What are the words a daddy’s girl most wants to hear?

cherry blossom tree

“Bella, do we have to go around the mall again? It seems like we’ve circled the place a dozen times and I’m starting to get dizzy.”

I sigh impatiently. “Daddy,” I say, “You’re being pushed around in a state of the art wheelchair. You have nothing to complain about!”

Little do I know that today, many years after having heard my father utter those words, the universe is going to allow me to “walk” a mile in his shoes…

The sun shines brightly in a cloudless sky. Birds chirp loudly and the smell of cherry blossoms hangs in the air. A perfect spring day. Perfect except for the fact that instead of racing off to the market as I did seven months ago, I am now struggling to get into a wheelchair.

I hear the Significant Other say, “You can do it. Slide back into the seat.” His words sound encouraging but I sense a tinge of impatience in his voice.

And just like that, I regress in time.

“I’m telling my legs to move but they ain’t listening, baby girl,” daddy replies when I ask him what he’s waiting for to get in his chair.

I tap my fingernails on one of the chair’s handles.
“While we’re young, dad.”

“You young people, always in a hurry. You wait till you get to be my age. You won’t know the meaning of the word hurry. And you’d better pray you never have to use a wheelchair.”

I feel guilt wash over me and quickly apologize.

“It’s okay, queen. I know the kids are waiting.”

Queen.
Daddy’s pet name for me.

“Bella, are you comfortable?” The Significant Other’s deep voice brings me back to the present.

“Just drive,” I say, squealing as he starts to push me down the street.

It’s the first time in two weeks since I’ve been out of the house. Breathing in the cool air, I realize how much I’ve missed being outdoors.

At first, being pushed in a wheelchair seems like a gift from the gods.

No bags to carry.
No sweat to wipe off my brow.
No worrying that my underpants are crawling into places they shouldn’t be crawling.

But then nausea assaults me. I feel it rise quickly as the Significant Other weaves in and out of the narrow cobblestone-lined streets that lead to the market. Trying to stifle the need to hurl, I close my eyes.

I see daddy sitting in his chair.
I can hardly believe that his thin frail body used to be burly and strong.
A powerhouse of a man.
A solider who survived three tours in Vietnam and was awarded a bronze star for his heroic service.
A man who served his country for thirty years and then went back to school to earn a Bachelor’s degree.
A teacher who worked for ten years in the public school system.
A father who once chased one of my sister’s boyfriends down the street with a bat.

Exposure to chemicals like Agent Orange, disease, and old age had taken their toll.
His ability to walk and be self sufficient had been taken from him.
He too had felt powerless.

Feeling my head spin, the blue sky intermingles with the pink blossoms and creates a beautiful kaleidoscope effect.

I try to take a deep breath.
I feel tears well up in my eyes as I realize I have never felt closer to my father.

Do not judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in his or her shoes.
Truer words have never been spoken.

I think of the past weeks and how difficult it has been.
Not being able to stand without crutches.
Not being able to bear my weight on my bad leg.
Struggling to get up from a chair.
Dragging myself with a pulley before I can get out of bed.

Clack, clack, step.
Clack, clack, step.
The sounds my crutches make as I drag myself around the house.

Roxy rouses from her slumber and gives me the stink eye.
I tell her she will never again hear me say that the pitter patter of her claws on the hardwood floor is annoying.

Clack, clack, step.
Clack, clack, step.

I lean my body against the kitchen counter as I try to light the stove.

I look at the clock.
It’s still hours away before the Son and the Significant Other make their way home.

I try to shift my weight.
I gasp.
I almost lose my balance.
I grab on to the plank to steady myself.
I realize I’m exhausted even though I’ve barely done a thing.

As I pour water into the French press, I realize I’m going to have to drink my coffee and eat my toast while standing next to the kitchen sink.
I curl my fingers tight in frustration and grudgingly accept that much as I try, there is no way I’m making it back to the dining room table with a plate and a cup of scalding coffee.
I cover my mouth to stifle the hysterical laughter that threatens to break the silence that rings throughout the house.

Taking things for granted.
Taking our bodies for granted.
Taking our ability to walk, talk, hear, smell, taste, and touch for granted.
What fools we are to think we are invincible.
To believe that none of these abilities could be snatched from us.
To think the time will never come whet we stop being who we are and turn into what we have become.

“You take it one day at a time, queen,” my father replies when I ask him how he does it.

