And to the parent's of those who travel
05/01/1983 - 01/23/2013
By this time, I’m sure you’re aware that I’m coming home to see you and be with the family this week. I’ve never been very good at expressing feelings in person, and perhaps only slightly better with the written word. But I wanted to let something be known before I walk into your hospital room this week, to avoid an awkward, perhaps teary-eyed conversation. Neither of us needs that right now.
Let’s start at the beginning, or at least the beginning of where memory serves me. It was 1983 and you had made the unusual decision to move your family to a remote Micronesian island in the middle of nowhere. I’m sure many people thought you were nuts, perhaps even mom. But you felt it was important for us to experience that, and for all of the other qualities that make you a special human being, you stick to your convictions. And so we did it. I’m aware that life was not always easy for us down there during that year. Having read Mom’s diary years later, I’m aware that I was sick a lot, not able to hold down food very well. I’m aware that the food we did have, ran dangerously low at times. But you didn’t let us starve. In truth, I don’t remember any of those perilous times. I only remember the good times of playing with Brian and Amanda on the beach and in the trees. I remember nights in that old tin shack, lit by kerosene lamp, listening as you and mom talked quietly outside of my mosquito netting. I remember seeing places so foreign that a 7-year-old brain could barely comprehend. But those incomprehensible images stayed with me. Throughout my life, they have fueled my need for discovery, to see new places and to experience life outside of the boundaries of comfort. At the age of 7, I became a life-long traveler. You gave that to me.
Now let’s skip ahead to 2004. I had begun nurturing my love of travel on my own by this time. I traveled around the South Pacific, lived in New Zealand and experienced life in Australia. As that year wound down, I had run out of money. My plans had exceeded my budget and I found myself in Buenos Aires, Argentina faced with the prospect of needing to return home without being able to travel the continent of which I had just arrived. Placing a call, tail between my legs, I informed you guys that I might need to come home sooner than expected. You didn’t blink an eye, or give me the parental speech (that you would have been well within your rights as a parent to give) to get home immediately and stop messing around with my life. You simply said, “Don’t worry son, we won’t let you starve.” You promptly deposited money into my account, allowing me to continue on my journey and enabled me to experience South America and Patagonia. And what an amazing experience that was! Though we were not particularly rich at the time, and while I would consider myself to be far from spoiled, you never asked for a cent of that money back. In subsequent years, you’ve never reminded me of that, though I’ve never forgotten.
And now here we are in present day. I’ve been living as an expatriate, teaching English in South Korea for about 6 years now. I had plane tickets booked to go to Bali, Indonesia next week for my 3-week holiday. I had been relatively excited about this trip, mostly to notch another life experience into my belt. And then the thing every expatriate fears happened. When I found out that you were in the hospital and likely would be for the near future, I didn’t consider for a minute not coming home as fast as I could. Indonesia will be there for another day, and if I never make it there, well that’s life. The best life experiences can be found at any location in this world, but perhaps none better than those in the presence of your family at a time of need. And so as you sit there in that hospital bed, eating through a tube in your nose, it’s my turn to say, “Don’t worry dad, we won’t let you starve”.
I write this only to say that if there are any guilty feelings about me missing my trip to Bali, I want it to stop right there. You opened my eyes to the world, both literally and figuratively, and have filled my soul with experiences so numerous and beautiful that I can’t adequately express them in words. Though no experience will ever be richer in my eyes than to see you getting stronger by the day.
I’ll be home soon. I love you dad.