When people talk about travel, they focus a lot on destinations, experiences, budget, packing, growth (spiritual but also clothing size. Because gelato is worth it), and tips about what to do and what to avoid.
I do it myself. Cause it’s fun!
But something people talk about less frequently (I can’t say rarely, cause I have seen quite a few posts on the subject, just not as many as all that other stuff) is the fact that most of us leave people behind when we hit the road.
My family is every bit as weird and dysfunctional as every other family out there. We’ve gotten closer as we’ve grown older (took us a while to get over those teen years. *shudder*). There’s a lot of stories I could tell. A lot.
Like, SO FRIKKIN’ MANY!
But this is a travel blog, it’s not about family-issues (and we have soooooo many issues!), but I know several families that have had it worse, so I can’t really complain too much. Well, I mean, I can. I absolutely can. And I frequently do, but I would still count myself in the “not too bad”-section of family-dysfunction. In that we haven’t killed each other yet, and are relatively unlikely to do so in the future.
However, my parents, particularly my father, is currently going through quite a few health issues, and it stirs up a lot of emotions when your family is going through serious trauma while you are far away and unable to jump in and help.
I won’t go into too much detail (cause depressing much??) but the tip of the iceberg is Alzheimer’s, which is already getting quite bad and it’s only going to get worse. Throw two heart attacks, diabetes and some other fun stuff into the mix, and it makes for quite an interesting home life.
The last time I was home I sat with my mother and we talked through everything yet again, and I realized that for quite some time now, every conversation I have had about my father has had a weight to it, a negative energy, a focus on all the bad stuff. It’s hard to get around it when you’re dealing with serious illness, as well as a stubborn (some might say difficult, quite a few people would use a lot stronger wording too) personality.
BUT, that very personality has led to some of my favorite stories, and I wanted to share one with you here. I wanted to take a moment and remember my father from before the Alzheimer began to eat away at the man he once was.
I mentioned that he is stubborn. That’s a generous description. My brother is the same way, thought I am sure he’d deny it. Many years ago, I would have been 14 or 15 years old, he and Dad only knew one way of communicating, and that was through shouting at each other. It didn’t matter what they were talking about, it would inevitably devolve into a shouting match where neither party listened to a word the other said, and the rest of the family just ducked out of sight and waited for the storm to pass.
One night over dinner, a discussion started about school dinners. Should all schools offer them, or is it better to bring packed lunches from home?
A fairly innocent topic, you would think, but over a couple of hours it devolved into a discussion about poverty in third world countries, white privilege and how nothing will ever change because the rich will never be willing to sacrifice their luxurious lifestyle.
My father, the middle-aged white male, took offense at being blamed for the poverty in the world, while my brother, the idealistic student (and undeniably the beneficiary of quite a bit of white privilege himself), had no intention of yielding any points since at 18-19 years of age he obviously understood best how the world worked.
My mother had long given up and retreated to the TV-room to get some peace and quiet. I was still fascinated by the argument since it sounded to me as if they actually agreed on the main points (poverty=bad, and everyone could and should do more to fight it), but they weren’t listening to each other, while one was talking the other just prepared their next salvo.
It went on a loooooong time.
Until finally, my brother shouted “So would YOU do it? Would YOU sacrifice any of your worldly goods to benefit some poor children in war-torn countries?”
“YES!” my father replied, red in the face.
“Oh yeah? Would you give up your food and your bed, and sleep on the floor?”
“I would, and I’ll prove it!” my dad shouted. And he left the room.
Now, what happened next proved that logic had long since left the building, cause my dad went to the basement and found a saw! You see, he and mum shared a double bed with a wooden frame. And Dad was going to saw it in half and send his half “to Africa”.
I have never been clear on what the people of Africa would do with half a bed-frame, but he had sawed through most of the headboard before I decided it might be time to let mum know what was going on.
It took some time to convince her that I was telling the truth, and by the time she made it downstairs, he was through the headboard and had made a good start on the frame itself. Mum had to physically wrestle the saw off him, and the screaming went on for quite some time…
The people of Africa never received dad’s bed. He did have to shell out for a new bedframe, and it took a while before he was allowed off the sofa to sleep in it.
The incident wasn’t mentioned again for many years, but it is still one of my favorite Dad-stories. My dad, for all his faults, once tried to saw his and mum’s bed in half, so he could send his half to Africa.
And whatever shitty stuff is going on, there will never come a time when that fact doesn’t make me smile.
Happy trails, everybody!