Dad, Where Am I Going?

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Lately, I'm driving in circles that always end at the water.

They closed the road to the freeway entrance closest to my house. I could use the next entrance down, but I'm my father's daughter. I want to find ways to get where I'm going without using the highway.

Dad liked to drive around to see what cities were made of. One empty Sunday afternoon, he and I drove North on San Pablo Avenue, just to see where it went. For your future reference, it goes to San Pablo.

As I make a U-turn on a disconnected piece of Hoffman Blvd., I miss him.

A UC Berkeley professor for over 40 years, he was famous for being an expert on American politics. He also had an uncanny sense of direction. Put him down in any city he had visited even once, and he could find his way.

My mother is the opposite. Once in the 1960s, my mother and sister got hopelessly lost driving home. My sister said, "I wish they had phones in cars so we could call Dad and ask him where we are."

I take after my Mom. Mobile phones were invented so that I could call my Dad in the middle of the night when I couldn't find the Bay Bridge -- which was pretty much every single time I drove into San Francisco. He was an insomniac so he was always up. And he always knew where I was, and how to get me home.
Like many Jewish fathers, he had strong opinions about our careers, academic and otherwise. After 10th grade, I asked to switch from private school to Berkeley High, where I thought I would be happier. "Happiness is overrated," was Dad's verdict.

Yet when I decided to quit my corporate job to be a writer, my Dad was shockingly supportive. He claimed he had always known that writing was my true calling.

A decade in, my "calling" has hit a rough patch. I'm struggling to make the payments on my condo. I'm too poor to pay for the data plan on my smart phone to help me navigate -- let alone a GPS. When I get lost now, it's just me and my Thomas Guide.

I would give anything to be able to call my Dad and ask him where I'm going.

With a Perspective, I'm Emily Polsby.

Emily Polsby is a freelance writer. She lives in Richmond.