Next week will be ten years since my father unexpectedly passed away. No one really saw it coming and when it happened it happened quickly. I miss my father very much. More than anything I miss traveling with dad.
But, we had issues. I’ve written about him many times over the years and it if you didn’t know him you might wonder how I could go back and forth between being angry with him and adoring him. I don’t know myself, I’m still working through a lot of it.
Day to day life with my father was difficult, especially when I was a child. As an adult it was much easier, although it still could be challenging. One area where it was easier was when we traveled together.
There was something about going through hell together that helped us bond. I have my father’s sense of humor, which is funny when you consider I didn’t think he had one until I was in my early 20s.
If you’ve read this blog before you know my mother had a stroke when she was 29 years old. It changed everything. She had severe brain damage and lost most of her short term memory and much of her mobility. That didn’t prevent my father from dragging my mother all over the globe.
My father loved traveling and he tried his best to show the world to my mother. They went on several cruises because those were easier, but he took my mother to Hawaii, Spain, London, and many other places I can’t remember. My mother suffered from anxiety in addition to her other ailments, but dad didn’t let her back out, even though she would have if given the opportunity. She looks back fondly on those travels now, in fact they are memories she hangs on to most of all.
Traveling with Dad – London
In 1988 we all flew to the UK for my brother’s wedding in Kent. After the wedding I traveled with my parents to London for a few days until they went home and I went on to Italy with a family friend. Neither of my parents admitted that my mother had any disabilities. My mother refused to be photographed in her wheelchair and my dad never made accommodations for someone who used one.
When we arrived at the hotel it became clear that the UK didn’t have the same laws concerning handicapped access as we did in the US. Dad had booked a room on the 5th floor of the hotel. It made him nervous to get rooms on the upper levels in hotels, but sometimes that’s simply all that was available. The hotel had two lifts but one was out due to water pipe issues and the other wasn’t big enough to fit the wheelchair.
No worries, the hotel manager said he would take of it and called a few of the bellhops to come and help. While the first one removed his belt and secured it around my mother and her chair, the other two grabbed on to the side of her chair and started to carry her up the stairs.
This was pretty standard treatment when we traveled, but especially in London. Everyone was always willing to do whatever it took to make sure we had access to anything and everything.
Mom was halfway up the first flight of stairs before she got wedged in the stairway. It was an old hotel and surely the building had settled over time. Not to worry, the helpful hotel managed instructed another man to remove one of the hand rails going up the stairs.
Mom was laughing, loving the attention, and not the least bit concerned that she was being carried precariously up five flights of stairs by three strangers speaking a language she didn’t understand.
Dad was just thrilled someone else was hauling her up the stairs for once.
At this point I’m standing in the corner laughing my ass off.
One lift is broken and no one an go up or down the stairs while mom is wedged in the stairway.
“How on earth are we going to do this every time we want to leave the hotel?” I asked.
My father, who was just as punchy as me, started laughing too. He came to his senses and asks the hotel manager to ask the men carrying my mother to bring her down. He was terribly sorry but this was just not going to work out.
I shouldn’t have said anything, we ended up staying in some castle that had only one room available. I ended up sleeping on a cot in the bathroom.