Despite his alcoholism, my father was a brilliant man. He was in the Army Intelligence, so he had to be smart. It was that part of him I patiently waited to come out day after day. Walking home from the school bus, I used to wonder, What I am I coming home to today?
He wasn’t abusive, it’s not that. He did tend to have depression and would sometimes accuse us of things we did not do or complain about things we did not do enough of. The thing is, the alcoholism was a mask that went between what was an amazing person and the rest of the world. He would turn into this obnoxious and embarrassing person. Sober, he was a quiet and pensive man with an endless amount of patience.
That was when I had a real father. He had worked all over the world and knew so much about so many different cultures. I was fascinated with this. Still am. He was the sort of person to step off the trail or go past the “end of road” sign and explore The Beyond without a guide. He especially liked seeking out nomads in the deserts of North Africa and in the jungles of South America. I greatly admired his fearlessness with regards to the world and The Unknown.
This is a photo someone took of my dad in Tunis
At home however, the things he did know caught up with and devoured him. Too much time to think about them, I guess.
One trip he never talked about was that two year hitch in Korea. The War. We always thought that was the thing that made him drink.
If my father was working Stateside, he was extremely unhappy and restless. He was always mumbling, “I want to work overseas.” That was his mantra. But we never thought he was trying to outrun us. He wasn’t.
One time, he tried to take us with him. When I was fifteen, we were inches from moving to Spain. Everything was lined up, he had a place there, and the details sorted out. He was working in Libya at the time and the plan was for him to meet up with us in Spain during his off days. At the last minute something happened between the US and Libya and the entire thing was called off. Americans were forced to leave Libya, so he lost that job.
So I never did get to travel abroad with my father. Not physically. Through his stories and thousands of photographs, I did. I also inherited his restless spirit, that need to explore new places, new people, to get the flock outta here.
After I became a nurse, when I’d get new issues of my nursing mags, I’d skip all the way to the back, to the ads about traveling nurses. I looked at all the different places I could go and daydreamed. There’s been a worldwide nursing shortage for a long time and I worked with a lot of nurses who did this thing.
All I could do was dream though, Blane always had the higher paying job, so his career plans trumped mine and eventually I stayed at home to raise the kids and quit nursing.
This I want to go overseas thing became my mantra, but not until after my father died. I didn’t need to have a job abroad to travel. We could just go there. And we did, many times. Always took the kids with us, too.
I can’t say I took them to all these places because that is what I wish my father had done with me. I don’t wish I had a childhood like them.
I’m glad I didn’t go until I was an adult and wanted to explore all these new places. It is very different when someone takes you somewhere versus you taking them along.
I still have these daydreams about being a traveling nurse. I haven’t worked in the field in years, but you know where I see myself one day? On a medical sailboat (it exists) that travels the world giving immunizations to people in remote locations.
Not all of my dreams are nomadic in nature. I also fantasize about sitting at a typewriter in a cottage somewhere in the English countryside writing a novel. About what, I don’t know, but the image is in my head along with one of me in a wooden house near the French Quarter doing the same thing.
None of my “visions” have me here where I sit writing this blog post. Not one.
That is a a photo one of the girls took of me on this trip.