Travel Re-Designed and Re-Defined

I've been absent from blogging for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, my grandmother took ill and eventually passed. I didn't expect her death to affect me but it has in a "life is too short" kind of way. She was always suffering some problematic, yet preventable disease along with old age. However, she seemed to move upward despite her issues and always outdid the youth of our family and our time. She had planned to travel a lot this year and to my surprise my mother had agreed to accompany her. Let's just say when she took a turn for the worst it was revealed to me that she really hadn't done all she wanted to do in life. The same goes for my mother and now down to me. A few weeks before her death my grandmother was reluctantly transferred to hospice care. She sort of outlived all her ward neighbors and put on a good fight. However, she went into a vegetative state just a few days in - never speaking again. This left a lot of unanswered questions and many a story told through others that claimed to have known what she wanted. I honestly don't believe what anyone has to say about what she may have or may not have done with the remainder of her life. I only know that she left here unfulfilled. And I only know this by the remnants she left behind and her seething jealously of others freedom.

Amongst her things I'd found a rather old application for a passport. Apparently, she'd never gone abroad - at least not in the manner I had. My grandmother prided herself on the few trips she took to local islands via cruises and Hawaii. She typically took these trips with her other children and their children. She never once invited my mother or I to one of these escapades. My mother wouldn't have attended anyways having a great rivalry with her other siblings. She also has never been much of an adventurist or enthusiast - most of her vacation time as a working adult/parent were squandered on her mother. I don't think my grandmother felt too big a void going to the few places she did but I'm certain my mother did. My mother has this selfish, entitled air about her as if she did all the right things or made all the right sacrifices for the sake of her mom. Sadly, neither one of them noticed the damage until it was too late. My grandmother really never went beyond the Atlantic and the Pacific and my own mother doesn't know anywhere beyond just west of I-95. So the two of them towards the end had planned to conquer the world. My grandmother was always on an ancestry kick that allowed her to at least get around meeting other veterans and descendants of her father. My mother never expressed a desire to travel and only did so for business or holidays. So when the Red Hats society offered a trip to London and there were Civil War events farther out west - they agreed to embark. Now that my grandmother is dead, I strongly believe my mother thinks she failed her mom and will deny herself the reward of traveling without her mother.

I won't harp on their relationship or ours but know that I have asked my mother to accompany me anywhere but here and she always declines. Of course, family came from all over for the funeral memorial and they were very forthcoming about their travel plans. Many of them had to halt late summer vacations all over the globe to attend. They also weren't shy in catching up and discussing their future plans as mother & daughter duos and friendly cousins and retirees at 50. We didn't have much to contribute seeing that my mother is having a crazy mourning period and constantly beating herself up about the shoulda-wouldas. I personally am so put off by that I'm not bothering to admit she could have another or many other chances. My mother also expressed a lot of hatred for the Red Hatters saying they didn't "come out" for the funeral so I can't even say that that London trip is a shoe-in. At this point, I can simply see that many of us have put obstacles in our way to prevent to my mother that as a retiree, someone in remission and now an heir that travel is attainable. I wondered what sign did she need to re-consider.

Then towards the end of the services, once everyone was leaving town, a dark horse comes in. My 42 year old cousin is traveling down from South Dakota. She'll only be by for a short period of time and she hasn't seen the majority of us for about twenty years. She will even be seeing her father for the first time in over four years. No one knows what to expect but we all know that she is the person that abandoned a "normal" life for travel. In fact, she's the one that had everyone up in arms about me going abroad. She had stopped trying to settle down, finishing school or having a career. Instead, she chose a life of getting out and seeing the world. It was totally unclear as to why or how she was getting along. It was just paraded as a poor choice due to ignorance on everyones part. Some said something may have happened to her or that she might have been ashamed for her choices. The reality is she was just fine. Her last expedition was to the Dakota's to visit her mother on a reservation. She wound up staying there for about nine months. While there she got an understanding of her culture, her mothers side of the family, a different way of life etc. It wasn't a big deal for her to do so because she didn't have a ton of possessions or children. She just piled in with her dogs, drove the backroads and stopped to take on an odd job every now and then. She makes jewelry and bar tends, it's easy for her to make friends without a lot of obligation and of course there is family all over the place. So when she came she may have missed the services but she had a lot to say about her experiences and what was next. 

