Writing has been a passion of mine since I was a child. Travel, too, has long been a passion, but one that’s only recently transitioned from possibility to reality. And now, merging the two seems like the most natural thing in the world.
When I really started traveling a few years ago, venturing to far-flung destinations I’d once only dreamed of, I did it with my Blackberry always close at hand. I wasn’t blogging about my escapades, rather I was emailing my dad, regaling him with stories that I simply had to share, knowing he’d pass every word on to my mom. I’d take photos on my phone and email them to him. “Check out these huge seats on Jet Airways’ business class!”, I’d email. Or, “Can you believe this view from my room in Bora Bora?!” I’d send him countless pictures and messages, using my portable technology to enable him to travel virtually to places that he too had only dreamed of.
Back in January 2009, I was traveling in Brazil when I got an email from an editor at a magazine, wondering if I could turn around a 3000-word freelance piece on Shanghai in a week’s time. She needed something desperately and while I was eager to accept the assignment at a magazine I’d never written for before, I was uncertain as to whether I could deliver what she wanted in such a short time frame. Regardless, I accepted.
But when I arrived home and settled down to the task, I became extraordinarily frustrated. I had been in Shanghai for a very short time and quickly realized I didn’t have the answers to the questions my editor wanted the article to address. My frustration quickly turned to tears as I explained the situation to my father. (In retrospect, I blame the jetlag and my extreme fatigue for my overreaction.)
He listened to me vent and then quietly asked, “What are you afraid of?”
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to write the kind of article she wants in this short time!” I said.
“And?” he pushed.
“And she won’t publish the piece!” I said through my thoroughly unnecessary tears.
“So the worst case scenario here is that she won’t publish your article?” he queried, making sure he understood the situation that had reduced me to this unreasonable state.
“And how will this change your life?” He asked.
He looked at me expectantly but I had no answer.
“You’ll still be the same talented writer. You’ll still have a wonderful life full of love from friends and family. And you’ll know that you did the best job you could do. Always do the best you can do,” he stressed. “That’s all anyone can ask of you.”
I took my father’s loving words to heart and resolved to ‘just do it’. But less than a week later, my father, beyond all comprehension, was suddenly in the hospital, in a medically induced coma and my world was starting to spin out of control.
My mother and sister insisted I leave dad’s hospital bedside, go home and write the article and meet my deadline — just as dad would expect me to do. Go home and write that article for dad, they said. He’ll want to read it when he pulls through this.
I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, barely able to see my computer screen through my tears.
I submitted the article and my editor got back to me quickly with her feedback and, as any writer learns to expect, a round of edits. As the days turned into weeks and my father showed no signs of recovery, I gave up. I admit it. I gave up. I couldn’t answer her questions. I couldn’t finish the article. I couldn’t devote my time or attention to anything other than the crisis my family and I had found ourselves in. Thus, she couldn’t publish the article. And my father was right. The worst-case scenario I had feared didn’t change anything.
Sadly, something far worse changed in my life.
My father died days later with nary a last word passed between us. He just slipped away before my eyes, despite my fervent, urgent protestations. I do regret not finishing that article. He never condoned giving up. But my shattered heart didn’t have the will. And that, I know, he would have understood.
He’s no longer here and the grief that comes over me from time to time is often too overwhelming for words. I miss him every day but a special, different kind of sadness comes over me every time I travel. I miss his presence, just on the other end of my Blackberry. I miss knowing that he’ll respond in seconds with a question or quip that will make me smile. I miss the privilege of sharing my good fortune with him.
This is a long and roundabout way of explaining that now, here on this blog, I’ll be sharing my travel stories with you instead, though I suspect my dad may still be following along: do you think there’s Internet in Heaven? Anyway, I hope you enjoy them. You too, Dad.