Getting on an Airplane Again

The last time I stepped on a plane was November 2019, a flight to Toronto, the day after my father died, to join my family in laying him to rest. In remembering my father that day, I wrote about his seminal act of fatherhood, a bus trip with me around the United States:

The trip was, by times, grueling and uncomfortable and scary. But it was the best trip of my life, and the best gift a father could give his teenage son: 21 days of undivided attention in a “wherever the wind will carry us” spirit.

It is not an exaggeration to say that trip changed my life, and laid the groundwork for an approach to travel, and an approach to life, that has been far more fearless, confident, and improvisational than it might have been otherwise.

Whatever possessed him?

It’s been 1,233 days since I stepped onto AC8361 with Olivia for that trip home. They’ve been hard days: Catherine took a turn for the worse shortly after our return from Ontario, and died three months to the day after Dad. Two months later came COVID, and lockdowns, and an isolated amplification of grief. I thrashed about inside for a long, long time, trying to make sense of one thing laid on top of another laid on top of another.

I’m still doing it. But I’ve made my way, slowly but surely, toward brightness.

I wrote earlier this morning, on a widow support group, that I’d “followed grief’s vulnerability through a door to something deeper and more profound,” and that’s very much what it feels like: I chose, determinedly, to open my heart, to take risks, to fall in love, to find a way toward shaping a new way to live.

And so today, day number 1,233, I will step onto a plane again, out into the world, via AC8329 to Toronto, this time with Lisa and L., ready to see what’s out there.

My family is a travelling family, and my parents both instilled in me the notion that a curious life is a life well-lived. Catherine and I travelled widely, together and apart, and I carried on the tradition of father-and-child travel with Olivia laid down by my father, which took us everywhere from Slovakia to Japan. I’m excited about bringing the same wandering spirit to L., an opportunity I never expected to have again.

Olivia will be staying home this trip, which is disappointing for her, and unusual for me. Her travelling days are by no means over, but she’s off on a new adventure, newly living nearby in an apartment of her own, with two fantastic, caring supportive roommates. She’ll miss me. I’ll miss her. But we will ride again together another day. 

If I’m being honest, I have more than a little trepidation about this trip: it’s our first time on a big trip together, L and L and I, and we’re heading out into a world I haven’t set foot in for a long time. Perhaps my footloose muscles have atrophied?

But I also feel a sense of freedom, and more than a little excitement: the prospect of travel, metaphorically, feels like a heavy weight of sadness, and regret, and being stuck, is being lifted from my shoulders. 

I have been unable to go where the wind might carry me for a long time.

Here I go.


Ton Zijlstra's picture
Ton Zijlstra on April 3, 2023 - 10:21 Permalink

Bon voyage!

vbj's picture
vbj on April 3, 2023 - 20:09 Permalink

Bon voyage! And Paris will be a partner...

Erik's picture
Erik on April 4, 2023 - 00:14 Permalink

So much ❤️ in your writing, Wish you all great travels. Now and in the future.

Pedro 's picture
Pedro on April 4, 2023 - 08:05 Permalink

Godspeed and remember to have fun!
Waiting for you in Malaysia next ;)

Oliver 's picture
Oliver on April 5, 2023 - 03:20 Permalink

Bon voyage & Happy birthday!