“I’ve waited forever for this.” This is what my biological father said to me as he embraced me for the first time since I was six months old. I met my dad face-to-face for the first time this summer.
As an Intern at Southwest Airlines, we have the privilege of using non-revenue travel benefits to explore the country. This means that if a seat is available on any destination Southwest flies, we can wait standby and fly there for free. When I was selected as a summer Intern back in February, I immediately decided that I’d spend one weekend of the summer visiting my dad and family in Arizona.
My grandparents adopted me when I was just a baby, and we moved to Idaho. Although my mother has still been an integral part of my life (serving in the military and I visiting her where she’s stationed), my father has always been somewhat of a distant, unknown person to me. Until now, that is.
I started speaking with my half sister Lupe about visiting my dad early in the summer. She coordinated everything and picked me up from the airport. I had only met Lupe once. She came to my high school graduation five years ago. Seeing her again as I came off the plane made me instantly excited.
Lupe and I
Was I nervous as we drove to my dad’s house and I saw him standing in the driveway? Only a little. Ironically while traveling non-rev a few weeks prior, I sat next to a girl who was meeting her father for the first time. Talking with her actually helped prepare me for my own reunion.
I stepped out of the car and walked up to him, while smiling and nonchalantly saying, “Hi Dad!” He gave me an overdue hug that made me feel instantly welcomed. That weekend we had a family cook-out that gave me the opportunity to meet over 20 relatives I’d never met before (and apparently that was only a small group of them). We also now talk more frequently than before.
My Dad, Lupe, and me
I’m thankful for having my internship with Southwest Airlines for countless reasons. However, reconnecting with my dad after 21 years is definitely one of the priceless moments that Southwest and non-rev travel allowed me to have. Southwest truly gives everyone “the Freedom to Fly.”