My dad came to visit for a long weekend at the end of February. It was the longest flight he’s taken in over a decade and he managed beautifully. If you didn’t already know, my dad is a pancreatic cancer survivor. Hopefully, his story of surviving and thriving will become a greater reality for more in the future instead of an anomaly.
This visit was the longest time I’ve spent with my dad (without my mom – she doesn’t like to fly) probably, ever. He was in from Thursday to Monday and we followed a path of warp speed the entire time. Hikes, sights, wanders, parks, beaches, new haunts, breweries, stadiums, waterfronts and more – we experienced, challenged, learned, and enjoyed together.
Aside from the most important TIME together and the fact that we had a wonderful visit – there were many FIRSTS on this trip. His comment that stuck with me the most is , ‘you’re never too old for firsts’ (it’s one of many that should be emblazoned on a t-shirt). My dad is 71 years young. He lacks a bunch of internal organs, lives with Type 1 Diabetes (from the removal of the pancreas), works out more than many I know half his age and can fall asleep most nights the moment his head hits the pillow. For the past decade, he and my brother have been taking a trip every summer. They’ve gone to many National Parks, explored cities and adventured the country together. He’s enjoying these experiences and continues to treat each 24 hour period as ‘a bonus day’.
This trip, he conquered trails, disavowed jet lag and so much more. The man whose eyes glaze over after half a beer bellied up to a bar at a San Diego craft brewery and not only ordered his own ‘flight’ of craft beer, but finished most of it and found a new beer to add to his arsenal. When we meandered through Balboa Park (San Diego’s Central Park), we stopped to enjoy the melodic tones of a digeridoo. Although his son-in-law is Australian, Dad has never seen or heard a ‘didge’ up close and stated, ‘I may have had to wait 71 years, but I guess you’re never too old for firsts’. I was thrilled for this first (the sounds of the digeridoo) but, most of all, the sentiment! And, the man who is very specific about his likes and dislikes of types of cuisine decided ON HIS OWN that he was ready to try Indian food. I almost fell over. Not only did he try it, he enjoyed it and it might even make it into the lunchtime rotation of Manhattan restaurants.
Every morning he met us ready to greet the day with excitement. He marveled at the mighty Pacific, awed at his up close and personal first sightings at an aircraft carrier, held a fish at a fish market, ogled at La Jolla’s seals, hiked various trails, took in the view atop Cabrillo National Monument, wandered the walkways of Balboa Park, stood on the greens at the renown Torrey Pines Golf Course, followed the roar of the Naval fighter pilots as they zoomed overhead and grabbed a sundowner at Coronado’s famed Hotel del Coronado. Never deterred by jet lag, my 71 year old Dad took the city by storm and left with more than a taste of his daughter’s (for now) chosen city.
While, of course, I hope Dad comes back for more visits for as long as we choose to stay in San Diego, that to me wasn’t the most significant take away of the weekend. At any age and stage in life, taking a leap is still a big decision. No matter the size, the belief that firsts are not only possible – but; necessary, helpful and intriguing lead to growth in thought and perspective and put the expansion of that comfort zone into the category of exciting instead of frightening. No matter the age, stage or location…here’s to many more ‘firsts’ for us all.