Monday, May 1, 2017

Back to Iceport, and Then Beyond

I was weirdly sanguine about moving to Arctic State, even after the big transition that took me from the suburbs to the tundra in the space of a couple of days.

This isn't such a big deal, I thought, parka clad and a whole week into my time in White Venice. The weather isn't terrible if you dress for it. And it's isolated, but there's Internet and everything you need. There are people to talk to. I don't get why this drives people crazy.

About three weeks later, I understood why it drove them crazy. The same faces and the same routine, day after day and week after week. The tortured planning required to obtain basic necessities. The sheer distance from family, from friends, from anyone. The time and the space to get lost in your own head. And I'd fallen into a funk.

So when my father proposed, as he is wont to do, gallivanting across the North American continent on a lark, I was quick to embrace what I otherwise would have (rightly) regarded as an irresponsible expenditure.

"Your birthday is soon, anyway," he reasoned. "Robin and I can come up to Iceport and see you. We'll pay for your flight and hotel. Do you want to do this?"

Yes. Yes, I did.

And so on Friday, April 14, four days after I turned 29, I savored the sweetest sight I'd ever seen, muttered a few prayers, and hopped aboard the rickety Cessna tasked with spiriting me across the tundra. And I was Iceport bound.

The weekend was what I needed on so many levels. First of all, it got me out of the snow-flecked bubble in which I'd gradually been going insane, something my father picked up on in our conversations leading up to the meeting. 

"I don't think you're excited to see me," he quipped. "I think you're excited to see a 7/11."

And there was definitely some truth in that. The hotel room he'd paid for was gorgeous, a silk-and-satin affair perched twenty stories over downtown Iceport, with a sunlit window through which I could scan the entire city while reclining on a fluffy queen bed. I went and got my hair done. I wandered into coffee shops. I spent a gratuitous amount of money on sushi. And I, a social butterfly, soaked up every single moment of the human interaction. And of the running water.

But it was also nice to see my father. Earlier readers of this site will know that he and I have had a complicated and painful relationship, some of the most difficult chapters of which were recorded on this page. For a long time, and with good reason, I chose not to speak to him. Moving 4,000 miles from home has a way of focusing your priorities, however, and one dark weekend on the tundra I had to ask myself: Is being right worth not having a father? Is it worth carrying this weariness? Is it worth getting a call one day, a decade or two from now, that the man who raised me had died?

In light of his remorse, and of his changed behavior, I decided that the answer to that question was no. That doesn't mean things he did in the past are all right, or that a repeat of them would be acceptable. It means I've chosen to forgive someone who asked for forgiveness, and to accept a flawed man without illusions as to his nature. Which nature, incidentally, he chose to reveal again during my birthday getaway. 

"Listen, we got married Wednesday, just so you're not blindsided."

That news came after he and his new wife had already landed and were driving to the hotel where I'd just checked in. And it came by text message.

Dad and Robin met in January, decided soon after they were soulmates, and then embarked on a wildly accelerated relationship because "you know when you know." I've heard of such spontaneous marriages working out before, and I hope against hope this one does, too. Because now the thing is done.

"I didn't tell you because I knew you'd say I should pull back and take it slow," he informed me serenely over a dinner of seafood and Cabernet Sauvignon. He looked over at Robin, whom, I reflected with some degree of hilarity, was now technically my stepmother. "BB is like that."

I took one giant gulp of red wine.

"Well, Dad, that is what I would have told you," I said. "But now that it's happened, I'm rooting for you 100%. Because now you guys are tied in all sorts of legal ways."

Robin smiled warmly.

"Well, that means a lot to us," she said. "Your dad makes me really happy."

And he has, as usual, managed to bag a woman who's way, way above his pay grade. I love the man, but I seriously don't get it. His previous wife, my adoptive mother, was a career woman who singlehandedly sustained a family of four children while he was wandering from one short-term job to another, and struggling with addiction half the time to boot (though she compensated for that by being, well, a little bit psychotic). His girlfriend before Robin was a businesswoman with a pricey education and a pricier CV. And now he's married an airline executive with a master's degree, two accomplished adult children (one of whom she put through college at considerable personal sacrifice), a job so demanding that my eyes practically watered just hearing her typical workday, and a disposition that, by most accounts, makes her genuinely sweet and considerate. This is a driven and prolific individual.

"Yeah," Thomas cracked. "I don't know what the hell she's doing with Dad."

Time will tell. For his sake, for hers, and for that of everyone involved, I hope they're able to make it work. Sometimes a person really is good for another, and she seems like she might be good for him. 

Meanwhile, the rapidly closing school year has left me with a big decision to make about where I'll be starting in the fall. Today, after careful consideration, I accepted a contract from a school district adjacent to the one I'm in now. It was a bit of a dilemma, but the little village of Gory felt like a good fit, and it's a decision I'm satisfied with. 

Other decisions need making, too, as we have a little under two weeks of school left--astonishing--and I need to know where I'm living when I return to the Lower 48 on or around May 19. To that end, I've dispatched Thomas to investigate an apartment that so perfectly fits my needs I suspect it may in fact be a crack den in disguise. That possibility discounted, I'll be living alone in a spacious two-bedroom place with laundry, kitchen, furniture, and scenic view for a cool $1,000 a month.

Not a bad deal.

Sometimes I look around and don't know how the hell I got here. But it's impossible not to feel I'm at the beginning of something really good.