Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Internet is Full

I like to imagine that someday, I’ll go to post here and I’ll submit my post for publishing and get back a message saying “Sorry… the Internet is full.”

Hasn’t happened yet, though, so here goes.

My thoughts on Shabbos – before they were interrupted by my brother – were about vacations that never happened. I know, totally upbeat, right?

Three of them.

The first, not quite a vacation. A retirement, of a teacher in my high school. I’d seen him in the hallways & the language office, but we’d never spoken. He was the German teacher, Herr Dieter. Two teachers were retiring that year, and the yearbook crowd put together a tribute page for each of them in that year’s yearbook.

Then, one day, maybe right around now – late May? – Herr Dieter dropped dead. Maybe a heart attack. I don’t know. But he was immediately dead and gone. And then, just a couple of weeks later, in my memory, the yearbooks arrived. With the tribute page… including the cheery farewell: “auf wiedersehen, Herr Dieter!”

Second, my zeidy. The mythologized version in my childhood imagination, of a big, strong man who worked his whole life, working menial jobs until he turned old. That part is actually true: he was big and he was strong and he left home around about when he was 11 or 12 years old and worked his way across the Atlantic somehow to build a new home here.

So then he was about to retire, and he and my bubby bought tickets: they were going to Israel. They’d had regular vacations all along, but this was Retirement. This was his time to see the world, to finally relax and enjoy the fruits of a lifetime of labour. I was just ten or eleven, but it seemed very fitting, very nice…even I knew he’d earned it.

And then he did retire and when he went to shave one morning before they got to go to Israel he had a stroke instead and they never did get to Israel. He spent the next fifteen years in Baycrest, unable to speak, imprisoned in a half-crippled body. The legend in my mind – and this may also be true – was that the stroke didn’t kill him because he was so strong, so very healthy and fit.

And number three: my parents’ cruise. My parents travelled a lot at the end, partly because of my father’s “bucket list.” They did a lot of travelling in 2008 (click the link to see where), and it scared me because although they liked to get out around Ontario a lot, this was too much travelling. It made me nervous, thinking about what it could mean. What it ultimately DID mean.

Europe always seemed like my mother’s thing. My father studied Portuguese once and wanted to get over there but couldn’t because of health problems. I don’t remember now if Portugal was on the itinerary of the cruise they booked – it was all places that sounded totally dull to me. Then, on top of all the travelling, they booked a cruise.

My father planned out the whole thing, had his itinerary-binder all ready to go months in advance, with where they would be on which date and details of the ship, the cabin, whatnot.

And then he got cancer, and they didn’t go, and he died instead, and the only semi-payback is that apparently the entire cruise ship was stricken with Norwalk and everybody spent a couple of weeks at sea being very, very ill. My mother found an article about it as she was skimming the newspaper one day, either after he died or during the brief twilight-zone dusk of his life.

My mother is going to Europe, finally, if the ash-clouds clear. She’s going in June, and to different places, with a different group of people. Not exactly a happy ending, but at least it’s an ending.

At least she is getting her vacation…at last. Because three people didn’t.

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