There is Always an Upside

 

 

It was our last adventure day on our European trip to see his cousin living in Geneva for the summer doing an internship. We all chose to take the train from Geneva to Anncey in France. I asked my son to write in the journal my speech therapist gave me. I asked him to do it last night, but he was busy texting and watching Hawaii Five O in English now that we switched hotels. He promised he would do it today on the train with his scholarly cousin as motivation. It is amazing to me that the three of us are on a train from Geneva headed to Annecy, the French Venice, traveling through the wine country.

It was only a short time ago that my nephew was texting me when I could not even talk or write at all. The idea of ever getting back out on my own was far away in my mind, if at all. My thoughts were much closer and involved basics, is today the day I get to go home, what does that even look like? I was so shell shocked, traumatized really that home seemed unsafe and the hospitals scary, all I had was my mind.

I am asking Glenn to write about his first European adventure, hopefully not his last. It will mean something some day as he looks back on it. He is trying and I love seeing his pen to paper as he goes about it while I type.

We have traveled by planes, trains, buses, cars and on foot. He has experienced what it is like not to have your own car as we are use to at home. You have to think differently and plan out your schedule based on what is available and you can afford.

He has seen the importance of learning languages and working through not being able to be understood or how to bridge understating to make your way through daily activities. He felt privileged when our next hotel had an English speaking staff. I am glad our first hotel and area did not for him to feel the culture. He saw that it is possible to work your way around it using nonverbal communication and the kindness of others. I hope he now has more empathy if he sees someone struggling in the future to be understood and helps them.

Vineyards blanket the countryside as we speed along through the valley with mountains on both sides of us. We are low in the valley and riding comfortably on the train. We just passed a town where the Tour de France was expected to come through as campers crowed the town and tractor trailers with Tour de France logo abound. We had no idea and it was an unexpected spotting. Culoz or Viones not sure which one, confirmed by our scholar Culoz is on the route. The end spot for today.

I am tired as our trip is coming to a close, today is our last adventure. We made the right choice to take a pretty train ride together, relaxing and beautiful. It is up to my speed today.

What came next was a beautiful walk around Anncey with lunch on one of the pretty canals, a boat ride on the lake to view another gorgeous castle while watching cliff jumpers with parachutes. People enjoying the green water and hot sun by boat, on the beach or jumping off a cliff.

We sat at a cafe and I downed two iced, yes iced teas with lemon thoroughly enjoying our last day. We walked to the train and I spotted a wedding dress, ah there it is, what I came here to find. The sign I needed that all I really want I have. It’s time to move forward, set a date, get a dress as the next big adventure will be our wedding.

This trip healed the part of my soul that was a little lost. I had left it in a castle twenty six years ago and it took Chateau de Divonne to find it. I am forever grateful for the opportunities my life keeps on having as the card on my fridge says “all who wander are not lost.”  Heartbroken, yes, but not lost as you have to keep going Over, Under and Through to heal and experience the upside. As I always say, “there is always an upside.”

May my son read his journal and continue to write his amazing adventures, his heart breaks and his loves that surely will come and go along his path. We did it Buddas! Thank you for believing in me. Our walks from the village to the castle breaking bread or sitting at the bus stop talking I will cherish forever. Love you my angel, so very much.

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Path to Peace

 

A day at the United Nations and Red Cross Museum ended with fireworks.  A day centered around peace and freedom to then end in tragedy.  My son was asleep when the news came to me and I let those contacting us know we were ok.

The day was spent seeing letters to those missing after conflict or imprisonment able to connect with help from the Red Cross.  It was moving to hear their stories and be exposed to the tragedy of hate.  It would be only hours later that we are in the country struck by a horrific event, my heart breaks for those families and for all of us once again reminded to stay aware, be on alert, yet work more importantly to work towards peace.

There is a statue on the path up to the United Nations of Ghandi which has his words engraved on it stating, “My life is my message.”  That is what I believe for all of us, that how we live our lives is the message we send to the world we are part of.  It starts with ourselves, then our children and then spreads to our communities we are a part of.

The Red Cross Museum had stories of people who were making a difference one person at a time.  They also had artwork that demonstrated the creativity of those imprisoned which spoke to me as they did not become hateful of their circumstance they kept hope alive as Nelson Mandella did.

We are all on our own path and yet when tragic events strike we come together as one in the hope for peace around the world.  We walked again to our village in France as an expression of solitarity with the world.  We are from New York I told a woman who said many tourist are afraid to come to France.  We know their pain and we know not to live in fear or those who have hate win.

She smiled and said “ah, yes New York.”  That is right, New York.  We are a resilient bunch.  I felt proud to walk with my son to show him stay on your path, be kind and work to spread peace throughout the world, starting today in France.

