I got a text at 5:30 a.m. from my Mom: There's a storm coming, you might want to leave early.
My Dad has been in a hospital in Indiana for the past month. He is on the mend. I try to see him every weekend. I have a small car, so snow is not a good thing for my drive out to see him.
I got up early and fed my pets. Jeans and a sweatshirt, Uggs, a hat. We are good to go. Grab a coffee on the way to the Kennedy.
As I drove onto the Kennedy I saw the sky, so heavy with clouds that it seemed like they would burst with snow. I thought to myself "just hold on, let me see him for a bit." I always talk to myself. I think a lot while I am driving. I listen to the news and drive and admire the skyline as it starts to appear through the early sky. It is Sunday. No one is out yet. I felt like it was just me and the skyline who were awake. The skyline my Dad built. How did he do it? I cannot imagine. I start thinking about my work week on Sundays. What do I have to do? What do I need to finish? How can I improve? Which days do I dress up? Do I have something important to attend to? My Dad did not have those thoughts throughout his career. He worked 7/12's a lot. The city was popping up skyrises like crazy. He worried about falling. He worried about the winter months when work was slower. He came home every night beat and dirty. He let my brother and I wear his hard hats. Every job had a new hard hat with a new sticker on it. We have had totally different paths in our careers. Yet, it is his career that will outlast us all. This skyline.
And this bridge.
I hopped over to get on the Skyway. The little McDonalds is not there anymore. I used to think that was such a cool thing. A tiny McDs tucked in between toll booths. Driving up to the toll booth and paying $5.60 I thought about when he built the skyway with my Uncles and Cousins and other Local 1 men who were our "family". I remember when he took me for a ride on the skyway. We had to stop and put a coin in the basket. I asked him why. "Kelly, by the time you get your driver's license, this road will be paid for." Not quite. I am 54. I have renewed my license 8 times since then.
Quickly I let go of the sting of paying what would have been a decent coffee, as I began the slow climb up onto the skyway bridge. From a distance, it looks like it goes straight to the sky. It curves enough that you cannot tell where it leads. You have to trust this bridge. A bridge that is a part of my childhood, as is the skyline. How many men built this. How many men perished? The job safety factors were awful back then. Yet here I am driving my little car up into the snow clouds on a road my Dad built. Trusting it, because he built it.
Once over the bridge, I can see the lake. I see all the tiny homes of what was a thriving steel town. I do not see puffs of smoke coming out of the now-vacant factories that still line the way. A few barges are sitting in the waterway. I cannot tell if they are abandoned too. There is a serenity to seeing this part of our city. A chapter that I just jumped into to. One which I knew as a young girl. It rests now. Like my Dad.
I get to his hospital and he is watching the news. "You are very early," he said. I explained my race against mother nature. We spoke about politics and about my job. He asked about the kids. I told him he is looking good, much better. He needs to build his strength and he can leave soon. I trimmed his eyebrows. I had some good face cream on me and gave him a facial. He laughed. He looked very dapper. I could have stayed there forever. When I am with him he is Dad, and I am daughter. Being daughter is a beautiful role to have. When I am with Dad, I can let go of being Mom, of being Boss, of being neighbor. I am his daughter. I can ask him for advice. It is always sound. He has an incredible gut instinct, one which he passed on to me thankfully. We laughed a lot. My Mom came by too and gave him a clean shave. I got serious and told him to keep doing therapy so he can get out of there. I leaned in and told him like it was a secret. "If you can get up from this bed and just get to that seat, you are good to go." "Oh, ok!" he said. I saw a few snowflakes. My time was up. I had to go.
On the drive back, I went through the city of East Chicago, Indiana. These are real people with nice yards and well kept homes. The area is outlined with factories and many petroleum tanks. Soon I am back on the Skyway, driving back into the snow clouds. Paying my toll, but looking forward to the top of the bridge. I get to peek at the skyline that my Dad built from the other end of the city. "Welcome to Chicago: Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot", how many different names have I seen on this sign in my lifetime? But this one is a daughter of a steel mill family too. She'd get as much out of this ride as I am. Steel and concrete, smokestacks, granaries, barges, and my Dad on the other end.
Flawless, historic, and strong. Wherever I go, wherever I look, I see him. My father.
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