17 November 2016

Complements

"Life is all memory, except for the present moment that goes by you so quickly, you hardly catch it going."
-- Tennessee Williams


Perhaps there is someone like this in your life, be it a sibling, friend, someone of the same or opposite sex. A person who knows your entire history or has only been present in your life for a short period of time, but is indelibly a saint.  For me, that person is my mother, Stephanie.

It's no secret my mum is aging, and has worked so incredibly hard to earn the money to pay for our voyages through the years. I don't remember a time in my life when she was not working two jobs, always running from one to the other. We hopped buses and walked across San Francisco, my mother toting me to all of her college classes because she was a single parent without a babysitter. One night in the city, I even witnessed her launch a fist at an approaching stranger who tried to lay a hand on her.

Although that was 25 years ago, the same tenacious qualities still exist in my mother, they just manifest in different ways.  Namely, when we travel.  I cannot recall a trip we've embarked on where I haven't seen her strength.  In Greece, she handled a mini-crisis when I became violently ill unexpectedly.  In Norway she assertively and diplomatically told off a meddling stewardess who harassed me because I wouldn't change seats with another passenger.  As recently as Australia, she emphasized enjoying the adventure instead of agonizing over price tags.  "It's only money," she reminded.

In a strange way, going abroad brought -- and brings about -- absolute role reversal.  I now feel an odd sense of protection over my mother, the same woman who has looked after me since my first breath.  In Italy, after my mother wrecked a hire motorcycle, I reminded her we could have been hurt and the outcome much worse. "Besides," I told her "it's only money." While our ship's frame scraped through the ice, my fear was minimally assuaged because if I died at least I would be with my mum.
So, as Australasia commenced, I became the brawn.  Flying to and fro, I lifted our bulky bags over my head, straining under the weight, shoving them into the bins more times than I can count.  I led our hikes, and -- in Karijini National Park -- harnessed the backpack filled with supplies for the trip, so she could cling to the rock easier.  Since we traveled by bus in Fiji, I got even more of a work out.  I always hoisted her carry-on onto the bus, climbed up the narrow high steps, then returned to the road to retrieve my baggage and repeat the process. I created a makeshift foothold for mom by cupping my hands together so she could use my human platform to hoist herself into the tinny a.k.a. small boat after snorkeling at Moon Reef.  Although it would have been strenuous, I was prepared to bring my suitcase and hers over the hills of Wayalailai, although I was relieved of this duty since the hotel staff insisted on hauling it.
To me, it felt  -- and still feels -- like my duty to ferry her luggage across the world.  Like if I shirked, I was acting selfishly.  Though my mother would never think that and loathes being mollycoddled, it's paramount to me that she simply enjoy the scenery, smells, and people without having to be hassled with the logistics.  Not to mention, traveling is tough on the body, and her health is of the utmost importance.  I tell myself: I will do this [physical effort] because I still can.  And if ever there comes a day when I cannot do all the heavy lifting, then at least my mother will be well-rested for it.

My mother is my responsibility, and I, hers, but not in a negative way. It's like traveling with the Hope Diamond.  I will always protect her and strive to make her life easier. To me, she is such precious cargo I cannot entrust this inestimable role to anyone else. Our irrevocable love knows no boundaries.  Every time we embarked on a new trip, we promised that should one of us become gravely sick -- or even die -- the other will continue on in homage to the other.

When I falter, have an emotional meltdown in a foreign country, or become violently ill, I know she will pick up the slack. This is the beauty of these journeys with my best friend, Stephanie.  I see the deepening crows' feet around my eyes and her progressively graying hair, and understand the fragility of life.  Although we lived in Australasia for two months, it will never be enough. I can never have enough of these times with my mum.  Now, -- at age 32 -- in light of this epiphany I feel time slipping away faster.  While most people are excited to check items & countries off their bucket list, or retire, I have growing anxiety that we haven't checked off enough yet.  Time will be gone for one -- and both -- of us too soon; in the blink of an eye.

2 comments:

  1. Sweet post, Mich -- "It's like traveling with the Hope Diamond."

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  2. Hi Albert! Missed you this morning! Thanks for your sweet words. When you're an only child your parent is your best friend + parent + playmate. You know this... HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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