What fascinated me the most about her is she herself didn't feel guilty about her choices. She was extremely bright and dewy about having chose that kind of life. It was the first time I didn't personally feel bad about someone making their way. I've talked about it before. I prefer to live a cookie cutter life and traveling took away some of that need for complexity. I enjoyed purging my obsessive amount of things and I liked the idea of being free of responsibilities to travel again. I still teeter on it - having the best of both worlds. I fear my age being a hurdle and making it so I will get stuck in a family life or a career chokehold. It was so refreshing to see someone not bogged down in their choices and really know what was in store for them or at least not be frightened of the future. She was okay with not marrying, not having children, not having a lot of money etc. Hey, if she dies tomorrow she's been living a real life. The comparison to our grandmother, my mother was that she actively made the choice to live real and not wait for anything else. That was her selfish. That was her sacrifice. And boy did she look the better for it!

As she left back to the confines of a crappy hotel after 14 hrs of straight driving and she took my Facebook info. It wasn't like she could take a number. I couldn't really give her an address. She said she would link up with me this winter and asked if I wanted to join her in New Orleans. The eery part is I've been fascinated with the Nola since I was a child. I've only been once and the storms really put me off of ever going there to live. I do beat myself up about it because I know there I could be needed. I've applied for a few job opportunities there but nothing ever comes of it. I also know that I could take on an "odd job" if I could just get there. She plans on bartending there through the winter. She's a smart girl and she's done her research about it. She says she'll be pulling an egg so she'll always have a bed and some portion of a home. As she explained this she rummaged through her hand made jewelry and referred to the tribe back "home" as the Blacks. I was content with her plans and everyone else just sat there judging. It was said that we were one in the same and I was just happy she'd showed up. I felt as though everything was meant to be - my circumstance, the funeral, her being late and the upcoming winter. 

The next day it was clear nobody was impressed with her. They all had their sordid remarks about her not being as they expected. Her father was angry she hadn't settled down yet. My mother expressed how she thought her traveling was more about getting equipped for the "real world". The rest made fun of how she navigated them and their stories of privilege and upward mobility. She wasn't impressed by their endeavors and shot down their prideful remarks about being supervisors and early retirees. The reality is she already settled and is well-equipped. I felt that she had already seen and done it all. I didn't think it was important for her to lay roots anywhere or add on to the tree of correctional officers and MTA workers. She chose a different path and as she succeeds at her choices she can afford to tack on a new tool or adventure that most cannot emotionally or financially afford. I wanted to go on her trip. I wished I could have just gotten up and said I was going with her. She promised me she would be in touch and I hope so. My theory is if things never look up here or there (in Florida) I'd much rather bar back and slice lemons with her. I don't need television. I don't need babies. I need travel. I want to live fast and die young. I don't want people talking about what I wanted to do. I want people talking about how I did it and then I want them to do it too.

Grandma never got anywhere. Mom is still blaming the world for not trying. I'm just trying to get on already. And my cousin gave her offering and went on her way. Ever since that encounter with her things have been so clear. It is as if she provided a new map - a road map - a treasure map - to the happiness I've sought all along. Then there are the other detours that sway me in other directions and I keep thinking this is the best way. Things in Florida are just shitty. I missed a few job offers due to funeral arrangements. I wound up losing some great housing opportunities due to bad communication and trying to do everything sight unseen. My mother is now the executor and I really don't care to leave her battling out her mothers legal wishes. I almost feel like I'm destined to just help her carry this through, extend the invitation one last time and then leave to never look back. I could see myself trying it rogue - keyword trying, for a bit. My cousin has never been overseas but it is next if things go well this year. I imagine she could teach me a lot about here as much as I teach her about over there. We'll "Choe" it over the hills and mountains and I'll show my gratitude with instructions on trains and un-refrigerated eggs. Just when I thought it was over….

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