My dad is pretty amazing. He’s 86. He’s a cancer survivor, he’s had a double bypass and last Spring he lost his beloved wife, my beautiful mother, after a ten year bout with Alzheimer’s. And yet Dad signs up for creative writing classes, joins in world event discussion meetings, he always looks nice and keeps a sense of humor. He is passionate about animals and the environment, and I have been happily designated his travel buddy.
Still, he gets restless and blue when he stays put too long. He says the heartbreaking phrase, “I feel like I’m just sitting around waiting to die.”
That’s my cue. “Okay Dad, it’s time for another adventure.” And whether it’s a car, plane or boat, off we go.
We make great travel buddies. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from both my parents, is that everything is an adventure if you treat it as such. Whether you’re walking in a nearby park or sailing the seven seas, it’s all about the “Can Do” spirit, and finding joy in the little things.
During one of my engagements as a cruise ship entertainer, I brought my Dad, and we sailed together from Florida to Peru. We signed up for every excursion we could squeeze in!
One of my fondest memories was in Guatemala, where a Panama hat caught my dad’s eye. He placed it on his head with a chuckle and boy did he look handsome! Though well into his 80’s, all the ladies young and old commented on the dapper man on my arm.
Each night on the ship we would have a fine dinner, sitting with new friends from around the globe. Everyone enjoyed Dad’s company—as a matter of fact, he truly became somewhat of a celebrity while aboard! I would have to excuse myself at dessert and go to the piano bar to begin my three hour shift of taking requests. I would always say, “Dad, Will you be okay by yourself for a bit?” And everyone at the table would promise he’d be in good hands.
After his table-mates left, Dad would come to my show, order one snifter of brandy, and listen to every song until I had played my last note. Not a night would go by that someone wouldn’t come shake his hand, pat his shoulder or stop for a delightful chat.
Dad would request all the songs I grew up with—Impossible Dream being my favorite. That song will always and forever remind me of my dad, whose every “Impossible Dream” was made a reality by his hard work, an iron will and a “Just keep walking forward” mentality.
Sometimes Dad and I just go to the lake park a few miles away, and look at the whimsical variety of water birds and turtles. Animals always put a smile on Dad’s face. Sometimes it’s as simple as lunch overlooking the harbor, seeing the glory of the sea and the antics of the seagulls. Sometimes we pack a suitcase and take a road trip. Our last one was to Mission Bay for the night. Before that, Monterey, where Dad wanted to visit the old Cannery Row of Steinbeck fame.
One of my favorite traveling moments was in Cambria, sitting on a hotel balcony looking out into a forest and listening to frogs, who were putting on quite a show. My Dad tried to imitate them and we laughed so hard! Being silly is one of the main ingredients in the fountain of youth, I’m quite convinced.
Today though, we did something we’ve never done before. I brought Dad over for dinner and he told me that his hands had been shaking and he was feeling forgetful and uncreative. He said he’d stopped writing. I could see the great disappointment in his eyes. So I said, “Perhaps you just need a muse. I need one too. How about we write together?”
And that’s exactly what we’re doing.
Dad just looked up, happy, and said, “I’m writing. I haven’t been able to write for a long time.” It is nice to have a muse, and it is perhaps even better, to be one.
Dinner’s ready. Our writing adventure is over for today, but our hearts are full. Now for our bellies—hopefully dinner will be a good adventure too!