Las Vegas is about 400 miles from my hometown of West Valley City, Utah. That’s about a six-hour drive, which translates to less than one full workday. Or three on-demand movie rentals. Or two college football games.
Those numbers registered while traveling cross-country to my new home, thousands of miles away from my old one. With my 60-something parents in the front of my car, and my dog Penny and me in the back, one thought prevailed: I should have made that drive more often.
You might think nine days of driving in a sedan and sleeping in cheap motel rooms with your snoring mom and dad would have the opposite effect. But there’s something about knowing there are two people in the world willing to spend a week packing up your house and loading it into a trailer, another week driving across the country, and yet another week moving you into your new place that makes a grown woman want to suck her thumb and coo “Mama.”
Parents — wait, let me clarify — good parents never stop caring for their children. The care just starts to look different as the children get older. If those children choose to move away, they never stop feeling guilty about it. It’s not so much the distance that hurts, it’s the lost time caused by the distance.
That’s why three weeks with your parents, as a 36-year-old moving to the other side of the country, is a gift. I got some of that time back, and I got to see my parents in a new light.
Even the bickering brought comfort.
My mom started referring to my dad as “That Man” very early in the trip. As in, “Well, I tried to tell That Man 11 hours was too long to drive, but he wouldn’t listen to me.” This, while That Man was seated right next to her.
My dad, or That Man, wasn’t much better. My mom’s name is Sylvia. On this trip she became “Ay, Syyylvia!” Example: “Ay Syyylvia! We’ll stop in Knoxville to break up the 11 hours.”
When you move out on your own, there are certain things you forget about living at home. When those things return to your life as an adult, you not only remember them, but you see them through a new lens. A lens that’s watched a lot of Oprah, Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew.
What was nothing more than senseless arguing as a kid comes through now as passive-aggressive behavior, provocative language, trigger points, and “Oh, hell no, he did not go there.”
The thing is, as much as my parents fight, they also love. It wasn’t unusual, growing up, for them to break into a cheek-to-cheek dance in the kitchen, living room or hallway. Long kisses and intertwined legs on the couch made me suck my teeth in disgust as a teenager. Now, it’s much different.
While we packed up my house, I caught my mom goosing my dad after I left the room and had to quickly turn back. The only part of that sentence I regret is that I chose to use “goosing” instead of “ass-grabbing.” But, come on, it’s my parents.
On the same note, my dad kept whispering things to my mom in Spanish that made her blush and say, “Rogelio!” (That’s his name when he’s not going by That Man.) It made me remember hearing them, as a kid, talking and giggling in their bedroom.
Now that I’m married, I hear the fighting and loving with a much different level of understanding and appreciation.
My parents were more than my parents on this trip. They were Ay Syyylvia! and That Man. They were Sylvia and Rogelio. They were a couple who at times couldn’t stand each other, and at other times couldn’t get enough of each other. They were two people who’ve been in a relationship since the ’60s.
Over dinner one night, I expressed my gratitude for all they did to get me to Boston.
“As long as we can help you,” my mom said, “we will.”
That’s why, by the time they waved goodbye to me at Logan International Airport, they were Mami and Papi again. And I was back to wishing I’d made that six-hour drive more often.
Contact Xazmin Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.