Prost! Mi scusi! Hola!
To many, those are simply foreign words. But to me, they evoke fond travel memories with my dad.
The ability to travel is a gift, and to share this gift with a loved one makes it all the more treasured.
When I was a child, we took family vacations. When I got married and had a family of my own, we traveled with my parents. Later, my daughters, mother, mother-in-law and I took trips. During my divorce, it was my girls, my mother and I who enjoyed getaways.
Everything changed in February 2013 when my dear mother succumbed to lung cancer.
Thankfully, Dad and I had each other. After my mom's death, my cousin urged my dad to come to Europe with her and another cousin. My cousin had planned the trip months earlier, a trip my mother had told us all about. I was shocked when my dad, who hadn't flown in about 30 years and didn't have a passport, said yes. I was also shocked that they asked me to join them.
How could I say no to the chance to experience Europe with my dad? We had never been across the pond.
We crisscrossed Europe by plane, train and automobile, stopping in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Italy.
It was on a beer tour in Munich that Dad and I learned prost (cheers!), which we still say every time we clink our glasses.
An apartment-type building in Rome yielded the mi scusi (excuse me) moment, when my dad, who didn't have his key, insistently and rather forcefully knocked on the door, waiting for my cousin to open it. The door opened, but behind it was a very muscular and very agitated Italian man. Wrong door. Mi scusi!
The trip was just what we needed, and I am grateful my cousin had the foresight to recognize that. It was the start of a beautiful travel partnership between me and my dad.
Over the past few years we have taken probably half a dozen cruises together. Some people assume we're husband and wife, or boyfriend and girlfriend, which is awkward and perplexing. (How old is my dad? Old enough to be my father but too old to be my squeeze!)
In the interest of clarity, at the start of our October cruise, I wore a custom-printed T-shirt I got at one of those kiosks at the mall. It reads "HE'S MY DAD" in big black type and has an arrow. The trick was to stay on my dad's right side so the arrow was pointing in the correct direction.
Whether we're in a ship bar listening to live music, in the casino making donations or simply people-watching, we have a good time together. We skip the "What do you want to do?" "Well, what do you want to do?" dance, which is nice. We have our routines. (He likes to get pastries and coffee first thing in the morning. I usually skip breakfast. In port, he prefers to walk around and shop. I go to a beach to snorkel, then shop, or book an excursion.)
The end of the day, when we're back on board, is one of my favorite times. I return to the stateroom, where Dad is usually waking up from a siesta, and we swap stories about what we've seen, done and bought. We get ready for dinner and have a pleasant sit-down meal.
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On a cruise in February, there was a bit of deviation from our "schedule." We walked around the port in Cozumel, Mexico, together and shopped before I took off for the taxi stand to get a ride to a beach. I changed my mind, though, and decided to stick around. I hoped I would run into Dad but figured he had already gone back to the ship. I was in a jewelry store when he walked in.
I persuaded Dad to join me at a waterfront restaurant for some chips and cerveza. (Dad doesn't do restaurants in port, so this was big.) What a delight to kick back with good food, good drink and a lovely view of the Caribbean. Maybe this will herald the start of a tradition.
October is just a few months away, and I'm wondering if Dad has any plans. Maybe I'll take him on a Halloween cruise. It would be a treat for both of us.
Contact Dawn Cate at email@example.com.