Sunday, March 19, 2017

Travels with My Father

Don’t know where my wanderlust came from, but pretty certain it wasn’t from my parents. My Dad did have an interesting period when he went regularly to Mexico City for work, but he never took me or shared much beyond a piece he composed called “Sounds of Mexico.” I recall him going on the Queen Mary to Europe with my mother when I was a teenager, but I stayed home eating Swanson’s TV dinners with Mrs. Wilson looking in on me occasionally. Summers had us traveling as far south as Florida when I was 5, as far north as Toronto when I was 12, but the rest was close to my New Jersey home—Montauk Point, the Catskills, the Jersey shore.

When he and my Mom moved to California in 1992, there could have been some opportunities to travel together. But we mostly didn’t and he was fine with that, by this point a creature of habit and most of the habits in the comfort of his home. Added to the list of all the possible disconnects between father and son, I was sometimes disappointed that we never shared a traveling adventure together and the closest we got was me writing letters so he could be a bit by my side in the comfort of his own armchair.

The armchair and a good stack of National Geographics can indeed be a form of travel and inspired from a photo from that magazine, my Dad painted a picture that hung in our New Jersey home, later in his Novato, California home and now in my San Francisco home. Remarkable to think I’ve been living off and on with this painting for over 50 years. It is one of the ways I remember my Father with a smile and when I greet it each morning, it is like comfort food for the eye.

And so 10 years after he left us, there I was in Belgium feeling the connection, traveling across time and space to my Dad, bless his heart. I saw a painting in my lovely hotel that had a bit of his in it and then tried to take some photos that evoked it as well.

So maybe I was wrong, maybe a bit of my wanderlust came from this painting and another of a Polynesian woman (also from National Geographic) and books I read like Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates and the music of Beethoven played on our Hi-Fi and the movies we watched sitting on the couch, classics like Casablanca and Roman Holiday. So we didn’t sail the seas together or play cards on European trains or walk the beaches of Fiji, but I guess we had a bit of travel time together in our strange way.

Thanks, Dad, and know that I’m still writing letters to you in my mind as we travel, that you are still with me even as you’re so very far away. And hey, I’m in Salzburg now. Want to go for a walk?

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