When you travel for a long period of time, you inevitably miss out on celebrating events and milestones with family and friends. It’s a bit of an opportunity-cost situation where you get to see the world, but you miss out on being there for a birthday/milestone/event/holiday with your loved ones and you often spend them alone, or with complete strangers.
I have been blessed with a very tight-knit, warm and loving family. I have a relatively small immediate family consisting of just my parents and my older brother, but I am one of 14 grandchildren on my mom’s side and also one of 14 grandchildren on my dad’s side. Yeah, it can get pretty crazy at family events.
If you don’t like loud family gatherings, or aren’t ‘selfish’ enough when the food is rolled out, you’ll end up overwhelmed and hungry, or you’ll have to eat something you don’t want. “When it’s (the food) gone, it’s gone!” is a common phrase.
Following our time in the States, Victoria and I were in Mexico City and had just been out grocery shopping after extending for a further week in the capital. We had enjoyed our first week back in a Spanish-speaking country but as we walked through the door to our AirBnB apartment, my phone was ringing and I immediately knew something was wrong. It was my mom and she was hysterical. She managed to tell me through tears that my grandmother had died. I was frozen. It felt like the blood stopped pumping through my veins and all I could splutter back was “I’m so sorry.”
Some of my earliest childhood memories revolve around my grandmother. She used to babysit me when my parents were at work and being my only grandparent that lived in Perth, I was extremely close to her. Grandma, as we called her, was a mother to six, grandmother to 14, and great-grandmother to three. She had a great sense of humour and some classic sayings like ‘ah yo’ and ‘buckbear’, which do not really make sense, but were her way of showing displeasure. Her wicked laugh and smile are both things I will never forget. She was a very accomplished pianist and even attempted to pass on her trade to me when I was about 10. However, I told her that the keys were a bit stiff, but my dad could oil them for her if she liked. Safe to say, my piano lessons ended right there and then.
Saying farewell to my grandmother was something that I was not going to miss. I can miss birthdays or a Christmas here and there with family, but a funeral is in a different category. I immediately made arrangements to travel home from Mexico and Victoria agreed to accompany me on the long trip back to Australia. It took us a total of five days from Mexico City to Perth with stopovers in Dallas, Abu Dhabi and Melbourne. It was a vastly different feeling to be back in Perth from when I returned home in January to surprise my family and have a quick two-week holiday.
With family flying in from around the world, my week at home consisted mainly of gatherings, which meant constantly eating. It was also nice to catch up with friends and show Victoria around a little bit but it was a whirlwind of a trip. The funeral was a great celebration of Grandma’s life and a fitting farewell. Although I was devastated and will continue to miss her, I’ll cherish the memories and time I got to spend with her. Travelling is great, but being with my family is greater than anything else, especially during a difficult time. Rest in peace, Grandma.