Not many things rise to the dubious honor of equaling those hours immediately before taking a day long trip on some airliner for disorientation and a good measure of well deserved anxiety. I know people who see this period as one big party and who look forward to the preparation phase of pre-trip activity. Maybe you’re one of those people. If so then you can go clean out the garage.

Actually, I’m not going anywhere, but CA is. For days now she has been trying on clothes and estimating temperatures in warmer climes. As I said, I’m not going, but there’s no way that I am not involved in this get ready phase of our imminent separation. “What does this look like?” “It looks great”. I say. “Do you think these jeans are a little big?” I say, “You’re going into a system where they eat three squares a day. Pack ’em.” She says, “I need to go pick out some earrings.” That’ll take care of he next hour and a half. It goes on like that all day.

On departure day, the car is packed and we leave early enough that she will have at least an hour and a half to sit and read before boarding her airplane. But you never know just how crowded things will be so you go early and wait. It’s what you do.

Maybe you remember those days when taking someone to the airport meant you walked right into the terminal with them and sat and watched the big jets come and go. OK, they weren’t big jets in those days, but you get my drift. You walked with them to a gate on the tarmac and, in sight of the air-stairs leading up to the cabin on the Super Convair or the D-C 6 or whatever, and watched them walk out and climb into the silver tube to turn and waive from the door like a departing dignitary. Then they were swallowed up in that waiting machine shivering with untold potential energy that would soon lift it into the clouds. We always stood there to watch the departure. The engines would roll over and as the airplane turned away we would be buffeted by the dusty prop wash and feel involved in the event. We would say stuff like, “We saw them off at the airport”. That meant we watched them get on the airplane and take off and disappear into the sky.

This morning I drove into the departure lane at our slick new terminal in Portland which, like most airports now, seem to be designed to disguise the fact that you are about to get into a sealed container and rocket off to 30,000 feet at 500 miles per hour without a parachute.

At the curb I hauled out her bag and set it up and extended the handle for her. We embraced and held each other for a moment. We mumbled the required phrases, “Have fun, be careful”. “Stay in touch”. “Let’s talk.” “Call when you get settled down there.” She trundled off into the terminal. I closed the hatch and got in the car and drove off. I always feel that there is something missing here.

For all I know she could still be there waiting for her ride to have a flat tire fixed or something. She’s probably nodding off while reading her book. I’m sure she’ll call if she needs me. I mean, where’s the romance in that? A little dusty prop wash would have made me feel much better about thiings.

I don’t know it it’s true – the idea that most children want to leave home and family to escape constant supervision and caring. I lean toward the “true” side of the question. Why not? Who does not wish to be free and boundless in the world? But then comes dinner time and who takes care of that now? There are other things, but you get my point.

I used to sit in the crown of that wonderful live oak tree on the corner by the house in which I grew up. I spent un-numbered hours in that lofty place on the platform I built there to be away from the world and to be in a world of my own making at the same time. I listened to the sounds of the Kellogg Cracking units about a mile from my perch, in the Standard Oil Refinery. They were the machinery that cooked crude oil until it yielded gasoline, kerosene, motor oil and the many other esters that flashed off at the top of the still.

Sometimes in the evening, after my mother had called for me, I would wait for the sounds of the freight train that chugged out of the refinery at that time to make its way to the world beyond. How I wished to be on that train to anywhere. Those were the war years. I imagined that the gasoline in those tank cars was powering those P–47s and P–38s that flew past my house from Harding Field only a few miles north of my observation post.

There was a time then when I realized that if that war lasted much longer, I would be in it. As it was, my pals and I collected kitchen grease, news paper, scrap metal and other materials that were said to be of value to the war effort. It was a different time. We felt like we were actually a part of the effort. These days, in times of conflict, we rely on General Dynamics, Halliburton, McDonald Douglass and a number of other defense contractors to keep us safe.

I don’t know anybody who is collecting kitchen grease for the Afghanistan war effort. I wonder if it would help. We were told that grease was used to make explosives. I never knew if that was true. We were told that it was important. We were motivated. We were kids. I know i have said it but, we felt, at the time, that we were part of the action.

I am much older now. I have seen wars come and go. Not once since those early 1940s has anyone ever suggested that kitchen grease would help anything at all. I’m not sure it ever did. But it was good for me and my pals. It made us feel like we were making a difference. I’s worth noting that not once did anyone confirm that our effort helped anything. It was, as much as anything, an act of faith. We collected hundreds of gallons of the stuff, by the way. We believed.

We won the war. We found ourselves on the threshold of an age of progress and prosperity. Johnny came marching home again. The world breathed a sigh of relief. Then there was Korea. Then there was Eisenhower. Everybody seemed to like Ike! No one even knew where Viet Nam was.

So, have we learned anything? I mean besides the obvious value of kitchen grease in the larger scheme of things?

You tell me.