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Where's My Suitcase?
Constant jetlag. That’s my dad’s life. Constant absence: that’s my life. I always think about my dad. I think about his job, his life, his commitment. He’s always traveling. Dubai, Jeddah, Istanbul, Mumbai.
“Is George traveling again?”
“Yeah, he’s away for the week.”
“Athens, Los Angeles, Beijing… I’m not totally sure.” I’m usually never sure.
I used to wish I could go with him and escape the ataxia of my life, eat some baklava, falafel, or coq-au-vin, but I realized it’s different for him. He doesn’t get to really see a place, he just gets to see what the inside of the office buildings there look like. He leaves suitcases full of clothes in hotels in order to minimize his airport security hassle (he realized last week that a suitcase of his has been in Dubai for four months now); he jet sets at 3 a.m. in order to be on time to a meeting that starts halfway across the world.
And when people ask me what he does for a living and I reply with the bland term of “civil engineer,” the look of surprise on their faces is always the same. Engineers are supposed to work with numbers, not foreign ministers. Why doesn’t he send other people to these continental meetings? “No one does what I do, like I do.” I guess that’s where I get that characteristic from….
“Daddy, guess what I got on my history test!”
“Sweetie, I’m in a meeting. Can I call you back in ten minutes?” He whispers over the phone. Those ten minutes always turn into hours.
One time, before he left on a week-long trip, I asked him where he was going. He mapped it out for me: Dubai, Doha, Athens, Paris, Dubai again, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Jeddah, Doha, London, and back home. Oh, the miles he must have racked up with Continental that week.
Do I wish he wasn’t gone so much? Of course. It’s distressing that he is gone so much, but when he isn’t across some ocean, I love it. Sometimes he’ll stay for as long as a month before he has to go somewhere else, and those weeks are good. He doesn’t fall asleep at the dinner table when we’re out with friends, he’s not as stressed out, and he tells more of his jokes, which he is actually famous for within the Greek-American population in the tri-state area.
I remember when he told me the story of when my favorite stuffed animal, my Mickey doll, had been ripped open. “Hell broke loose in your little world. Your Mickey doll was broken. ‘Daddy Mickey’s sick! He’s not gonna make it Daddy!’ I heard you yell. You ran to me as fast as your chubby toddler legs could carry you and carefully laid Mickey down in front of me, stuffing spilling out of him and everything. ‘Daddy can you fix him?’ you asked and then looked up at me with your wide, adorable, chocolate, and now watery, eyes. ‘Of course I can, moro mou!’ I replied and then reassured you that your happy-go-lucky mouse was in good hands. And with your little lumpy fingers you took my hand and said, ‘I love you Daddy!’ and the happy grin that replaced the sobbing became a hotel guest at our house until you fell and scraped your knee three days later.”
Even when I was younger I was fascinated with what my father had to say. He used to travel to Greece a lot between when I was 5 and 10 because he was working on a project called the Rion Antirion Bridge, which is now the longest spanning cable bridge in the world. (Told you I listened!) When he came home from his business trips, my mom would ask him how the bridge was coming along. As he talked about the infrastructure, earthquake repercussions that the builders had to take, base structure, wind protection, and construction progress, I actually listened while my sisters sat there like two little rolls of fat. Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum.
When the bridge was finally finished, I got to say: “My Daddy has a bridge.” I wore that statement with as much pride as a soccer mom does when her son scores goal after goal in a game. In fifth grade, he came to career day to talk about civil engineers. In his PowerPoint he had a slide of the bridge. I elbowed the kid sitting next to me. “That’s my Daddy’s bridge.”
It aggravates me to hear someone my age say, “Ugh, my dad is so annoying; he won’t let me go out tonight.” Clearly that person doesn’t know how lucky he is to even have a father. We as teenagers shouldn’t try to avoid spending time with our parents; we should make time for it. They do so much for us and don’t really ask for anything in return; the least we could do is show them that we appreciate it. I really hope that I show them that.
I appreciate my dad more than the average teenager does. I realize that what he does is all for my benefit. And so, whenever he comes home, I am always eagerly waiting for him to pull up in the driveway and step out of the familiar black Cadillac with his suitcase in hand and a smile on his face.