Being an only child provided me with two role models when developing my personality: mom and dad. When I was old enough, my dad would put me on the back of his bicycle and take me to my grandmother’s to spend the day while he went to work. I would play with my cousins and pretend I had siblings, but when the time came, my father would pick me up and back on the bicycle I went, pedaling home. When we moved to this country and I was old enough to remember, my dad would tell me of his most wonderful time in his life: Grenoble, France. In the 1970’s as a young student in Albania he was awarded a scholarship to study in France for five years, and this was a very big deal because during that time the country was strictly communist and allowed no interaction with non-communist countries for fear of Western influence. He was required to return upon completion of his degree and bring forth newfound information to the local university. He had the time of his life from what I could tell, the pictures show him smoking cigarettes dressed in bell-bottoms and polyester button-downs. His arms are draped affectionately around international friends and I learned from those pictures and his stories that his love for travel had blossomed during his time there.
It was that passion and curiosity for a different culture that gave him courage to move our family here. I was 10 at the time, only able to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you very much’, so his drive to travel and live in a distant and foreign land was unbeknownst to me. Growing up was a rollercoaster attempting to relate to my father. I felt he jumped to conclusions, had too high of expectations, and was far too harsh about things I felt were trivial. I avoided him when I could, kept him away from my life, not wanting there to be an opportunity for him to get involved for fear that we’d soon after disagree.
When I moved away from home to go to university, the space helped change our relationship. Still living in the same town gave me the chance to express myself without looking over my shoulder for his comments and scoldings. Instead, I visited him infrequently at his office and we would have lunch together on campus. His willingness to let me go in turn, encouraged me to seek him out and share my life. What a day it was when I realized that all the time spent pulling away and ensuring that my traits were nothing like his, turned out to be a bust! I carry the same passion, vigor, and emotions that he does. When I see something unjust take place I speak up and don’t hold back – the same behavior delivered by my father that would make me cringe when I was little. The ease and adjustment of traveling to distant lands has been passed down to me, having been lucky to have lived and visited several countries in my lifetime. After my third year of university my father and I took a trip to France and spent ten days exploring the streets of Paris and reminiscing his younger days in Grenoble. I saw him come alive speaking in French, interacting with old friends, proud to be sharing that part of him with his daughter. Things changed. I saw a part of him in me, for better or worse, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s what I’m most familiar with.
After 18 years of making a home here in the States, he decided to move back and pursue a unique career opportunity. This was back in September and I still can’t believe that he’s so far away. I think I’ve mentioned this before but the older I get the more I’ve come to appreciate the time I share with my parents. Although distance can be construed as a fragment in time or temporary and we sporadically chat via Skype, I can’t help but wish for those days when I’d stop by his office and we’d go out to lunch, just for a chat.