A different kind of travelogue. As an avid young traveller I often wondered what would it would be like when I got older, gathered commitments, created children and accrued debt. This is what it's like.
Grannies and Death.
I used to live here. I was born here and I left. I have an incurable infection with the Travel Bug. But my mother doesn’t. Neither does my brother. After two months on the road and many thousands of kilometres covered I find myself bringing my crazy little children to meet their Granny. I am in my mothers house. This is an odd travelogue about being at home.
The house of the Granny but also the Step-Gran-Pappy. Add a few uncles and some aunts and some cousins. It is a very different few days spent wrestling with nostalgia, balancing being both a parent and a child. To my mother I will always be a child. Her child. It is fun for my kids to watch. They’ve become keen observers of human behaviour and especially so in the case of their traveling servant. (a.k.a. their Father, me.)
So my kids are watching me being my mothers son and they are literally making notes. There’s a lot of “….Ahhhhh, so thats where he gets that from….” and similar. Meanwhile we eat home cooked food, we potter about in Grannies Garden, I sit at my mothers table.
I suspect that many big trips involve some time spent with family. I don’t doubt that a lot of people that have emigrated travel ‘home’ to see their distant families. People like me and Mrs Less Baggage. Those people that have moved to other countries and stayed are probably more likely to travel. They are also probably more likely to travel and see family at the same time. In our case the visits to family were long planned and an important part of the whole “Grand Tour’ grand plan.
I suspect that these episodes are often mingled with problems. Perhaps there are serious issues that need to be talked about. Perhaps there are matters unresolved from years ago. Perhaps someone is ill. Perhaps someone is sad. Perhaps there is an argument, raised voices, slammed doors and tears.
Traveling can be very busy and it can be very quiet. On this trip I have had it both ways. Sometimes I have had time to think about the impending reunion with my relatives and sometimes I haven’t had a moment.
I think it is important to consider some aspects of your former and present life when this sort of opportunity comes around. How many times will a grandmother see her grand kids when they live on the other side of the world? How many times will we travel here? How many times will she travel to the Antipodes? In short; this time is gold. It is valuable. It is rare. It is to be cherished and used accordingly. Sure my mother and I used to fight. I was a teenager then. I am not a teenager anymore. I almost have a teenager of my own. I have changed. I have learned. I now understand my parents and step-parents better than I did when I lived with them. But they have changed too. They have grown, learned, altered their position on things, found God, lost God, gotten sick, watched people die and more.
My parents are not who they were. They have developed like I have. Were I to assume that they hadn’t changed I would be missing out on a chance to meet this newly wrought person.
It’s incredibly important to grasp this nettle. Talk about difficult stuff. Talk about life, death, politics and spirituality. My mother is very young but she is as old as she has ever been. She is in great physical shape but she is more aware everyday of the little bits that don’t work so well.
So now is the time to talk about certain things. I like talking about death and dying because I am a doctor that spent most of my time in Intensive Care Medicine. There is very little time to talk about death when its actually happening. I encourage all people to ponder what they want at the end of their lives, decide what you want, tell someone, write it down. Talk about it early. Everyone puts it off for a million reasons. Every one of those million reasons is not good enough if you don’t talk about this stuff early enough.
I was ready to talk about this stuff. It was important that I was ready. But it was also important that someone else was ready. Because it takes two to tango, to talk and to fight.
We hung out. We talked. We looked at my kids. But we didn’t talk death much. Because there was more than me in that conversation, my beloved parents didn’t necessarily want to talk about what I had in mind. I don’t think my parents are anywhere near the ends of their lives. I am glad I had thought about those possible conversations before, it did me good, but they did not eventuate. The time for that conversation did not come.
My mother spoiled my daughter. My step-father spoiled my son. My kids spoiled their only two male Irish cousins. My brother spoiled me. It was all good. I think it was good because we talk more honestly and openly with each other than we used to. We have knocked a lot of corners off. Even more important though was the fact that I did not assume that we would have a plain and simple time. I did not assume anything. I can only try to control my part in the great mystery and even then I cannot boast of much control.
Value your family. Tell them you love them. Agree to disagree. We do not know how long we will have each other; Old or Young. I could die tomorrow. So could my parents. So could my children. I am not obsessed with death. I refuse to ignore its place at the end of each and every life.
Cherish every moment. Speak the words that you need to speak.
I am proud of my mother; Marie-Claire Douglas, the Artist.