How my father went to Google and beyond to prove it to me
I am a grown woman in my fifties, with adult children of my own. Yet, my father continues to remind me that I will always be his little girl.
Our family compass
Once upon a time, my father knew L.A. streets like an astronomer knows the night sky. He could navigate through all areas of the county using only a few landmarks and cardinal directions. Heeding the time of day and traffic patterns, he was a virtuoso at charting the fastest route. His advice was invariably sought whenever a family member was about to venture into unfamiliar surroundings.
When I first received my driver’s license, my father taught me how to decipher the Los Angeles Thomas Guide — a thick, spiral-bound directory containing maps of every street, avenue, and freeway. Like a master cartographer, he demonstrated how the notes in the margins interlinked to other pages of crisscrossed roads and highways. I learned how these elaborate mazes could be chained together to plot a course anywhere in Los Angeles. The rite of passage complete, I was now a fellow keeper of the codes. I knew I could never be lost.
Now, over 30 years later, the Thomas Guide has been replaced by GPS systems much like Google has eclipsed the Encyclopedia Britannica. It is a relic of a bygone era when I relied solely upon my father’s direction. Its treasure map guidance unknown to a generation instructed by Siri.
Technology is my father’s strange new world. His was the generation of secretaries and dictation. Crafting a letter or researching a topic were skills done for him, not by him. He claims he is too old to learn new tricks and has been reluctant to communicate electronically. Still, my brother purchased him a refurbished laptop and my father keeps himself busy playing Backgammon and Hearts — not realizing he could easily unlock the secrets of his digital directory.
Or so I thought.
One giant leap
I had recently had surgery on my Achilles tendon and required to see the orthopedic surgeon for a follow up every two weeks. My right leg in a cast, I was not able to drive myself to these appointments. Ever my hero/protector, my father would make the 25-minute drive to pick me up, double back past his house, and drive me to my doctor’s appointment. A lunch date traditionally followed. We would cruise up, down, and around Van Nuys Boulevard looking for a restaurant to catch our eye and lure us in.
On one such outing, my dad handed me a recycled envelope as I settled into his car. Jotted in and around the To and Return addresses was a list of eateries sorted by cuisine. I immediately recognized the script of my father’s shaky hand. Burgers, Pizza, Mexican, and Deli each headed a column of restaurants and their addresses. “Take your pick,” my father said as he settled into the driver’s seat.
“How did you come up with this list?” I asked him.
“I figured it out,” was his cryptic reply.
As I perused the various eateries, I realized my father must have done multiple Google searches to garner such information. Soon, I was swept to the brink of tears by the sweet gesture. Wanting only to make me feel better, he overrode his fear and hesitation to compile the list. The strength of his paternal drive propelling him through the alien electronic nebula.
We were running early, so we decided to scout out the locations on the envelope before heading to the appointment. Like eager sightseers, my father and I scrutinized each locale as we drifted slowly down the boulevard. The two of us were caught up in the adventure and exhilarated by the quest. It wasn’t a journey to be rushed, much to the dismay of our fellow road travelers. We eventually settled on a tiny corner taqueria.
Age of enlightenment
We returned later and enjoyed a meal of spicy shrimp tacos and chicken tostadas. My father charmed the staff with his inquisitive nature and occasional dad jokes.
Just as when I was a young girl and fell off my bike, he doted on me with tenderness and concern — bringing me my lunch and refilling my drink. My age — his age — was irrelevant. I was, and will always be, a precious star in his galaxy.
Originally published in PS I Love You @Medium.com
2 thoughts on “In My Father’s Eyes, I am the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars”
Since my Dad was a skilled real estate broker back when the Valley was just beginning it’s growth, he, too, depended upon the trusted Thomas Guide. I had similar experiences by way of the blue book and the maze of connecting pages, grids, etc…to finally unlock the puzzle to my destination.
Gone since 1995, your piece made me smile and bring my Dad’s Irish accent to the front of my memory. I’m so happy you have your own loving hero by your side.
Ann Sent from my iPhone
Brought tears to my eyes. Tom goes to ‘writing group’ gatherings in Los Angeles. You should be running them, you are such a wonderful writer. Update re: Tom…as of yesterday he moved into an apartment in the 90019 zip code, near Fairfax and Olympic, on Orange Grove Ave. I’ll have to ask Bob what that area might be described as…old area and lots of Jewish people I think…his apartment is in a 2 story, 8 unit building, built in the 30’s. It’s large,has fireplace and is quite charming, but he texted last night that it has no dishwasher and no microwave…which he hadn’t noticed when looking at it LOL. Hope it’s earthquake safe…
Your dad is a wonderful father, Lisa. So wise, big hearted. It’s easy to see how the two of them, Bob & Rae, fell in love and became your parents. Not too long ago I had Rae on the phone, Bob in the background and it sounded like a George Burns, Gracie Allen skit. It was so funny I was dying laughing. I miss not seeing them often. I want them to come for a visit but you know how they love our heat. Yesterday it was 114 here. And Al was in the ER for 4 hours trying to find out why his right leg is so swollen etc. (worried about blood clot) No active blood clot but they never found out the cause as the docs were too busy to check him out thoroughly so he finally came home and we see the primary care gal hopefully today. Tim is trying to help out long distance. All goes hand in hand with our age, but he misses playing golf. (I digress)
Hope that ankle of yours heals perfectly and you can be back to all of your activities. Take care, Jane Austen 😉