My First Week in the O.C.: A Rocky Start

It’s been a while since I last posted here, and it’s safe to say that a lot has changed in the past couple months. I accepted an exciting position at a biotech company in Southern California and moved my entire life to the west coast.

The drive from Houston, TX to Santa Ana, CA takes about 22 hours. I volunteered my father to help me make the drive. We agreed that, with my cat in the car and questions around his ability to handle long hours in a [relatively] confined space, 3 days of almost 8 hours driving would be best.

For our first night, we stayed in Fort Stockton, TX, a small town in the middle of nowhere where the “best’ restaurant happened to be closed the night we were there. The second night, we stayed in Tucson, AZ, where we ended our driving at 3PM, thanks to two crossed time zones heading west.

My grandfather’s health had been rapidly deteriorating in the last days leading up to our departure from Houston. My mother had gone to Tennessee to be with him and her brothers while my father (and cat) and I headed west. The morning of our last day of driving, I woke up to a missed call from my mother and I knew my Opa was gone. Through tears, she confirmed this and told us the funeral would likely be in a few days.

My father and I set off for our final drive, not knowing how long we would be in Santa Ana before needing to fly back across the country. In the few moments when our drive through the desert allowed for cell service, I learned that the funeral would be on Wednesday (it was Sunday), and that my brother and sister-in-law were planning to arrive on Tuesday night. My uncles and aunts were already there and my cousins would be flying in from Washington & Germany late Tuesday. I checked the flights between Santa Ana and Tennessee (TN), and with my plans to move into my apartment on Monday morning, a Tuesday morning departure made the most sense.

On Sunday night, I called the electricity company to make sure my apartment would have power the next day, and the gas company, only to be informed that a service technician wouldn’t be available until the next week. I also called an airline to arrange my father and my’s flights to TN. For the most part, the airline rep was very accommodating and considerate of our circumstances. She seemed to understand that my father would be flying one-way to TN (then driving back to TX with my mother), and I would be returning to California.

Monday morning, my father and I, along with my cat and trailer full of boxes, arrived at my new home. My empty apartment looked as I expected it to and my father and I unloaded all of the boxes from the trailer before lunch time. After taking a long lunch, my father found humor in my priority to set up internet in my place, rather than using that time to stock it with food. Despite his teasing, I knew that my father had been indispensable in helping me make this move, and I was grateful to my mother for supporting him coming with me when I knew she would have appreciated his presence with her in TN.

Before dawn Tuesday morning, my father and I were at the airport, in time to board the first of our flights. For our second flight, I was ahead of my father in line to board, and didn’t see him come in behind me. I assumed he’d gotten a seat closer to the front and had sat down before I’d gotten settled. With a supposedly completely booked flight, I was confused to have the seat next to me open.

Five minutes after everyone else had sat down, my father boarded the plane and come down the aisle to explain that the “helpful” airline rep I’d spoken to Sunday night had booked my father and I on two different flights into TN. Because there had been a no-show on my flight (hence the empty seat next to me), the airline had changed his flight to mine. His luggage was to arrive with the originally booked flight but, as that one was to land before mine, it was going to be waiting for him at the airport when we arrived.

After some unnecessary, though comical, complications while choosing our rental car in TN, my father and I got to Jackson, TN, where my grandfather spent the last couple decades of his long life. We picked up my mother and had an uneventful dinner. It was the first time I felt like I could stop moving in about 5 days.

My entire family was booked to stay at a particular hotel which, upon arriving after dinner, my mother and I learned that the reservation for my room had been accidentally cancelled by an employee who couldn’t be reached, and that they were fully booked for the night, so I’d need to find accommodations elsewhere. Thankfully, the hotel next door had a room available so I took that, cleaned up, and promptly fell asleep.

My grandfather’s funeral was the next morning and I met up with my family in their hotel lobby before setting off for the funeral home. It was raining terribly outside, so the service wasn’t hugely attended, but every one who needed to be there was there. We all went out to Opa’s favorite BBQ joint for lunch after. Tears were shed at the service, but the gathering after consisted wholly of food and laughter, just as Opa would have wanted it. This side of my family is very spread out, so when we do get together, we don’t waste any time.

To assuage some tension with my mother after cancelling my room, their hotel gave us a meeting room to gather, talk, drink, and watch the last World Series game. My cousin and I, the youngest in the family, set up the live feed for the baseball game while the others debated what kind of pizzas to order for dinner. The liquor of choice was bourbon, Opa’s favority, and was mixed or drank straight by everyone in the family. I stayed as long as I could manage, but the Astros were losing, and I needed to be ready the next morning at 3AM to head to the airport with my brother and sister-in-law. My flights back to California went smoothly and I was back in my new apartment by noon that day.

Continue on to Part 2: Unlikely Experiences

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