August 31, 2010

Simply Lucky

Last week, when I was out of town on a business trip I got a text message from Raka.

“Dad, are you home next Tuesday?”
“No baby, back Tuesday evening.”
“Can you come a little earlier, I have a Tuesday at 6:30 with my knee doctor.”
I was pre-occupied, but paused for a second and realized this was important. I did not think and sent her a text back, “will make it happen.”
I got a short reply back from her, “Thanks.”

That started the tone for the last few days. That evening after all my meetings, I started planning what I could do. My original plan was to fly Monday to Burbank, stay at a hotel next to the airport, and then rent a car and drive to meet my client next morning near the LAX airport. After the meeting on Tuesday I was planning to drive back to the Burbank airport and fly back home that evening. As I was paying for out of pocket on this trip, it was important to keep cost down.

First I called only to realize that the whole trip was a package deal and even if they tried, they could not change any of the elements. Hence my only hope of making it back on time was to get a direct flight out of LAX. I got my first lucky break when my client agreed to move the meeting from 9:00 am to 8:00 am. That meant if I was done by 10 am, there was a good chance I could take a direct flight back from LAX airport to Denver. I got a cheap one-way ticket and was committed to give this my best try, but I was not sure I would be able to be there for Raka.

Monday evening I landed in beautiful Burbank, California with one task in hand. I needed the car rental company to allow me to return the car at LAX instead of Burbank. The person behind the counter at Alamo car rental was very helpful. He kept punching all the keys on his keyboard and then would pause with his eyebrows raised indicating, “It is not happening.” Finally he talked to his supervisor to explain to me that my package had a SUV and they do not allow an SUV to be returned to a different location. Instead he can rent me a small car and charge me a drop fee if I wanted to return at LAX. I asked them to downgrade me to any car so that I can return the car at LAX. The word downgrade surprised him. He said he can upgrade but is not authorized to downgrade me. Now to me this was funny. Every time I rent a car, every car rental company gives me upgrade offers but when it is convenient for me to downgrade, they simply refuse to work with me.

Now the practical side of me kicked in. I thought that it was time to give up as I had reached a threshold, but I decided to try a little more, against my comfort zone. I bit the bullet and paid extra to rent the car for a one-way trip to LAX.

Then after dinner when I got to the hotel, Raka called me.
“Dad, did Mom call you?”
I said “No, why?”
Raka said, “Dad my knee is not doing so well! It is swollen. I really need to see the doctor tomorrow. Are you sure you will be here?”

Hearing my little princess in distress is all I needed to motivate myself. I was so glad that I had not given up.

So this morning, I woke up early so that I could drive to LAX a few hours before my meeting and scope the place out and make a plan. As I came to the airport, I realized that the meeting was next to a Westin Hotel and the car rental return was 3 miles away. Returning car before the meeting would only make it easier for me to get to the airport. As I was going through all this planning, I felt I was in the Amazing Race TV show. It was exciting to arrange for a ride from the car rental place to the hotel and now I was at my final leg of the journey.

Now the meeting (yes, the main reason I was in LA) started on time and everything followed as plan and I was done at 10 am. I had 90 minutes to get to my gate. I was nearly sure that I would make it. That is when the CEO I was meeting with told me that shuttle would take at least 30 minutes and he asked me to dash with him so he could give me a ride. Wow! I was thrilled. As he rushed me to the airport, I thanked him repeatedly. He pulled into the airport drop-off area, smiled and said, “Run now and take care of your daughter.”

Everything else went smoothly. My flight landed on time and I picked up Raka and right now we are sitting at a Starbucks across the doctor’s office. She is doing her homework as I type the story of my adventure. Simply amazing. Here is a picture of the amazing visual. I guess I am soaking up this moment. I did not give up, even though I have to confess I was very close to giving up, quite a few times.

Now all I want is the doctor to fix her knee so she can get back to running soon.

August 10, 2010

{If You Build It, She Will Come!}

Last weekend I walked out to the backyard to see how my grapevines were doing.  I planted them two years back to begin collecting vines for grapes of different flavors.  My vision was that one of these days the vine would completely cover the lattice behind it and bear fruit.  Raka would look forward to coming to the house to pluck grapes and enjoy the taste of fresh juicy grapes.  I have to confess, being a Godfather fan, I could even see myself hanging out around the vines with my grandchild. (No Raka, please, there is no rush.)

