We’ve never met our 3-year-old granddog, Ava, but Gil and I will be face-to-face with her when she arrives in La Cañada on Saturday, no doubt weary from her exhausting duty as co-pilot on a 2,100-mile road trip that’s bringing our daughter Kae home from Louisville.
We don’t know how long the two of them will be with us; our plan is to offer shelter and TLC for as long as they need it. Kae had loved her time in the Bluegrass State, where she moved in the summer of 2009 so she could attend law school at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. She found out relatively quickly that field of study wasn’t an ideal fit for her, then tried her hand at a culinary arts school in Louisville. We have a longtime family friend who lives just across the Ohio River in southern Indiana, so there was a level of comfort in our minds when she announced that particular move — she would at least have her Auntie Babs to call on if she needed the wisdom of a nearby elder.
Our daughter has been supporting herself throughout, studying and juggling up to three jobs at a time, managing to keep a roof over her head, shoes on her feet and ample amounts of dog food in Ava’s bowl. One time she had enough funds saved up so she could come home for a brief visit. That was in 2010, shortly after my sister — whom she adored — died, and Kae, grieving, craved the solace of family. Gil and I were very happy to see her, despite the sad circumstances. But that was too brief a visit and we never managed to make the cross-country trip in her direction in the intervening years.
Every year when her apartment lease was nearing its end, I’d plead with her to consider relocating closer to our home. “All I’m asking is that you move somewhere within an eight-hour drive,” I’d beg.
Secretly, I worried she’d fall head-over-heels in love with someone and become a confirmed Southerner before I could woo her back here. Though a few suitors tried, she gave them barely enough time to become acquainted before shooing them away. Nonetheless, she had a fair argument for continuing to make her way there, where the cost of living is much lower. She reasoned she would not be likely to find such an affordable apartment in her native state. So there she stayed with Ava, a beagle mix she rescued from a shelter. They were content.
Until, that is, the infamous polar vortex descended on that region this year, followed by ungodly amounts of pollen. Apparently it’s not just the male population there that Kae had an aversion to. She had struggled each allergy season over the past few years and had learned from a specialist that she is allergic to virtually everything that grows in Kentucky. But this late winter/early spring nearly did our poor daughter in. While on the phone with me she said, between some fairly gross throat-clearings, that her bedside table was loaded up with nine different medications to combat her allergic reactions and related bronchial infections. I sensed she was caving. I knew her lease would be up at the end of May. One night, when she was in tears over her severe allergies, I was poised to ask if she thought this would be a good time to head to the arid West. But before I could even form the question, she muttered, “I just want to come home.”
The next day I heard a televised news report that claimed Louisville is “ground zero” for the extreme allergy season this spring. I wasted no time in calling Kae and telling her it was time to get out. She agreed and started the process: giving notice at her jobs, letting the rental management company know she would be leaving her apartment, having her old sedan checked out, giving away possessions that she would not be able to stuff into it, saying goodbye to Auntie Babs. She and Ava took off Wednesday for a four-day journey with overnight stays in Arkansas, Texas and Arizona. Assuming it all goes as planned we will be reunited this weekend and, for the first time in more than three years, I will hold our only offspring’s hand.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to let go.
CAROL CORMACI is the managing editor. Email her at email@example.com.