Travel ASAP: Your Mom Might Not Always Remember Your Name

Mom and I at Canadian Border

Somes years back a doctor said my hands would never fully function again.

I hated him at that moment because he couldn’t fix me, but I was calm and the words floated far away like some scripted game show when I pulled away from the parking lot. I fidgeted with the radio, watched tree canopies tunnel over the residential street. No passing car would have suspected I was boiling over inside.

At the first stoplight, the news suddenly became real. A hammer came down. For a few short seconds I was outside myself, maybe insane. Never before and never since has sound left my body in such primitive screams of anger.

Then the light turned green and I’ve dealt with it ever since.

Today my hands don’t fully function, but I’ve lived every day as if they were puppets whose destiny I control and not the other way around. Young with so much life ahead, reversing disease itself seemed possible.

I did and do believe this, now more than ever.

Everything Can Change in an Instant

My mom and I prepping for Chile's bicentennial firework display in Valparaiso.

My mom and I waiting for Chile’s bicentennial fireworks in Valparaíso

Three weeks ago my mom was life-flighted from one hospital to another.

It must have been a quarter to eleven, the bed a mess of blankets at my feet. Helicopter. Paralysis. Get here quickly. Half-asleep, I remember the phone conversation only in fragments. What passed through my head upon learning that my mom was dying? TV actors pushing stretchers down hallways mashed up with a kaleidoscope of childhood memories. Nothing made sense. My mom was battling a stroke, the result of a post-knee surgery blood clot, and I couldn’t even imagine her enemy.

I’ve been bedside with her now on various floors: intensive care, medical/surgical, rehabilitation. Brain damage was mentioned. (Due to my mistrust of Western medicine and/or belief that what I don’t know can’t hurt her I haven’t asked details. Truth is, I wouldn’t believe the doctors anyway). On her own terms she’s relearning how to be herself again, or possibly a different version of the person she once was.

Today for the first time in weeks she remembered my name.

Changing Travel Plans, Shifting Priorities

My parents and I taking the metro after New Year's at Ipanema Beach

My parents and I taking the metro after New Year’s at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro

If you follow this blog’s irregular posts then you already know that my parents and I had planned a month-long Transiberian railroad trip from Russia to China beginning mid-August. Mid-July I was to backpack around Eastern Europe before meeting them in Moscow.

But life can’t be planned, at least not conveniently with red lines across Googlemap screenshots.

My mom will not see Russia, Mongolia, or China. Not any time soon. It’s still unclear whether my dad will experience his cross-continental dream trip to the places he’s read about in so many National Geographics. I cancelled all NYC plans and will not board my US$50 flight to Istanbul.

On August 10th I’ll fly from Denver to Moscow to begin my revised, open-ended trip toward Australia.

That’s the tentative plan anyway.

Travel is Everything, Travel is Nothing

My parents frolicking in the waves at Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

My parents frolicking in the waves at Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

My mind has been ticking in the best and worst of ways since my mom was hospitalized.

Instead of therapy a la keyboard I’ve holed up in my head and written nothing since quitting my job in North Dakota. I’ve shut myself off, from email, from readers, from potential clients, from business plans. I’ve opened myself up to family and friends. I’ve feigned ok-ness to hundreds of everyday strangers (then became ok overnight, just like that). I’ve hated myself for wanting to salvage my Transatlantic to Istanbul, eat a kebab, then fly back in one weekend when I should be with my mom. I’ve learned that love doesn’t fade from memory, not even when that memory was supposedly erased.

All this makes me want write some kind of uplifting message, because despite all the downs here in Denver, life—as in, this oxygen we breathe while the sun warms our skin—is good, my mom is still my mom and is slowly retracing herself back to her source, a powerful source. Actually, a former nurse herself, she’s a huge pain in the ass for the hospital staff when she refuses to participate in the bureaucratic excess of the medical establishment. Because she still knows what’s what.

And that’s how I know she’ll eventually be fine.

When I called my best friend to break the news I told him straight away, “There is nothing to be said, these things happen.” (I said the same words differently when explaining why I wanted to travel the Transiberian with my parents in this earlier blog post). “Just call your mom to say you love her.”

My mom making friends in Aruba

My mom swimming with dolphins in Curaçao

I meant it too.

Call your mom. Your dad. Your friend, lover, that one person who gives meaning to your life. Then say those three awkward words. Better yet: plan a trip together to somewhere unknown and actually go there.

Everything changes constantly until it changes suddenly.

Travel while you can, travel asap.

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