I’ve been thinking about my parents a lot on this trip. They’ve been gone eight years now but it still feels new. I was very close to them and I often wonder what they would have thought about my life in the past few years, first with the year in China and then this trip. I think they would have been delighted.
I never thought much about how my parents traveled but in hindsight, I think they would have loved to have traveled more. They never went anywhere exciting – Palm Springs, Vegas, places nearby like casinos, which were just an excuse to get in the car and go.
Dad drove all of his life. (I love this photo of my father.)
He told me once that he drove long distance trucks for a while. For my entire life, he was a bus driver with Winnipeg Transit. He loved to drive. I asked him once why he never moved up in the system and he simply said that he loved driving and he didn’t want all the responsibility of being a supervisor, etc. He just wanted to drive. Eventually, he moved into a dispatcher position when his health wouldn’t allow him to drive anymore. I think that was a very sad day in his life.
When he and Mom first moved to Los Angeles, he had to go back to Canada for three months every year in order to be able to maintain his medical, etc., as he was a Canadian citizen. Once his visa went through, he didn’t have to do that any more. But the first year or two, he drove back to Canada from Los Angeles. By himself. His excuse was that since my mother didn’t drive, she didn’t need the car and he needed a car once he got home. But I think he just wanted to drive that drive.
Mom just liked to see new places and new things.
One year, when Dad was back in Winnipeg, my then-husband and I were going to Fresno for July 4th to see his family. I had gone for one of my weekly visits to see Mom, make sure she had groceries, just hang out with her. When I told her about going to Fresno, she said, “Can I come?” My response was, “To Fresno? Nobody wants to go to Fresno.” But I think she was lonely and I think she liked the idea of seeing somewhere new. It was not an exciting weekend. We hung out with his annoying sister and her annoying children, as well as his bitchy mother and his laconic father. But years later, my mother still talked about how much she enjoyed that trip.
They flew back and forth often to see my sister and her family in Minnesota. My sister married a man who had several children so I think Mom and Dad enjoyed being able to spend time with their inherited grandchildren. My brother lives in Canada with his wife and son, so occasionally they would all get together either in Winnipeg or Minneapolis.
As they got older, their ability to travel became compromised. My father had a serious heart condition for the last decade of his life, yet he still did everything he could to maintain a “normal” life. At first, he could still golf, shop, travel, etc. But as time went on, his heart began to fail more and more. Because of numerous heart attacks caused by blood clots, only 15% of his heart functioned. His doctors couldn’t believe he could still golf with his heart in that shape. He would joke that he now took a cart instead of walking and sometimes only shot nine holes instead of eighteen.
Golf was the love of my father’s life.
This is a painting I did of my favorite photo of my father.
It’s a photo I have in the trailer with me righ tnow.
He golfed until he fell one night and broke his collarbone and dislocated his shoulder. Because of his heart conditions, the doctors couldn’t fix either injury and he spent the rest of his life in a great deal of pain, which he would never actually admit. He just handled it the way he handled everything in his life – he accepted his new limitations and he dealt with it. He rarely complained. He did what he needed to do and he lived the best he could with what he had. But I know that losing the ability to play golf was one of the biggest losses of his life.
So being around all the golf courses in Carmel and Monterey made me think about my father. He would say “Spyglass” and “Pebble Beach” in revered tones almost as places of worship. He never got to play those amazing courses but that didn’t keep him from admiring from afar.
Even when I went to Doran Regional Park, there was a golf course right at the entry way and I couldn’t help but think it was my father watching over me, saying, “Hey, I’m here. Have fun. I’ll see you when I’m done.”
And as I’m writing this, I’m sitting at a working farm in Northern California. It’s so beautiful and lovely, one of the best places so far. The owners are welcoming and kind. Michael, one of the owners, greeted me at the gate and showed me to my spot. As he was telling me about all the things on the farm, he mentioned that there are “talking cows” (I have met the cows – they didn’t talk to me) and that there are two fainting goats. One is black and they called it Johnny Cash. The other is white and is called Frank Sinatra.
My mother was a huge Johnny Cash fan. We had the distinct pleasure of seeing him in concert when I was maybe sixteen years old. My mother had a hard time with crowds so concerts were hard on her. But there was no way she wasn’t going. We sat in the concert hall in Winnipeg, my mother never taking her eyes off the stage. And when he sang “Boy Named Sue”, I looked over and my difficult, complicated, wonderfully complex mother had tears streaming down her face. She cried all the way through the song. I never found out why that song triggered that response. I was too young to even formulate that question. But whenever I think of my mother, the memory of her tear-stained cheeks as she listened to Johnny Cash is one of the first memories that comes to me. Of course, there was the time, years later, when we were walking through Hot Topic at the mall near her place in Lakewood, California. She saw a black t-shirt with Johnny Cash on it, flipping the bird to the camera. She laughed so hard I thought she was going hurt herself. She immediately bought that shirt and wore it proudly as often as she could. If I had had any say in it, that’s the shirt I would have wanted her buried in.
I know they would have supported this trip. I know they would have handed me money and credit cards and anything else I needed. When I left Winnipeg after my first marriage ended to move to California to live with my sister, that’s exactly what happened. My dad packed and repacked my shitty Volkswagen Rabbit over and over again, making sure everything fit just right. In reality, I think he was stalling the inevitable. My mother gave me her credit card and a handful of cash. Then she hugged me tight. My mother was not a very demonstrative person. She came from a very abusive household with an alcoholic father who would beat her mother and a mother who would, in turn, hit my mother with a broomstick. She never had anyone to show her how to be physically affectionate. Though she would sit on the couch next to me as we watched TV and just rub my back over and over again. We were not a family that said “I love you.” But there were a million ways in which they both said it without ever speaking the words.
One of those ways was letting their then-twenty-five-year-old daughter venture off to a new life an entire country away. They continued to support my crazy adventures once they moved down to Los Angeles. I heard “I love you” over and over again every time they would show me their support. And when my mother called me an Artist with a capital A after I had discovered this calling my life, I heard “I love you” again.
So while they have been gone a while, I think they’re still here with me again, traveling alongside me, whispering “I love you” into the wind.