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  • Michael Roman

Unsympathetic Radio Gods

Updated: Apr 1

Blog Entry #3


In 1997, Mona, daughter of Jose and Cruz passed away. My entire family traveled from Cincinnati, Ohio to El Paso, Texas for her funeral. She suffered from Alzheimer's for several years before she passed at the age of 87. Though much of my childhood was spent on planes moving from state to state, my comfort with flying drastically changed after watching Alive, a film about an Uruguayan rugby team's plane crash in the Andes. Those who didn't perish on impact sheltered in the wreckage and warded off starvation through cannibalistic behaviors before they were rescued. This movie, forced me, my father, and sister to drive over three thousand miles to the funeral, while my mother flew.


In our rush, we overlooked the need for CDs and a CD player. Somewhere between Fort Worth and Odessa, all radio frequency vanished. For hundreds of miles, we traveled in silence along the monotonous dry Texas desert. I constantly searched the radio from 88.7 to 88.7 receiving nothing but static. Then, out of nowhere, a station came in. It was music to our ears until it played the same thing repeatedly, a country song and a Gold Bond medicated itch cream commercial touting its potency over almost any kind of itch. My father killed the radio after fifteen minutes of loops, forcing me to sit in silence, wondering what kind of itch Gold Bond couldn’t relieve.


After three days, we arrived. We spent the whole week traveling from house to house. From the church to the cemetery. From Texas to Mexico, and eventually back to Ohio again. Despite what my dad and sister may have felt, I appreciated our trip. It was not until we were sitting at the airport that my fear of flying and the Central Pacific Nation of Kiribati materialized. I had to get on a plane. Walking to the gate my legs went numb as my mind pressed forward. I would soon be on a plane bound for the other side of the world.


What the hell was I doing?

Sitting at the gate in complete silence, it felt like all of us wanted to cry. Surely, out of fear, I would retreat. Turn around. Not get on the plane. My fear of flying would take over as it did with my grandmother's funeral.


But... It didn't.


The boarding ramp opened as the check-in attendant called us forward. I stood to hug my family one last time. My one-year-old nephew, Kyle. My sister, my mother and finally, my dad. The second our eyes met he let out the loudest cry. Maybe he was remembering his deployment. Maybe he finally realized this was it. Whatever it was, that moment was etched in my mind forever. All his emotions exploded in that hug and throughout the terminal. I forced myself to hide the fact that I felt the same way inside. Hold it in, hold it in. I told myself as I walked to the gate. With eyes full of tears, I handed over my ticket and turned around one last time. By this time, tears soaked my face. Stopping only to board the plane, I heard another person sobbing behind me.


Are you joining the Peace Corps too?


Patting her eyes, she nodded.


Where are you going? I asked.


A country in the middle of the Ocean. You’ve probably never heard of it.


Wait, are you going to Kiribati too?


Pulling the tissue away from her face, our eyes met, yes.


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