Mom, Mei, and I stare at the behemoth before us. We have just arrived on the expansive grounds of Goodyear Aerospace. As we walk towards the entrance, we cannot help but notice in awe the massive blimp as it dominates the horizon.
“Wow, look, guys!” Mei exclaims. “Do you guys see the big balloon?”
“Look, dimwit, it’s not a balloon. It’s a blimp. And yes, we happen to see it.”
Mei has three characteristics that drive me batty but somehow endear her to others: she gets overly excited far too easily, frequently misnomers things, and states the obvious all the damn time. I usually resort to the only defense known to man when encountering such a nuisance. I ignore her.
Dad sees us through the glass door entrance and comes out to receive us. He is wearing a suit with a tie and looking more dapper than I have ever seen him outside of the black-and-white photos of him in his college days. Dad smiles broadly. He tries to look his usual calm and cool self. Still, I sense an unmistakable joy in his manner. It’s as if he has won the Scratch it Rich Arizona Lottery, been named “Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine, and received word that Hugh Hefner would like to personally invite him for a weekend at the Playboy Mansion to celebrate it all.
In danger of being joyful and eager, Dad quickly composes himself as he escorts us towards the building. Dad’s colleagues, all dressed in suits and ties in a line just beyond the entrance, wait to welcome us. As we enter, they all light up with generous smiles and applause. I haven’t received such a warmhearted ovation since our curtain call for Jesus Christ Superstar. This time it’s all just for our cast of four, with me in the lead role. I’m not sure what to do other than to smile and nod in gratitude.
Dad’s boss, Mr. Watkins, walks over and gives me a meaty handshake followed by an even more robust hug. He says, “Congratulations. We’re all so proud of you. Your dad, especially.”
“Really? He is?” I say, a tad too genuinely.
Fortunately, Mr. Watkins and everyone take it as a joke and laugh wholeheartedly.
We all walk into a conference room. Mr. Watkins introduces everyone, goes over a bit of Goodyear Aerospace’s history, and shares what the National Merit Scholarship means.
“Richard will be the first-ever National Merit Scholar to be sponsored by Goodyear Aerospace,” he announces. “Not only are we honored to do so, the company is proud to be offering a $3000 annual scholarship if he should choose Stanford and $1000 if he goes to UCLA. We provide more for Stanford because it’s damn expensive, and we don’t want Philip getting uptight about his finances. Also, as we all know from Philip, Stanford is the National Taiwan University of the West.”
Everyone, including Dad, laughs merrily. I slowly scan the room, taking it all in. Mom has a tear or two in her eyes. Mei is as mirthful as ever. Lastly, I look over at Dad. He looks so proud of me, like I just saved our family from a burning building. I decide to drink in this rarest of moments. To again see him this proud of me in the future, I imagine I’d have to find the cure for cancer and win the Nobel Prize in Medicine. At least this time around, all I had to do was work my ass off and live up to my potential, which has been Dad and Mom’s hope and standard for me all along.
On the way to Sky Harbor airport, the family sits in the car with me driving, Dad by my side, Mom and Mei in the back. On the radio, Heart’s Nancy Wilson’s scratchy yet velvety voice croons “These Dreams,” its mystical lyrics layering in a touch of surrealism to the proceedings. It’s about as picture-perfect as it has ever been for our family, and perhaps the most authentic Kodak moment we may ever experience together. Ruefully, I realize this joyous instant too shall pass, just like many moments of despair and rage from our past. Nonetheless, for now, it is ours to share and cherish. Hence, I take a snapshot of it with my mind’s eye, so I can retrieve it during the trying moments when I need to remind myself that we have been and can be a happy family from time to time.
In the snapshot, Mei hums to herself, Mom looks wistfully out the window towards the setting sun, and Dad sits serenely beside me. All the usual tension in his eyebrows, lips, neck, and shoulders have disappeared. He finds peace in the knowledge that, at least for the time being, his intemperate American son can work hard, stay focused, and maybe, just maybe, turn out just fine one day after all. I’m glad I can give him this one moment of tranquility, to provide for him what he needs most deep down inside after all he has done for me.
“Dark clouds roll in from the West,” Mei notes quietly. It’s a rare moment of lyricism for her. I look to my right, and indeed the clouds look ominous as they tend to do before the heavy rains of summer.
Perhaps they are a harbinger for the storms that will invariably rock and roil our family over and again. I know Dad’s temper will clap like Thor’s hammer around me soon enough in the future. Nevertheless, I enjoy a quiet epiphany: if the love of Mom is like sunshine rain, might the love of Dad be like an Arizona mid-summer thunderstorm? Terrible and mighty, but necessary for the desert to bloom?
Richard and his family live in Shanghai, where he writes, supports his wife’s philanthropic efforts, and ensures their two teens and one toddler don’t sit on any of their nine hamsters. His work has appeared or will appear in Sonora Review,The Dillydoun Review, The Write Launch, Potato Soup Journal, Prometheus Dreaming,The Adelaide Literary Magazine, and other literary magazines. He can reached via his author website at Richard-c-lin-author.com. He is a proud member of the highly selective ROOTS. WOUNDS. WORDS. Penning My Piecesfamily of emerging BIPOC authors. “Desert Bloom” is from Richard’s debut memoir, ARIZONA AWAKENING, to be published in Fall 2023.