In Praise of My Dad

Before our recent trip to Croatia, the last time my Dad and I had travelled alone together had been in 1980, when we took a bus trip around the continental United States together. I was 14 at the time, just on the cusp of teenage rebellion. That was a good trip; a sort of last hurrah before the need to differentiate kicked in and necessarily drove a wedge between us for a while.

I think Dad and I went into this recent trip wondering what it would be like to travel with each other, now that we are both (at least in name) adults. Travelling is hard, and travelling with other people is harder because happinesses and stresses aren’t always in sync.

Norm Rukavina in Zagreb, October 2004

I’m happy to report that this trip exceeded my expectations. Once we got going in ernest, it was a true joy travelling with Dad; I think we both agree that the trip would have been much poorer without the other, and we found that our skills and tendencies were, by and large, complementary rather than competitive. There were several times on the trip that I was struck with the notion that there was no place I’d rather be, and no person I’d rather be there with, at that moment.

Far too often, after we leave our parents’ homes and strike out on our own, our experiences with them are limited to a Thanksgiving here and a Christmas there. We come together in times of celebration, like weddings, and times of sadness, like funerals. But our experience of each other as day-to-day people is limited.

I consider it a great gift that Dad and I were able to head out on our own for two weeks and see a bit of the world together, and learn more about who we’ve become. Not only did I learn a lot about his strengths — he is fearless, more social than I ever imagined, always game for adventure, and cares a lot about people — but I also came to realize, again, that a lot of the ways that I am — good and bad both — are echoes of who he is.

If you have the chance to travel with a parent, take it. You will come back, if nothing else, knowing a lot more about each other.

Thanks, Dad, for a good trip.