“In space travel, all the numbers are awful.”
Douglas Adams: Life, the Universe and Everything
My lifelong travel companion has her birthday today, and luckily it won’t be a quarantine birthday. There is also a number, but I’ve chosen to be in denial about certain numbers lately.*
Andi—I don’t know if I can make your birthday a happy one. All I know is that I am grateful for all the years—now decades—of traveling together.
In a way, you became my first ever true travel companion, and that’s a bond stronger than you would think. And I don’t mean the means or the connections. You had true and natural appreciation for all things art and architecture, and you could transfer that to me as an equal. (It makes all the difference when it’s not an adult telling you—the child—that you should appreciate art.) From you I learned to enjoy picture galleries and historic sights and theater performances. I liked reading and going to concerts before, but that was far from the full spectrum.
A travel companion you have truly became for me, and not just in the ‘going places’ sense.
You also taught me to be more open-minded. I thought I was a liberal and was all for freedom when we met; but at first your faith was quite alien to me. To the outside observer, we sure seemed very different; maybe we still do. But I wanted to be with you, and that meant I had to allow my beliefs to be challenged by you. I know now that it made me a better person; and in the process, your beliefs were also challenged.
I think being one family made both of us better people than we’d have turned out if we hadn’t met. We both learned to look at a good many things through the other’s eyes. We each know ourselves much better than we used to.
You taught me that being angry isn’t enough. To really respect others, you need to go out and do things for them. Like I wrote, I thought I was a liberal—whatever that meant—, but I had to realize I was more afraid of the other—the poor and the sick and the wounded—than you were. You led me to accept to adopt the two kids we now call our own. It was hard and still is, but we are one family.
We still sometimes relapse into our judgmental selves, and we can also be harsh on each other. But you’ve been actively seeking to find out about my needs, and you also teach me to find out about them myself. I can just hope I’m doing the same for you, and I can just hope it shows. I’m trying, honest.
My point is—you did good. You did better than I could ever hope for. Thank you.
When I say happy birthday, it looks like we’re celebrating a number. But what I want to celebrate is our mutual love and respect. No number has any bearing on those.
Lots of love,
** A few weeks ago I had this dream where I knew I was 78 (for the record, I’m not yet there, no matter the appearances), but I could still run down and up the stairs, and on the whole, I didn’t feel old. In the dream. I think I already mentioned this.