The whistle of the wind and the thuds of the rain beat against the windshield, drowning out the radio station that Dad insists on listening to. I struggle to ignore the noises while consuming myself with my thoughts. Everything I’ve ever known is being left behind. Sadness wouldn’t be the word I would describe how I’m feeling; all of this was my idea. The idea of traveling so far away never crossed my mind until now.
“Aw, come on!” Dad yells at the radio, jolting me out of my speculations. The referee in the Detroit Lions game must have made a bad call.
“That should’ve counted!” Looking over at me, he apologizes for his outburst. I smile at him. His dark brown hair is peppering with grey and white, his skin is pale with a dark mustache, and his deep brown eyes can tell a story all on their own. Has he always had those tiny crow-feet wrinkles by his eyes? He notices me smiling at him, and he laughs. The laughter is something to reckon with- it’s cavernous, obnoxious, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I would be lost without him. That’s why we’re doing this, I remind myself as we pass the “Welcome to Ohio” sign.
We are moving. My dad has been a police officer for most of my life until a couple of weeks ago-he’s now a transferring lead detective. He hasn’t always been a man of the law. Dad has done some questionable things in his younger years, but he cleaned up, swore that it made him a better man and father because of it.
“Are you excited at all about moving back to Georgia?” I ask. “I know it’s been a while, except for coming here for interviews.”
He gazes over at me before facing back to the road. “Yeah, sure. I just hope I can still remember my way around,” he teases with his faint southern accent.
“Dad.” He looks at me with those dark pools of secretive eyes. “How come you never went back to stay until now?” We never ventured into the details of his past. Whenever I have tried to get information from him, he’d power down or make an excuse to leave the room. It often made me wonder just what kinds of things he has done that causes him to suffer shame enough to where he doesn’t want to share anything.
Dad seems caught off guard since his grip tightens on the steering wheel; his skull tattoo peeks out from under his rolled-up coat sleeve. He shrugs, making the winter coat chaff. “I-I’m... not sure. I guess the opportunity never came up,” he stutters. That is the extent of how the conversations go about Georgia. The state seems to be the only entity on this earth that knows the entire story of the mystery that is my father.
All I’ve learned about Dad’s history is that he is from the land of peaches. He’s been in jail a time or two. He met my mom at the University of Georgia, where she had an academic scholarship. They saw each other and instantly fell in love. He had to give some things up to follow her back to the mitten state when he was twenty-four years old.
As we push further through Ohio’s countryside towards Kentucky, the last six years of my life begin to flash before me. He made a point to make every ballet performance, piano recital, and band concert. My mom and dad both did the best they could to be involved with my life, to watch me grow. A twinge of sadness scratches deep in my chest at the memory of my mother, wishing she was still here.
Multitasking is a skill - a skill my dad has mastered. Since my mom passed, he did what he could to be my dad, mom, and best friend. Once a month on a Saturday night, we would have a daddy-daughter date night; we would go to dinner and see a movie. I hold those preciously to my heart since I haven’t had much of a social life.
Rachel, on the other hand, is very social. A smile stretches upon my face remembering my dearest friend. “Rachel had promised me that she would visit – do you think she could come to visit over Christmas break?” I ask, hoping she can. Unlike me, she is very sassy, dramatic, and just full of life.
“Yeah, I don’t see why not. I wouldn’t mind paying for Rachel’s plane ticket so she can come, I know money is tight for them right now.” Dad smiles in my direction. He is so thoughtful. Rachel means so much to me, and he knows it.
“I’m sorry this move is forcing you two apart,” Dad apologizes, his brown orbs are solemn.
I touch his arm. “It’s okay. Rachel has and always will be my best friend. No amount of distance will change that,” I give him a warm smile for good measure.
The city lights illuminate the night sky over Louisville. The scenery brings me to the memory that haunts me every day: My father was shot during a drug bust five months ago in the city of Detroit. It was enough for him to have to spend the night in the hospital with the surgeon removing the bullets from the right side of his chest cavity. I begged him to look for another job in a safer place, so maybe the constant ache of worry on whether he’d come home or not may loosen its hold on me. Losing my mother was hard enough. I can’t lose my father, too.
My birthday is in two weeks. I’ll be eighteen. So, I guess that will make me a legal adult, but that doesn’t mean that I want to do it all alone. I don’t know what I would do if I ever lost my dad. I didn’t realize I was picking at my nails until I ripped the nail on my pinky too deep. A slight shooting pain surges my arm causing me to jump out of my worst thought of almost losing my father.
A raspy tired voice steals my attention, and I suddenly realized how quiet it had been in the cab of this U-Haul van. “Hey, kiddo – I’m sorry that I couldn’t find a place in Michigan, but you’ll like it in Georgia – I know it will be tough at first, but soon, it all will be okay.”
Landing my focus over at my dad, I see that his deep dark eyes are melancholy, and it hurts my heart, so I tell him, “It’s okay. I’m just glad that we’ll be in a safer place for the kind of work you do. I’m thankful that you agreed to transfer. Besides, it will be fun for me to see the state you grew up in.” I end with a sincere smile then nudge his arm. He nods his head and smiles at me, then brings his sights back to the road.
I didn’t think we would ever move to Ludowici, Georgia. Apparently, it is a quiet little town not too far from the Atlantic Ocean. I have never seen the ocean before, nor have I been outside of Michigan. There is no denying that there is a bit of excitement bubbling my nerves for this new adventure. Leaving Detroit behind is overwhelming; I will miss Rachel and the home I grew up in; however, if it means that Dad may be safer because of it, then maybe I’ll be okay...