What goes around comes around: Father's sins are revisited by his daughter

My younger daughter, Leslie, seems committed to giving me all of the gray hairs and worries that I gave to my parents.

That’s part of the payback that goes with having been a wayward, willful kid. My mother used to warn me of that. She was right.

In 2011, my adult daughter, who lives and works in Omaha, Neb., just happened to take a bus trip to Chicago and then got stranded in the Windy City when a huge blizzard hit. I only learned that she had made the trip when I contacted her by text and then phone just to see how she was doing. I always get these, "Oh by the way, I’m not in Omaha right now." Or, "Did I tell you I’m in …?"

If she has time off from work, Leslie, 25, will travel often to see classmates from the Kansas City Art Institute. Artists are not anchored souls.

Last Sunday I called to check on my nomadic kid only to learn that she had flown from Omaha to visit college buddies in New York City for a pre-Halloween get-together.


But superstorm Sandy with 80 mph winds and widespreadflooding complicated her exit. She was trying to get out last Sunday ahead of the climate change blast, but all flights were either oversold or canceled. Escape plans were scuttled all week.

She went back to her friend’s place to ride out the storm and make brownies. That’s my sunshine-all-the-time kid. Leslie will find a way to put a happy face on the worst situations.

Nearly four years ago, she called from Washington, D.C. Leslie and her boyfriend had driven to the nation’s capital for the inauguration of the country’s first black president. It didn’t matter that they didn’t have tickets to the event.

They had secured sleeping space on the floor of one of Leslie’s high school friends in Washington and the next day waded into the sea of people on the mall to witness Barack Obama taking the oath of office. It was a historic event, and Leslie didn’t want to miss it.

I did more than my share of stupid stuff in high school and college, knowing that if I had asked permission first it would never have happened. A couple of times I went on long bicycle rides with friends from inner-city St. Louis to the airport and beyond. We returned home with great stories to tell of being black kids way out of place in unfriendly white suburbs.

On another trip on the same one-speed, two-wheeler, I rode with a college friend 60 miles round trip from Columbia to Jefferson City and back just to say we’d done it on what then was a two-lane road. My folks were about as happy as when I bought my first motorcycle.

So I understand Leslie’s need to just do it. I sometimes enable her trips, encouraging her and making it possible for her safe passage when she lets me.

It reminds me of that old baby-boomer cartoon, "Tooter Turtle." The turtle as the main character constantly goes to his friend, Mr. Wizard, with desires to travel and be something he is not.


The wizard makes it happen, but then pulls Tooter back to reality in time to avoid trouble. Leslie and her big sister, Adrianne, have had their "adventures" since they were little girls, including falling into a frozen pond near home.

Another trip with a friend named Ivy led to an emergency room visit for Adrianne, who was exposed to poison ivy. She swelled up in a frightening fashion.

One other time, Leslie had me drop her, her buddies and their bicycles in a wooded area of Blue River Parkway so they could ride the dirt trails.

It sounded like a neat thing. What could happen?

When I returned they were just emerging from the area where I had dropped them with many stories to tell about encountering an encampment of people in some clearing and getting out of there in case trouble erupted.

Adrianne, 29, grew out of the wandering. Leslie, not so much. When Leslie was in college she called, saying, "Guess where I am?"

She was in Indianapolis on a bus chartered in Kansas City headed to Washington for a massive anti-war rally. It was the trip of a lifetime.

Leslie won’t pass up such things. As always, I watch as my parents did, waiting in case of an emergency, hoping my little girl remains safe. As Mom used to say, like a well-worn penny, loved ones usually turn up OK.


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