Our best-laid plans came unraveled only two short weeks before they were meant to begin. After months of anticipation, plotting itineraries and building an extensive we have to take the mamas here list, we got the news. She fell coming up the stairs and landed on her kneecap, she’ll have to have surgery immediately, his sister informed us during an impromptu Skype call. To say Adrian was heartbroken would be a major understatement; he was crushed. So was I. I had envisioned us sharing this country we love and making beautiful memories with two of the most important women in our lives, our moms. Now, we were down a mom and it seemed to change everything. We even considered rescheduling the trip for a time when Adrian’s mom would be fully recovered and could come too. Ultimately, we decided that one mom was better than none and rearranged ourselves to embrace the new circumstances.
Together, our moms would have stayed at a guesthouse a few blocks away, but since my mom would now be coming alone, we opted to have her bunk up with us. We bought a small mattress and situated it in the corner of our little one bedroom apartment, making for a very close few weeks.
Twenty-one days flew by. I’m not sure how she did it (jetlag had kicked my butt), my mom didn’t miss a beat. She slipped into our daily routine with graceful ease, a testament to her adaptability.
Within a few days of her arrival we loaded into a rental car and headed north towards the Myanmar border, turning our visa run into an exploration of Northern Thailand and her mountains. We stopped at every other vista to take photos of the view, bought handmade, hill tribe souvenirs in the tiny village of Mae Salong, ate unfamiliar food at roadside restaurants where no one spoke a lick of English, visited mountain-top temples at sunset, ventured through caves and shared food with perfect strangers in a coffee shop in the middle of nowhere. Five days later, we landed back in Chiang Mai, road-weary and content.
A day’s rest and a freshly packed bag, we were now on our way to Bangkok. Although I’ve only been there twice before, there is something about it that feels like coming home, a familiarity to the streets surrounding the area where we stay and a nostalgia it holds as my first introduction to Southeast Asia. The combined smells of cooking chilies, stagnant water, lemongrass, tuk-tuk exhaust and sewage hanging in the humid air, give the city a distinct, unforgettable smell, one that Adrian has always claimed to love. With temperatures averaging about 90 degrees and humidity pushing 50%, Bangkok is oppressively hot. Taking this into account, we got an early start on our days, retreated to our rooms during the midday heat and returned to the streets in the evening, when sundown provided the slightest reprieve. A shopping expedition to Chatuchak Market (one of the worlds largest weekend markets), a stroll through the Grand Palace, people watching and Pad Thai dinner on Khao San Rd, mojitos at a rooftop bar and a walk down the infamous Soi Cowboy (red-light district), made our trip to BKK complete.
We returned from Bangkok and the countdown began. Just like that, two weeks had passed and the inevitable end of mom’s visit was in sight. There is something about the end that puts everything in perspective and brings about a sense of gratitude that might otherwise go unspoken. It is the single best gift of impermanence, the wisdom that compels us to hold tighter and savor every last bite.
We sat on the street curb the night she left, talking about life and lingering in the knowing that she would soon be gone. She told me how her view of life has changed as she’s crossed over middle age and we acknowledged that life – mine and hers – would one day come to an end. It’s not so often that we address death, especially with the people in our lives that matter most. We’d rather pretend that death will somehow elude us than confront the reality that seems unbearable; we will not live forever. One of us will be forced to endure the loss of the other. This is the truth. And when I allow it in, my heart is flooded with love and I’m reminded of what a gift it is to be a part of each other’s lives. I could not be more grateful for the collection of memories I have made with my mom and Adrian over the past three weeks. Really, what could be worth more than time shared together? I can’t think of a single thing.
Thanks, mom, for arranging things so that you could come be with us and for letting us share our traveling adventure with you. Much love to everyone back home that had to live without you while you were here (namely, my baby sister, Emily).
Mama (Adrian’s mom), heal up and get ready, Asia is waiting for you!