Tuesday, December 9, 2008

November 20, 2008 -- Family

Miami: Peggy bounced out of bed and threw open the drapes. Bright sun and blue sky spilled through the window. A surprisingly cool breeze blew into the hotel room.

I turned over and groaned, trashed by jet lag and an internet hangover.

“He drove all the way down to see you.”

She was right, he had, but more sleep appealed more than visiting at that moment. “He” especially would understand that sentiment.

Peggy and I had left for Seattle after midnight, bivouacking on arrival on the floor at Gate C10 amid half a dozen airport campers. We woke to CNN “news”: Al Quaida’s welcome message to Obama and the story of an eight year old boy confessing to gunning down his dad and another man who, he said, were “suffering.” We suffered through until noon, then flew non-stop to Miami, suffering still more headed east and sleep deprived. 

It was 10:30 at night when we finally reached Miami. We’d overnight there before heading for Santiago and Punta Arenas.

We hadn’t seen my father since the end of Cody Roman’s first year in college, over two years ago. As a father myself, I was more empathetic now about parental visits, but, as usual, it took Peggy to actually make family a priority.

“Get up!”

Dad’d driven down the day before in his neat little 1995 Acura Integra, and picked us up at the airport.

That night we hit a Wendy’s to bolster our slim air travel intake. Peggy and I had split two donuts, a whopper, and airplane snacks over the last eighteen hours, and none of that in an effort to maintain her girlish figure.

While waiting for the spicy chicken burger meal at the drive-up, steam erupted from under the hood of the sexy-black Japanese sports car.

“Ahhh….Dad,? Your car doesn’t usually smoke like that, does it?” I hoped that somehow we were parked over a steam pipe exhaust, or maybe it was just the humid night between the sea and the Everglades.


Alarmed we pulled forward and parked. I handed Peggy the fast-food and swung open the door. Thick fluid ran down the asphalt like green blood spilling from Achilles’ heel. There was a lot – it looked like a full engine-plus-radiator’s worth between this spill and the pool glistening at the drive-up.

It was hard to see where it had bled out. There was green on top of the radiator and all over the front of the engine.

By the time we reached the hotel parking lot, the car was overheating.

“Damn.” He muttered under his breath, “I just had some work done and we put in some antifreeze before heading down.”

We scared ourselves with worse case scenarios – a cracked block or blown head gasket. There was some oil on my fingertips when I felt around a bleeding wound. More sleuthing showed a full reservoir. Hmmm.

We poured a liter’s worth of water into the radiator, engine running, and looked to see where it bled out.

A headlamp in his hand and peering under the six inches of clearance between the chassis and the asphalt, Dad spotted the leak and risking greasy hands I felt the hole itself where a worn hose went into the block.

“Good job, Son! You found it. And that’s a cheap fix.”

“Dad, it was a group effort. But I’m glad that the problem is not serious. We can at least sleep easy tonight.”

And that was good. Because I was exhausted, yet satisfied that we'd done something as a family -- namely solving a crisis.

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