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On December 11, 2006 my Dad passed away. It wasn’t pretty. He jerked up in his hospital bed gasping while my Mom frantically pushed the call button for nursing assistance. It was to no avail, however. The rushing, swarming hospital staff, my Dad’s contorted face, my families’ desperate sobbing are all swirling, tormenting pictures that are forever etched into my memory. Pictures in my mind that sometimes threatens to take over.
It has been important for me to pull memories of happier family times to my mind in order to regain some inner balance in my life. While photographs and videos are still hard for me to sit and look at, memories are just perfect as they can be skewed in any way I wish. My favorite memories right now are of a family trip to Walt Disney World just before my Dad got sick. I realize now that the memories that stay and the photographs I want to look at again and again aren’t the ones of Mickey Mouse or a particular ride, but rather the ones my family and I created together with our laughter and our joy of experiencing and doing together.
One snapshot in my mind is waiting impatiently in the sea of people at the Magic Kingdom for the “gates” to open. My sister and I were angling toward the front and pulling my Dad along with us. “Dad, you better keep up”, we told him. Dad smiled and tried to calm us down, but we weren’t buying it. We all took off as soon as we were able, and my Dad did try, but well… He was always a good sport about going along with us.
Another memorable experience we shared was the raft trip we tried to take to Tom Sawyer Island. The weathered brown wood creaked as we piled onto the raft along with several other families. Perhaps we should have recognized the creaking as a foreshadowing of what was to come. The operator, a young, college age girl, untied us from the dock and bent over to pull start the motor. The motor put-putted for a few seconds and stopped. The operator climbed over the security rope and as she leaned over the motor, her foot slipped and she toppled inelegantly into the water. We all crowded over to the side to watch her try to pull herself back up onto the raft, though she prevented us from offering assistance by yelling to all of us to stay behind the rope. My Dad was definitely going over to help. (I think he had an identity crisis and saw himself as Sir Galahad.) Once, twice, three times she tried to pull herself back up onto our raft. Her wet clothes and boots made the feat impossible, so she had to swim back to the dock where she received assistance to get out of the water. Meanwhile, our raft was floating down the little river without a motor or an operator. People gathered on both banks of the river to gawk at us. I pretty much wore out the statement, “Oh my God!” It wasn’t long before we were rescued by another raft that towed us in. We decided we were safer on roller coasters that day.
The indelible pictures inscribed on my memory are a comfort to me. Travel, even to as common a place as Walt Disney World, enabled me to build untold special remembrances that will live on in my heart forever. I treasure those memories and am thankful for the opportunities I had to create them.