Out the window of the small jet I stare. The skies become gray. The ground below is scarred and dotted with waste from a long dead coal industry. I don’t need the pilot’s announcement to let me know we are nearing AVP. The jet begins a steep downward trajectory. Culm rises up to meet us as we hit a tarmac that is just short of hell.
An over-sized and pseudo-modern airport has replaced the one from which I departed all those years ago. In a desperate attempt to be modern, money that would have been better spent on people, was disposed of into a hulking, nearly empty, corrupt politician’s boondoggle. Only death could bring me back to this area that the grim reaper calls home. I don’t have to bother with the baggage carousel since I only have my carry on. Dad is waiting at the bottom of the escalator. He looks so lost without mom. They have been inseparable their entire married life. He tries to smile. With seemingly great effort, he lifts his hand to wave. He has aged so much since I have last seen him.
I embrace him, and he embraces me.
His tears dampen my shirt.
I’ve missed my dad.
The viewing is well attended. My parents are well respected and well loved. They are good people and good people come to support my dad in this terrible time. Everyone is kind and compassionate and all ask if I am going to now come back home. I smile and noncommittally nod and shrug my shoulders.
At Dad’s, the quantity of food sent to the house could feed a small army. After everyone leaves, he and I take the bulk of the food to a new family across the street. Dad tells me they have fallen on hard times. Both had good jobs, but returned home to be closer to family. He knows it won’t last forever, but it could save them on groceries for two weeks.
They are very grateful.
I see in them the trap of the area.
Good people stuck in a region that destroys all who stay.
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