|This is a screenshot from TIA Adventures website. TIA means This Is Africa. PK and I are going on a safari with this company that includes a night or two "bush" camping. Will we hear the lions roar? Maybe. Will we be nervous? Probably. But as the homepage of TIA's website quotes Helen Keller,|
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
Me? I'm also skirting the edges of guilt about leaving my mother.
She's a healthy 97 and lives in assisted living one mile away. She keeps forgetting that I'm leaving. I have told her at least 50 times. Our initial plan was to travel last February. She asked how long before I would leave. I told her it was eight months. She said—and I'm not making this up—Oh, that's OK. I'll be dead by then.
As if it wouldn't be OK if she wasn't dead?
Today, when I told her for the umpteenth time about our imminent departure, she expressed horror that I was going to Africa, because, Aren't there a lot of black people? What about the lions and tigers?Don't stick your leg outside the bed or something will chew on you!! How long will you be gone?
Twenty-five days, I told her. She grimaced. Grimaced.
Oh, well, when you get back and I'm not here, you'll know where you can find me, she said. The cemetery!
I laughed. Because it is laughable. And what else could I do?
My mother never understood the part of me that wanted to GO. Never, although going has been a mostly unfulfilled part of me, she cannot relate. But really, does she need to? Is it odd, and also pathetic, that as a person nearing age 70, I am worrying about what my mother thinks?
I didn't worry about that for most of my life. But now is different. It isn't so much what she thinks, but what she feels. I know that I'm important in relieving the boredom of her long days in assisted living. I also know she's well cared for, safe, and, for at least part of each day, entertained.
I've spent many hours struggling with this dilemma, which has, of course, another side.
That would be the side of my understanding husband of going on 40 years, PK, who is hot to travel the world. He retired in 2008, the year we brought my mom to Oregon from Minnesota. He's raring to go and he'll go without me. He has. I don't like it, but I understand. I don't hold it against him.
I think I'm near the end of working through this, balancing my needs against my mother's, my husband's needs against my torn allegiance.
I have to go with him. While we're both still healthy. While we have the resources. I've explained repeatedly to my mother (who I expect to live to 100 and beyond)that I love her and admire her spirit more than ever, but that my primary relationship is with PK.
Next week PK and I are headed for South Africa and then on to Uganda. Twenty-five days total. Hardly a blip in a lifetime, especially if you're about to turn 98. Or even if you're edging uncomfortably close to 70. I can't wait to experience the places and meet the wonderful people in a world that our son Chris has opened to us. His friends and admirers will be "catching us" on a new-to-us exotic continent.
Before we know it, we'll be back home to "ordinary life" but, no doubt, itching for the next adventure, even if it's just driving the Four Wheel Camper south during the winter rains. Mom, you will have to get used to this.
I'll think about my mother every day, and send messages for her caregivers to relay about my adventures. I can't imagine that, given a sound mind, she would deny me.
NOTE: My wonderful daughter-in-law, a long-term care ombudsman, assures me my dilemma is not at all uncommon. As longevity increases and many people are living well into their 90s, their children, also aging, are caught between what they want and what their parent wants or expects. It isn't easy.
P.S. I won't be posting blogs from Africa, but I bought a New Camera! and a Moleskine notebook in which to jot notes, and I am excited to share
images and words about a world so distant from my own.