My dad was born in 1954. For the father of a 45 year old, he’s quite young. My mother was 20 and my dad was 21 when I was born. As far back as I can remember my father has had a minor, almost subliminal obsession with Scotland. His father (my grandpa Maxwell) was born in Toronto, Canada but his parents emigrated there from Scotland, and the heritage on that side of the family has been traced back rather far via Ancestry these days, but even prior to that, my dad was an amateur and periodic genealogist, working in an analog environment. When I was young we used to visit the Scottish Highland Games, he used to tell stories of our family being graverobbers, and we had various mementos of Scottish heritage hung around, well first my parents house, and then his house once my parents divorced when I was 12. He has never been to any part of Europe, let alone Scotland.
My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s five years ago. Depending on when you’re diagnosed, how old you are, what kind of treatment you get, and a bunch of other factors (known and unknown) the disease progresses at a certain rate. My dad has some good days, and then some tougher days. I see him regularly (yesterday for lunch, actually) and I can usually tell pretty quickly. The way he gesticulates, how his mood is, how engaged he is in our conversation, what he might need help with.
A couple of years ago I mentioned to my dad in passing that if there was going to be an opportunity for him to see Scotland and his homeland (or at least, his homeland for 50% of him – his mother was Prussian-German) the time was now. I shelved the conversation, not optimistic that in a COVID-struck world we’d have the chance. Then about six months ago he brought it up to me. His wife had urged him to consider it, reminding him that his disease is progressive, this may be the one chance we have to do this, and that I have experience traveling overseas.
We began discussions. It’s a challenge to get my father to commit to much these days. So much depends on how effective his medication is, how he slept last night, and how he’s feeling generally. Fortunately he’s learned some ability to recognize and manage his condition, and is learning how to get the most out of it. We have now a general consensus on when we’re leaving (I already have a one-way ticket booked for June 23rd. Why one-way? More on this as I write on the experience) and a schedule the takes us to London, Scotland, down to Bern, Switzerland (my dad is adamant about hiking the Iger) and up to Paris, then back to London over the course of two weeks. My plan presently is to fly back to Montreal first. I’ve never been there and have always wanted to visit, and a couple of days to decompress will be good. Why would I need to decompress? My expectation is that managing this entire trip, my fathers condition and dealing with my three brothers who are all also slated to go, will be a lot. A couple of days will do me some good. Going to Spain may be an option as well.
I’ve chosen to start blogging as a mechanism to document this trip for a couple of reasons. The first is that I simply do not write enough anymore. I haven’t had the motivation to blog, write fiction , or do any essay work for a long time. This trip serves as good motivation. Second, I do not really have any conventional social media save for Instagram and Reddit (does that even count as social media?). Third, blogging almost feels like a quaint, passe method of documentation and communication.
I’ll be writing my experience and feelings on it over the next several months between now and when we leave. Talking about preparations and how that is shaping me and my expectations for this journey. Much like my podcast, I am doing this for myself, however if you stumble upon this you are more than welcome to come along.
I am desperate to do this with my dad and brothers, and prepared to take on the challenge of it all. I have a singular regret from my mothers’ death. The parallels to this situation are driving me to make sure I do not replicate past mistakes.
I will save that for another post. 242 days until we depart.