past the barrier of the wall, drops his bag and into his arms I jump! It’s my daddy, the only man worth my time and my hero! He’s here!!!
He looked down pulled my hair from over my forehead and kissed it, just like he always does making my eyes feel a little more wide and awkward before he lets go. This was it; these were the 30 seconds of happiness I needed. I could feel the warmth and I recognized it. I hadn’t felt it in such a long time and it more than made up for the time he was gone.
In thirty seconds a lot can happen. You can blow out your birthday candles, you can walk down the stairs in your prom dress, or you can unwrap a Christmas present, but those seconds didn’t matter anymore. It was in those 30 seconds he held me that made up for the missed birthdays and high school dances. He was here now, for at least a couple days, until the hardest 30 seconds of good bye set in.
It was in these thirty seconds of a hug between my Dad and I, which our relationship thrived on. We don’t get to talk every day, and if I’m lucky I’ll hear his voice once a month. I have only a handful of pictures of us from the time I was 12 until the age of 22 and counting, but I am grateful. I am grateful for those eight worded emails he sends me to let me know he’s okay, and the flowers he never seems to miss sending me on every holiday.
I love you Daddy. COME HOME!