Its strange how you can be with your parents from your birth, and even after 45 years you learn things about them that you never knew. How is that possible that the people you practically spend the most time with are still a mystery? I believe it’s because most of your lifetime they are playing a role, as if our life was a play. They play the role of caregiver, disciplinarian, and coach. My parents always had a way of dishing out love and fear equally. But now as an adult I can understand that they really did have the best intentions and did many things that I questioned out of love and desire for my success. However as we all age we change, we become wiser, we mellow out, we let down our parenting walls and become just people. Their roles as parents are never ever done, but they do evolve. And I find that one of the best ways to reap the benefits of this evolution is to spend time with them, and for me that means traveling with them for a little family travel bonding time.
They say ‘kids say the funniest things’, but have you hung around seniors lately? I travel with each of my parents quite a lot, and last summer I took them on a trip to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and every day they had me either doubled over with laughter or surprised and delighted with new little tidbits that I never knew about them.
You’ll See the World Through Their Eyes
My parents are pretty simple people. They aren’t showy, they simply are happy growing stuff in their garden and eating what is fresh. And they eat fresh not because that’s the ‘in’ and responsible thing to do, they do that because they’ve always done that. Fancy dinners, hotels, and experiences aren’t ever anything they look for or would ever treat themselves to. They are just simple Midwesterners who come from a farming background. So I I love to take the opportunity to have them experience some luxuries that they seldom get or give to themselves. After a luxurious dinner at the Algonquin Resort one night, my mom was starting to fall asleep in the bed next to me and suddenly mumbles “All those fancy dishes coming out for dinner tonight. Now I have sugar plums dancing in my head.“ I laughed, as fancy flatware is seldom something I give thought to any longer after plenty of nights at high-end restaurants in cities all over the world.
“Do you need a different shape plate for everything?” she asks, “Round must not be ‘in’ any longer. I remember the first time I saw a square plate – it was in Singapore. And I thought – what’s this world coming to? Square plates?” I smiled as she continued; “Now you have triangles, teardrops, and rectangle plates!”
My Dad chimes into the fancy plate conversation and adds his perspective on the food, “Yes and the garnish is put all over the place on the plate. I couldn’t find my mashed potatoes! Then I found them under the scallops. I wasn’t quite sure how to attack it and no one else ordered the scallops so I couldn’t follow anyone else’s lead.”
This whole exchange made me feel like I was in a ‘Pretty Woman escargot moment’, but the senior version. Luckily my dad didn’t throw his scallops across the room onto someone else’s plate.
They Change Fast
My Mom has been mixing up words for years now; it’s part of her DNA to pronounce words incorrectly. I do blame it on age, but on this trip I noticed my Dad has now caught the word scramble disease. Instead of calling Prince Edward island PEI, he called it PIE. Not just once – but for the whole week we were on our PEI roadtrip. This is new – he didn’t used to do that. Every time I see my parents I discover these new things that have popped up – or more aptly put – seem to be deteriorating. On this trip it’s my dad’s ability to murder words. I find myself yelling in order to speak with them and repeating myself all the time as hearing is seemingly getting worse too. And only a year has gone by since I traveled with my mom to Nova Scotia, but I notice that she now limps a little more, her arthritis has worsened, and the wrinkles are deeper. She actually said to me on the trip that she was thinking of trying anti wrinkle cream, I let out a loud laugh and she looked at me stunned. I felt a little bad, but considering she’s 78 maybe she should have considered that a little earlier I thought to myself.
The changes happen quickly, and traveling with them actually is a good way for me to gauge where they are in life. When you just go visit for a weekend in their home, they seem to keep it all together more and put on their best face, or they can sort of fake it. But travel with them for 2 full weeks sharing a hotel room and you get the real picture.
See a New Side of Them
My dad doesn’t do this at home, but when traveling he talks to everyone….EVERYONE. The biker, the fisherman, the man behind the bar, the ship captain, and the guy in the hotel room next to us. I actually have to hurry him along at times. I watch in disbelief and think, THIS is my dad? Huh? Why have I never seen this side of him? He’s normally so intimidating that no one wants to talk to him – or at least that was my teenage version of him. Traveling brings out a new side to him that I seldom see and for that alone I’m grateful for getting to travel with him now later in life.
You’ll Learn Things About Yourself
I asked my mom about why dad is so social and talkative when we travel. She makes a disgusted look and says “Oh I don’t know, I guess he doesn’t want to talk w me and would rather talk to others.” I let out a laugh in disbelief. It’s strange how even though some things change; there are patterns in all human beings. Even after 55 years of marriage, we (women) still know how to somehow blame ourselves for something that most likely has nothing to do with us.
I also find that traveling with them mostly makes me think of my own mortality and aging in addition to theirs. It’s human to take experiences and try to apply them to your own situation, and when I travel with my parents it seems I do this a lot. They really are the movie trailer to what to expect as I age. It’s eye opening and it creates self-awareness that I otherwise might not have.
It Teaches Patience
As a solo traveler most of the time, I don’t have to worry about anyone but myself. However family travel, and specifically traveling with my parents, is a real wake up call remembering that I have people traveling with me that I need to give more time and pay attention to and have patience with. Everything takes a bit longer, we go a bit slower, but in the process I see more – more of the destination and more of them.
Carpe Diem – Seize It!
In a recent pop culture event, Actor JK Simmons won an Oscar and decided to dedicate his speech to his parents. I happened to be watching this with my parents when they were visiting me in Canmore Alberta this winter.
“Call your mom, call your dad. If you’re lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call ‘em. Don’t text. Don’t email. Call them on the phone. Tell ‘em you love ‘em, and thank them, and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you.”
So the real reason to travel with your parents is simple – time is running out and at some point they will be gone and you will wish they were back. You will wish you took that trip with them, introduced them to new things like square plates. You will wish you knew more about them. You’ll wish you had said more to them and were nicer to them. So here’s your chance now – seize it if you can and plan that trip family trip!