Two years ago, my Dad’s heart valve failed, causing his aorta to rupture.
Typical mortality rate is 80%.
Dad called in his own ambulance.
His recovery has been slow and steady, but not easy – on himself or his kids. Dad is frustrated by not being able to solo pilot his Hobie Cat and we worry about his frequent dizzy spells. They’ve held him back from doing things he used to love – like riding a bike or sharing a brew with his favorite beer-drinking daughter.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, he simply needs to allow himself to be brave enough to get back into the saddle and ride. Every time he does this, a small piece of normalcy returns to his life. (His Spotted Cow days are over, however.)
About two months ago, he received an invitation to join my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Billy on a 10-day trip to Germany to see where my Grandpa grew up and meet some distant relatives. His initial reaction was to decline the offer because, in his words, he didn’t want to be a boat anchor to his younger siblings. I gently reminded him that he may never get the opportunity to do this kind of thing again. How often does an invite like this come up?
The next time we spoke, he had decided to go for it. As someone who highly values the experience of traveling to new lands, I was really happy to hear this news. As a devoted daughter who is a bit overprotective and, at times, a worry-wort, I got a little anxious, too. I was with him the last two times he’s left the country. This time, he was leaving me and his phone at home. Nothing promotes mild hysteria like an over-active imagination combined with prolonged radio silence.
I did what I could to help him prepare for the trip. I put together a care package of often over-looked items, like a luggage lock for his duffel bag, a voltage converter for his shaver, and ginger chews in case he gets into some bad wienerschnitzel. I gave him tips for packing lightly and what kind of clothing to bring (just think Rick Steves).
As of 2pm on Saturday, he was in Uncle Billy’s hands. All I had left to do was worry about him getting there safely. No one ever gets proper rest on overnight flights and trying to navigate your way through a new city the next day feels more like sleepwalking than sightseeing.
I couldn’t stop thinking about my tired Dad having a terrible time until I logged onto Facebook last night. Aunt Nancy posted a few pictures of Dad and Uncle Billy goofing off like kids. He didn’t look tired. He didn’t look sick. He looked like he was having a great time. I decided to relax and let the magical power of travel transform him back into the individual he was pre-heart surgery.
Before leaving, Dad mentioned this trip gave him extra motivation to ramp-up his exercise routine and start building more stamina. Photographic evidence suggests he did a nice job of that.
I have no doubt he’ll be similarly dragging us aboard his sailboat this summer.