It is has been a while since I wrote an entry, too long actually. It wasn’t because of a drought of ideas, some impenetrable sort of writer’s block. I needed some time to revaluate life after a recent loss in the family. He was my grandfather. I remember where I was when I found out he passed away. It was in the bleak hours of Sunday morning and the 20 hours preceding that, I returned from Norway, went to see an apartment and attended a Coldplay concert. All was well. I did not have the chance to turn on my personal phone in between the airport and the concert. I usually don’t turn on my phone immediately after returning. I have a few bad habits after I return from a trip (I’ll write more about this in the future), treating my phone like a red-headed stepchild is one of them.
Fast forward to me sitting in my hotel room and watching CNN, my body was still on Norwegian time. Still on a high from finally seeing Coldplay perform, I turned on my phone and in came the dreaded text messages my phone received while I was outside the country. It turned out that my cousin’s text would’ve been the most dreadful of all. My grandfather passed away. He died while I was en route to Oakland from Oslo.
I immediately felt numb, suspended in a vacuum of disbelief. My grandfather was gone. I planned to see him so many times before. Soon, I’d lie to dad and myself. But I was too busy living life the way I’ve always intended: on the go to the point where at no given time could my family guess my location. Soon echoed in my mind all night and eventually I slept. Within days I was back on a plane to go home and say goodbye even though he couldn’t hear me, for I was too late.
What happened next was unexpected. I saw my grandfather resting still and instantly an outburst of emotions oozed from me. My eyes flooded the more I imagined the things I never got to do. I never got to bring him a bottle of wine from Europe. He knew his wine and spirits. In his last days, he wasn’t healthy enough to have a glass with me but to hear him give me advice again on what to look for in wines would’ve been priceless.
It was in my adult life I recognised the impact he had on me, specifically my willingness to venture out into the world with an open mind. My grandfather’s arsenal of recipes gave me my first true taste of the world and it piqued my curiosity for what was out there—if only I traveled. He was a man of standards who insisted on the best, not based some display of braggadocio, because he wanted the best experiences. That is what traveling is to me, an experience.
The most critical impact my grandfather had on my life was courage, my willingness to embrace my journey. I remember vividly the story he told me, the story of his journey to America. He told me he had just a suitcase and less than 100 dollars to his name. He was at the airport in Montego-Bay so long that he could no longer ignore his hunger and after he bought lunch, he had even less money than before. Decades later, my grandfather survived and succeeded.
As I prepare to make the bold undertaking of moving to another country, sometimes it can be intimidating. I sometimes hear the voices of doubt and discouragement faintly echoing through the hallways of my mind. The fear that comes with walking away from a successful career, one in which I still have enough time to add to my success, can be paralysing at times. And in those paralysing moments, it would be easy for me to take solace in the security of my present.
Whenever I experience these feelings of fear and hear the voices of doubt and discouragement in my head, I think of my grandfather. I see him vividly, wearing one of those black feathered caps he wore when I first met him at the age of five, a pair of slacks and a rolled up long sleeve shirt tucked in—with a brown leathery suitcase in hands. I see him walking outside the John F. Kennedy airport in New York, with the chaos of people ensuing around him. I see him taking a deep breath before braving a future unknown, yet the future he wanted. I then find myself nodding my head, admitting that adventure is meant to be experienced and not to be feared.
For four months I did not write about my journeys because I never got a chance tell my grandfather of them while he was still alive. I know now that the best way to tell him of my journeys in this life is for me to embrace them. I am what remains of his journey and through me it will survive and go as far as I am willing to take it, until I pass it on. Sleep well Howard, I will take it from here.