As I walked down to the vines and started clearing the area I noticed the most beautiful grapes hanging from a vine.  Wow, in only two years I am producing grapes.  The more I started looking around the more I saw small groups of grapes everywhere.  I had to show it to Raka.

That evening Raka came back home after a long day of camp and then art.  After exchanging pleasantries, I nearly dragged her to the back yard.  The proud Mr. Green Thumb Dad showed Raka the first harvest of grapes.  Raka was fascinated, excited, and she asked me, “Can these be eaten?”  I started plucking a few grapes from the vine, selecting the best for her thinking I knew what I was doing.  Then I handed over the grapes to her and kept one for me.

We went back inside to the kitchen and Raka washed them and tried a couple.  She smiled and said, “They are a little sour.”  I was ready now.  I was so excited that Raka got a chance to taste the first grapes.  Now was my turn.  I bit into the grapes and felt a 1000-volt of shock running through me at the sour taste.  I looked at Raka and she was smiling as she said, “I told you that they were a little sour.”

I nodded my head, and trashed the semi-eaten grapes.  I admired Raka for tasting these sour grapes and playing along with me.  A simply amazing moment.

That evening as I started reliving the moment, I realized that this was not the first time Raka has celebrated my green adventures.  In 2006, I was trying to work on a vegetable garden.  The big harvest was a cabbage, it was simply gigantic.  As Raka and I harvested, she posed for me as I took a picture of her holding the cabbage.  Right after the picture was taken she ran to the kitchen and put the cabbage in the sink and turned the water on.  The cabbage was full of worms.  That day I had admired Raka for being a good sport and helping me create special moments out of nothing.  I am glad I saved the picture and you can see for yourself my worm eaten monster cabbage.  Of course if you take your eyes off the cabbage and look at the most wonderful part of the picture, you will see Raka’s proud smile.  She is proud of her dad growing a big worm-filled cabbage.

Thanks Raka.  I love you!

August 3, 2010

{Instant Rewards in an Uneventful Day}

Today I started work at home with plans that it would be a stay at home day.  The day started slow as I was not feeling at the top of my health. Of course my eyes were on the clock on the wall as I waited for 3 o’clock in the afternoon to come.  Raka was supposed to be home then for a few minutes before she went to her mother’s place for the evening.

My sluggish day finally found urgency when the clock eventually got to 2:30 pm. I decided to get showered and ready, but as I was coming down the stairs I realized that Raka was already home.  She had walked in and started to call me on my phone since I was not in my office nor was I at the door to greet her.

After a hug, she looked at me and said, “Dad, let's go!”  I was thoroughly confused.  I did not have any plans to go out.  I was planning to spend a few minutes with Raka while she was in the house, then get back to work.  I liked Raka’s idea to go out, but where were we going?

Raka explained that we are going to Boulder to see her physical therapist.  I thought that appointment was tomorrow, but Raka said, “No Dad, it's today.  Let’s go.”

I asked for a few minutes since her favorite chicken pot-pie was still in the final stages of cooking.  I made a cup of coffee for myself and soon I was in the car, off to Boulder.

Raka was hungry.  She finished the pot-pie but as always did not eat the crust.  She then drank her mango juice and opened her laptop to work on her essay.  I thought to myself, “What a life!”  I was talking about Raka’s life, but soon I would realize that my quality of life is also quite special.

As we were driving to Boulder, Raka started telling me about her day.  We discussed her first semester of classes for her senior year.  She informed me about the IB extended essay question that she was working on.  I was hoping she would read her essay to me, but Raka was startled and said, “Dad, it is a 4,000 word essay, and I am only at 1,000 words..."

As I started listening to Raka’s P.O.V. on what U.N. should do about Tibet, I realized one more time how mature my daughter has become.  Her research was thorough and her point of view had strong rationale behind it.  Simply amazing.  The rest of the journey to Boulder and back we talked and she shed more light on the issues and events in her life.  Finally, as I ran out of smart conversation topics, she started multi-tasking: listening to music, playing solitaire, texting her friends, and talking to me.  My baby is now a cool teenager.  As I admired this cool teenager next to me, I realized how lucky I was to be able to work from home, to be able to drop everything at a moment’s notice to enjoy this special, uneventful day.

I guess the reward comes, I just had to be patient as I never expected the day to turn out this way. I get to go to bed with tons of memories, smiling as I relive our conversation.

{On the Road With My Daughter}