“Let parents bequeath to their children not riches, but the spirit of reverence.” Plato
Several years ago I travelled extensively for work. Monday, Rome. Wednesday, Vienna. Friday, Birmingham. It felt exotic and glamorous to be on the move. Sitting still is not one of my strengths. It’s a wonder I’m a writer now. But that’s another story. Suffice to say, running has always been my raison d’être.
My pace hasn’t slowed down since I left Europe either. Anytime I complained about my workload and how I needed a vacation, my mother would say I couldn’t run away from myself. Wherever I went I’d bring my personality with me.
My dad hasn’t been well lately and I’ve been home with him. Life has come to a sudden halt and I’ve had to settle into a slower stride. This does not come naturally for me.
While out for a walk with my dad, he admitted something he says he hadn’t told anyone else. “I have no desire to eat,” he said. “I haven’t for a long time.”
“What, what do you mean?” I said, panicked. Was he trying to starve himself?
“Your mother and I talked all the time. We shared everything. Meals were about conversation.”
“But Dad.” I stared at his sagging pants and his pencil-thin arms. Why hadn’t I noticed?
“I don’t feel like eating alone.”
“But you have to,” I said, immediately going into problem solving mode, providing suggestions, thinking about how I could make meals less lonely, more enjoyable.
“It’s hard without your mother.”
At any mention of my mother I typically get very teary-eyed. And maybe that’s a good thing. I stopped rattling on and listened.
He was right. Eating alone sucks. And in my dad’s case, he’s never done it before so it’s all that much harder.
It’s a daunting challenge to establish an environment, which allows him to keep living in his house, where he is ensured of getting the nourishment he needs. It’s so important for him, but I can understand how he feels.
I hated eating on my own when I was travelling for work.
There were many nights I ate a sandwich or a chocolate bar at my desk for dinner, and other times I didn’t bother eating at all. There were so many lovely restaurants to eat in, in every city I worked in and yet I didn’t go. At some level, I knew I would never enjoy them on my own. Conversation, camaraderie, intimacy are the most important elements of a great meal. The food has always been secondary to me.
When I talk or think about my days in Europe, it is always with fondness. I learned a lot about myself from the challenges and rewards of working in different cultures and I was fortunate enough to make some wonderful friends. I fell in love with the countries I worked in.
But it wasn’t without its drawbacks. The travel wore rather thin after the umpteenth delayed flight or the millionth Friday night stuck in an airport lounge, waiting for a flight home. My concept of home became a moving target. If I wasn’t in an airport or on a plane on a Monday morning or a Friday night, I told myself I was home, even if home was a hotel room.
I didn’t see, or experience as much, as I would have liked to of the countries I lived in. It’s no one’s fault but my own. I tend to be a bit of a work alcoholic. But even if I were the carefree sort, I was in Europe for work, not tourism. And besides, I was usually alone. Being a social person, I like doing things with others. So in that absence, I tended to put in long hours.
I’d forgotten that bit, until the conversation with dad. He’s still teaching me stuff, forcing me to look at myself when I’d rather be running.
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