July 13, 2019
It was pretty clear, when he sprang forth like the border collie who had been crated in the underbelly of our plane for an entire day, that Dad was excited to have landed at Ted Steven’s airport. Because my brother Jack was saddled with Dad’s duffle bag (which coincidentally does not have wheels – because that would be convenient!), my father skipped his way through the terminal on his way to the rental car company. No amount of gentle comments, full-on remarks, attentive shouts, and (finally) whistles could get my father to slow down. He was determined to get his wheels and settle into the 49th state.
I should say, as a little detour, that I have always kind of wondered who my dad’s “tribe” was. He is, after a soft-spoken man who prefers the solitude of fly fishing to social company. When he calls me on the phone, it’s never just to chat; it’s “Do you have a minute to go over something.” And now that he has caught onto the art of texting, his favorite (and probably his ONLY) emoji is the thumbs up. As an introvert myself, my dad’s quirks have never really bothered me, but I can see how other people have some trouble trying to figure him out.
In some ways, I have wondered over the years if my dad is a man without a tribe, a Lone Ranger, if you will. I mean, he has his family who loves and understands him. I’m not suggesting that there’s something wrong with him. But, I haven’t really seen him bond with people in the way that – say my brother bonds with nerdy nerds, or that I bond with —- well, — other type of nerds. This disconnect has kind of been on my mind now that Dad is retired and has had to go out of his way to talk to people. I have to say though, since I have spent a little bit of time in the great state of Alaska, some of that trepidation has been swept away.
I say this because I am beginning to realize that Alaska is the land of Pop Pop Andersons!
No other state has so many men worshipping at the altars of quick-dry polyester, zip-pant-shorts, taxidermied animals and the sport of fishing. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of road-side turn-offs devoted to watching fish swim up and down a creek. In some ways these turn-offs remind me of the small community altars of the Mediterranean who worship a particular saint or deity. In short, Alaska is the land of my father’s people.
Our first day in this great 49th state did not disappoint. Dad brought us up to the ski mountains of Alyeska. We took the tram up the mountain and then hiked up to the tippity top where we found snow and a glacier stream. It was a nice hike, and Dad was a good sport when I asked him to take it slow going down the mountain. Jack, on the other hand, decided to scale another peak and had a near-death experience whilst hugging a pole so as to not fall down the side of the mountain. Dad and I watched from a safe and reasonable distance.
“I bet he wishes he were wearing his hiking boots right about now,” were my very words.
Low and behold, when Jack made his way back to us, a little sweatier than when he parted, he said (and I quote) “I kind of wish I was wearing my hiking boots.”
Our second stop of the day was Portage Lake where we boarded a boat that brought us to see where the Portage Glacier calves. I’m not sure that I’m using that word correctly, but I can assure you that the sight was something to behold. How can ice and snow, teeming with bacteria and dust and centuries of history, plow over the mountains and carve them into landscapes nothing like they were before? Just breathtaking.
We ended our day with a walk around Anchorage and a look at Cook’s Inlet, a dinner at the 49 Street Brewery and an obligatory stop at Costco because — well, it’s Costco.
I sign off (at 11 p.m. and still daylight!) grateful to have spent this day with my dad and brother. My dad clearly has a connection to this beautiful state and my brother keeps a good spotify playlist to add to moments. And, bonus points, I got carded twice! All in all – a day to remember.