When telling people about VagabondStew, I always say that it’s about sharing stories. We are connected by stories. They may be celebrations, or struggles, but stories are the threads that stitch the fabric of humanity together. With that in mind, I’ve been trying to strike a way to share the story of my most recent trip to visit my parents and siblings.
I’m fifty-eight, soon to be fifty-nine. My parents are not young, and the truth is, they are not well. Dad is now in the midst of his third bout with lung cancer. Mom has had a pacemaker for several years, and she takes breathing treatments several times a day.
My brother and sister both live there, as well, and are able to handle most things that come up. They’re both over fifty, and have problems of their own. Their kids are growing up, and grandkids are coming along.
We dont see each other often. I live in Denver, and the rest of my family make their homes in Oklahoma. For some time, I’d had a deep feeling that I needed to get down there and see them. So, I packed up the Stew Wagon and made the trip, a few weeks ago.
I traveled the back roads, from Denver, down through Limon and Lamar, Colorado. Then I crossed Kansas, going through Dodge City and Kingman, then on into Oklahoma. The route is longer than the one people usually use, taking I-70 across to Salina, Kansas, then south on 135. I chose it for the scenic value. The major highways are fast, but boring.
Mom opened her door to greet me, at about 9:30 on Friday morning. She looked well, overall. (She’s in good shape, for the shape she’s in.) We sat down at the table in her little apartment, and had coffee together. That’s what we do. Over the two days I was there, we had a lot of coffee, and talked about a lot of things. I am very grateful for that.
I wont go deeply into the rest of my time there. It was the typical family stuff; food, stories, listening to my brother talk.
Sunday morning, Dad and I went to breakfast. He’d been very quiet through all the family stuff, and stayed that way as he ate his French Toast. We’ve always been very open with one another, but this weekend, he was almost stoic. Sitting across the table from him, I tried to open things up, but he just didnt want to talk much. It was hard.
At first, I felt that the trip was a drawn out, waste of time and energy, but I know that isnt true. Everyone was glad to see me, and I suppose the novelty of it was a welcome distraction, but I didnt contribute anything to their situation. I’m like one of the Players from Hamlet, in and out, with a few laughs and some new stories, but only involved at the edges.
Four weeks later, I’m in a sort of mental and emotional vacuum; wondering what my role is.