Turning carefully, I grab my crutches.
The fresh calluses on my hands cushion the hard handles.
Gritting my teeth, I take a step.

I hear daddy’s voice.

“You can do it, Bella. Don’t you forget you’re daddy’s girl.”

Do you take anything for granted?

Why is it so hard to say goodbye?

Three days ago, as I sat in the plane that was to take me home, I felt the overwhelming sense of anxiety that I experience every year.

This anxiety is not a result of a fear of flying.

Instead, it is produced upon realizing that my vacation is over and that I am being returned to reality.

The Son, ever kind and considerate, squeezes my hand as the plane takes off.

I smile as I am reminded of the many times he’s done this in the past.

He smiles back and prods, “Alright. Go ahead. It’s time.”

I look out the plane’s small window nostalgically before reciting my ritualistic goodbye.

“Goodbye Mediterranean Sea. Goodbye churros, cafe cortado, and paella. Adios sunny skies, sandy beach, and Gazpacho. Hasta luego Serrano ham, tapas, and vino. I will miss you Manchego cheese, chorizo, horchatas. Till we meet again, madre, familia, vecinos.”

Before I am finished, I feel the tears rolling down my face.

It almost hurts to see the fading landscape as the plane continues to rise.

Goodbye–such a difficult word to say.

And yet it is a word that we utter daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.

You’d think it would get easier to say it but alas, such is not the case.

The emotions that lie in its two syllables are difficult to process.

I realize that this isn’t true for everyone but in my case, “goodbye” is one of the hardest words to say.

As I peer out the window once more, I realize that only a white mist is visible.

It seems incredible that just a few hours ago I was embracing my mother, whispering the word goodbye in her ear.

I can still hear her say, “Goodbye has too much finality to it. Instead, let’s say, ‘hasta pronto’.”
Until we meet again.

Yes, she is right.

Hasta pronto harbors hope and expectation.

Hasta pronto seems to promise that we shall meet again soon.

Hasta pronto allows us to believe that soon we shall toast over a glass of vino, fight over the last serving of paella, or laugh at the brave men walking on the beach in Speedos.

Hasta pronto.

The melodic notes of these two words bring warmth to my aching heart; like a lullaby, they soothe my anxious state.

Hasta pronto.

I lean back in my chair and close my eyes.

I hear the sound of the sea as it crashes against the rocks.

I feel the warmth of the sun as it caresses my skin.

I taste the salt in the air.

And suddenly, the promise of “hasta pronto” has lulled me to sleep.

Hasta pronto, lazy days on the beach.

Hasta pronto, sweet Olivia!

Hasta pronto, cafe cortado!

Does anyone else think, “Where’s Waldo?” when you look at this photo?

Do you find it hard to say goodbye?

The heralding of summer, Part 1

If the first day of June is a predictor of what summer is going to be like, then I think we’re in for a treat.

Sunny skies and a light breeze beckoned Roxy and I to go out on long, drawn out walks today.

To our delight, we chanced upon a variety of scenes.

Scenes which I was able to photograph so that we could share them with you.

I hope they bring you as much pleasure as they did us.

Pear, anyone?

When did Charlotte move into our neighborhood?

Roxy calls shotgun!

Because sometimes all you need is a sunny day and a good book.

Because every nice neighborhood needs a couple of chickens and a rooster.

Is there anything better than sleeping on sun dried sheets?

Has summer arrived where you live?

Have a wonderful weekend!

XOXO,

Won’t you grab a cup of coffee and witness 10 signs that spring is getting warmer?

One of the best things about living in Europe is being able to witness the changing seasons.

Four times a year, my eyes feast on different scenes: spring, with its burgeoning blossoms, summer’s bright skies, the falling leaves of autumn, and the snowfalls of winter.

Nevertheless, while spring made it’s entrance a month and a half ago, we’ve yet to experience its warmer temperatures.

This week however, we’ve been given signs that this is about to change.

The sun has been shining, the wind’s gone on a coffee break, and the rain seems to be on hiatus.

Roxy and I have taken advantage of the lovely weather by going on long walks.

These allow us the opportunity to witness this transformation and capture it in picture form.

Enjoy!

Lovely cherry blossoms make an appearance.

Doves perch on tree branches outside my window.

The sun encourages you to drink your coffee outside.

Dogs swim in the canal.

Parrots show their face.

Roxy sunbathes at the park.

Balconies start to look like this.

People bring out their lawn chairs.

Roxy starts doing 200 meter sprints.

What signs of spring have you witness recently?