Stalled, sinking into memory, she stares at the screen door willing her Dad to come through and rescue her. A sudden, jolt of adrenalin, reminds her to breathe and Daisy surfaces. Standing up, her legs rip free of the tacky vinyl. Maybe they got something wrong. She checks his bedroom. But all she finds is the laundry basket she abandoned when the news broke that afternoon, clothes in piles on the bed, mid-sort. Nuzzling the Yoda t-shirt, he wore yesterday, she still can’t find him, his essence washed away.
Gently resting Yoda in a dresser drawer, she discovers a small box, wrapped in birthday paper. The bow tempts her, as though he were still coaxing her to take the next step, even if she feels it isn’t time, even it’s not her birthday yet. Sitting at the edge of his bed she slowly unwraps the box and lifts the lid. Laying on a bed of blue tissue paper is a keychain, an oval piece of thick leather embossed with an idyllic beach scene, palms, ocean and sand. A blue key to match the water, a green one for the palms. Symbolism Dad named, born from an old Hawaii travel poster that had always been in Daisy’s room— Mom was the ocean, he had always been the palms, still standing.
The note reads, “You are launched, my Grasshopper! Milly is your girl now. Love, Dad”
As if summoned, she works her way barefoot across the gritty beach pavement, sticky with spilled soda and ice creams, to the parking spaces. Reverently, she takes her place at Milly’s helm.
The aroma of last week’s spilled coffee, mixed with the pineapple coconut scent of the hula girl air freshener, invites her to tuck into the bucket seat; allowing the familiar grip and bumpy texture to embrace her like her father’s arms. Clutching the smooth, leather flap of the key chain, she realizes she holds his faith in her.
Rubbing her thumb back and forth across the etched palms and ocean, remembering the day before, heart pounding, hands slippery with panic, she crudely navigated the Mustang between the two narrowly spaced poles of their beach alley carport. She can hear Dad’s voice, even and calm, guiding her, “Use the force, Daze. Just move forward. You got this.”
As the tide begins to rise, the swell to crest, she pulls on the steering wheel, throwing her head back to roar, at last, her first wave of tears. The first of a ferocious set that surge and crash all the dark night.
At dawn the torrents subside, she steadies, adjusting and swaying with the currents she reconstitutes, more ready and able to take on the next. “I feel you, Dad. I got this.