Finding Your Castle

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Rainy days and Monday’s are both glorious reasons to write in a castle. My beach towel is by my side as I head back from the pool to sit in the bar lounge alone listening to wonderful French words flowing out of friendly conversation in the other room. The people are beautiful. Ok, I heard fromage. It is a discussion that includes food. I love listening to it and wait to understand even one word, however it does not matter as they all are a treasure. I am enjoying the style and not having to interrupt the words, their laughs and different voices tell the story. They converse in an orchestrated dance taking turns as are birds chirping from time to time to emphasize the beauty of this moment.

They are my fellow castle guest. I am in my writing space with grand doors and chandeliers. They have left and it is quiet enough to hear my keyboard tapping. Castle life includes many spaces of privacy with history and character. It’s just the way I imagine life to be and how it was living in one for a semester over two decades a go.

I had never even seen one, except in a magazine or Life Styles of the Rich and Famous television program back in the day. I think that is why having one of the saddest things happen weeks after arriving going back to heal, a temporary one to keep going, is why being here to finish my book is the processing part I had not done for twenty six years. Once again the saddest  of this past year is melted away with each turn as my eye catches the next magical element to take in.

To write in a castle was never my plan, to have my father die while living in one was certainly unexpected on both accounts. You do not expect a parent to die and you do not expect to live in a castle, well maybe some people do. Once both happen to you it is definitely not foreseen to then wake up in one with your son visiting your nephew with your brother and his wife to finish your last chapter of your book after dying myself this past year, just months ago.

Dying I expected, being a heart patient, it’s having the son, being a writer and staying in a castle to finish a book that surprises me. He told me last night at dinner as we laughed and could not understand a word of what was beautifully being describe to us in French a language neither of us know as I encouraged, well forced him to take Spanish, again if I had ever thought of this it would have been French. We sat there and at one point I asked him how he felt about me coming up with the crazy ideas. He said it’s kind of like that time in the hospital after your stroke when you left me a voicemail message that you would be fine and home soon, that it would all be ok. He went on to say, I saved it and when it got really bad I had it to listen to.

I was floored and we kept talking as we always do. He had never told me that and it meant so much to me that he had that to listen to when I could not talk. It took taking him to Europe sitting on the terrace having dinner in France for him to share it and this is where I end the book. He will have our stories to heal his own broken heart that certainly will happen from time to time. My advice to him will always be to take your book and get to a castle, if they have stood for centuries you certainly can overcome decades of ups, downs and inside outs. Over, Under and Through that’s how we do, you need to keep going even when you feel like you can’t. When your heat hurts deeply and you can’t find breath, find your soul in your head and pull from it what you need to keep you focused on getting through, remember these over the top moments that only come by going through, love you buddas. You were that for me and our bond will always be there here or in our hearts, even when they stop beating, ok. That’s a little dramatic, but you get my point. You would now say, “I get it, I get it, you’ll always be there, love you too.”

Unforgettable Airport Wings

 

At the airport, through security and relaxing at an upscale restaurant by the gate. My  son’s excitement is in his eyes and relaxed demeanor which makes me smile from the inside out. We both feel this elated sense of anticipation and accomplishment all in one. The minute we are sitting on the plane will be a miracle in itself. We are together on our own European adventure and just months ago we were separated almost for ever. He knows I will always be there in some way and that is what makes it ok whatever happens as life continues. Right now though we are sitting at JFK eating our last American meal of burgers and wings with ice in our drinks before taking flight to Geneva. A trip of a lifetime, thank you Nan and my fiancé for your support everyday of my big ideas.

The idea that we are headed to Switzerland and France in the Rhone Alps days after my European essay was released as part of Unforgettable Stoires Told By You is beyond anything I ever imagined. Ok, of course I have imagined just about everything for my life over and over again as my mind works that way. When asked in kindergarten what I wanted to be when I grow up I stated, “Everything.” I think that about sums it up and why would you not want to be as many things as possible.

I think that is why helping students find their path is so exciting to me. They have not yet decided and I want to catch them before they lose that spark that they have all open doors. My goal is to help people see that, remember that or find it if it never was necessary or presented to them before.

That is what I see in my son’s eyes and demeanor a soaking in of all that is in front of him. The planes, the people, all walks of life people, things new and familiar knowing more is to come. The Alps, baby!

The beeping of luggage carts on the tarmac with drivers and luggage loaders with personality, dancing and enjoying the work day as others go about it more robotically. I am glad he is taking it all in as we have four hours to go before our flight. We do not mind.

Natalie Cole is singing with her father and it just came on as we sit here. Tears in my eyes as I try in to explain to my son her album singing with her father. I am holding back tears as Unforgettable plays really unable to form words, that really is what this trip is. It is what my life has been and the fact God gave me a son to share it with is unforgettable too.