The best conversations are at 1:30 am

It’s Sunday night, Monday morning.  In less than 24 hours, my daughter Cassaundra will be on a plane, returning to Washington State.

The visit meant a lot – but it went by too quickly.

And it’s 1:30 in the morning, and neither of us can sleep.  Cassaundra’s watching the second season of Once Upon a Time on her computer.  I’m battling insomnia, which normally would require me to go to the refrigerator, pour a glass of chilled water from a Ruck-branded growler, have a few sips, and go back to sleep.

That evening, in that moment, when we’re both in the living room… we talk about things that have been part of our lives.

We discuss our successes and our troubles.  We discuss what we want from our lives – happiness and success and joy – and how we plan on getting there.

We’ve had these conversations during this ten-day visit of hers to the Capital District.  We’ve talked when I picked her up at the airport last week, and we talked over a meal at Bob’s Diner in Watervliet.  She tells me about how her life has gone in the past three years – how she survived unimaginable horrors and made instant choices that saved other lives.  Things that she never told me before.

We had these conversations a week ago, when I brought her to the trivia game at the Ruck.  A picture is snapped of us.  A few days later, I receive the picture and post it on my Facebook page.  Cassaundra has her bubbly, goofy smile, I have that look of – well, I’m never actually sure HOW I look.  But the picture looks great.  And as for trivia, we came in third place, and Cassaundra now has a Ruck T-shirt and some bar souvenirs.  Into the suitcase they go.

And we had these conversations last Saturday, when she and I drove to Saugus to pay our respects – and to meet up with my Aunt Elaine, who drove down from her antique shop in New Hampshire to join us for Chinese food at the Kowloon Restaurant.  Trust me.  The Kowloon has this great “tiki-lounge” atmosphere, but none of us were that impressed with the food.

On the way to Saugus, Cassaundra and I play a driving game to pass the time.  After seeing two different New York State Trooper “pull-overs,” and after both of us sing the theme song from COPS as the troopers write up tickets to those stupid speeders, we tried to estimate how many more cop cars would pull over speeding motorists between here and Saugus.  Cassaundra said ten cop cars, I said eight.  Loser would buy the winner a beverage.  Wouldn’t you know it – there were actually NINE pull-overs.  House wins.

We talked about how our football teams would do this weekend.  She’s a New York Giants fan, and she’s about as cheezed off about Eli Manning’s performance this year, as I am about my injury-riddled Pittsburgh Steelers front line.

But this time, the conversation was different.  This wasn’t my little girl any more.  This was a 27-year-old woman who has her own life and her own dreams and her own desires and her own fears.

And me?  I’ve just crossed the 50-yard-line toward the end zone, and am entering new chapters in my life as well.

And I thought to myself how different things were three years ago, when Cassaundra and her then-girlfriend Kelsie came for a visit.  So many different things.  And between that time and now, the fire and hell that Cassaundra went through.   The breakup.  The turmoil.  And how she came out, surviving all those demons, and emerging only slightly singed.  And trust me, that’s not a pun.

We talk and we share.  She tells me things that happened to her in the past three years since her last visit.  I tell her that she’s definitely a Miller, born of hearty stock.  It’s a mantra between us.  We joke about how tough we really are, that we can rip the bark off of trees and use the bark for the soles of our shoes.

We smile.  Then she goes back to watching reruns of Once Upon a Time on her computer, I start to drift – insomnia is battling sleepiness – and I head back to my bed.

It’s Monday afternoon, and before we head to the airport, Cassaundra and I make a couple of pit-stops.  First off – a visit to the Freihofer bakery outlet on Fuller Road.  She picks up a couple of packages of Freihofer’s Corn Toasties and two boxes of Freihofer’s chocolate chip cookies.  Okay, YOU try to find those delicacies in Seattle.

Then, we visit the Times Union main office.  She meets blogboss Michael Huber, and impresses him with her thoughts and statements and ideas about what her generation reads in terms of news and entertainment.  I swear, there were moments in that conversation where I thought Huber would actually offer her a blog page of her own.  Wouldn’t that be something.

Then it’s off to the airport.  We get her two bags to the Southwest Airlines counter – one of the bags is over 50 pounds, but since Cassaundra has her military ID, the overage fee is waived.  We hug.  And then she heads to the TSA screeners and I head to the parking lot.

It’s hard to say goodbye.  I would love for her to stay a few more days.  But her life is in Washington State with Katie and some animals she and Katie have rescued.  Asking her to return to the Capital District would be like asking me to return to Massachusetts.  It’s part of what makes us who we are.  Acknowledge the past.  Embrace the future.

Monday night, Tuesday morning.  1:30 a.m.  I wake up.  My desktop computer still has flightaware.com on my Firefox browser.  Southwest flight 1644.  Chicago to Seattle, the second leg of her flight.  Arrived in Washington State on time.

She made it home.

Let’s face it.  We can still keep in touch with Skype and Facebook, and I can still call her whenever I need to.

And hopefully the next time she’s in the Capital District.  she can stay for as long as she wants.

And I miss her already.