Day Twenty-Two: Belgium Briefly

As we collected our luggage in Brussels Airport, I knew a moment was coming. The family called Anja, Curd, Camille and Olivia would be taking a different van than us to get home. The same would be true of Lieselot.

I asked myself how I felt about these five folks whom I’d spent the last twelve days with. I had laughed with each of them. The truth was clear: I loved them.

Someone once said that the greatest “withhold” in life, what we avoid saying to another, is “I love you.” I’ve been in that place and it hurts not to be true to who I am. So … I said it to each of my friends. They all smiled as we hugged. Only one said “I love you” back to me. And that’s okay.

What’s supremely important to me is expressing – “energy out”. “Energy in” – what comes back to me – is marvelous to receive, but I don’t need it to be happy. I welcome love incoming when it happens. It’s a bonus. It’s not the essence of life.

***

After sleeping in to 11:00 am or so, I had a slow day at Lydia and Jo’s place. The big news is that after we four go to Italy for ten days in July, one kid from each family will fly with me to Canada for two weeks. It’s Baziel, Olivia and me! I get to be grandpa.

I’m thrilled that both teens are eager to explore some of Canada with me. I’ve threatened to focus on “old people stuff” but they’re too smart to believe me.

I’m looking forward to sitting in the Belmont Diner with Olivia and Baziel, at the horseshoe-shaped lunch counter. The regulars would love to chat with two kids from Belgium.

Then there are the grand events. Niagara Falls beckons. Plus Toronto. How about a baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees? Baziel says he’s never watched baseball.

I was scouring the internet yesterday, searching for Toronto rock concerts in August. I found Iron Maiden, who the kids don’t know, but Olivia’s father Curd is a major fan. He’s wringing his hands because on August 9 Olivia will be rocking to their music while Curd consoles himself with an Omer beer in Belgium. Oh … the three of us will have fun doing this, that and the other thing in Canada!

I sat with Jo and Lydia in their living room last night. We took turns finding favourite YouTube songs for each other. Jo played some blues guitar. Lydia cuddled the family cat. We were together … in peace.

***

Now it’s today, and I’m about to get on an eight-hour flight from Amsterdam to Toronto. Stay tuned …

Just A Wave

I was returning from London this afternoon on our local freeway.  I took the off ramp towards Belmont and braked to the stop sign.  To my right were two lanes in my direction which merged into one a couple of hundred metres away.  To my left was the freeway overpass and I saw no one coming.  I pulled into the right lane and put on my left turn signal.  My side mirror showed a motorcyclist zooming along the left lane towards me.

If you were a fiction writer, how would you finish this story?  With a spectacular crash and heroic rescue?  A near miss?  The truth was far less dramatic.

I let the motorcyclist go past and then moved into the left lane.  He or she waved.

And I paused, feeling a warmth course through me.  I pondered the beauty and the simplicity.  It was a “thank you”.

***

About a week ago, I was driving to the school where I volunteer.  It’s way out in the country, surrounded by corn and soybean fields.  Almost all the students are bussed, but there is an exception.  I started braking in preparation for turning left into the parking lot.  I glanced left to the house beside the school and there was a girl walking down the driveway.  She waved at me.  The same warmth, the same smile.  Contact.

***

Three summers ago, I went on a road trip to Western Canada to visit some of Jody’s relatives and a few old friends of mine.  I stayed a couple of nights with a marvelous family near Kamloops, B.C.  We laughed a lot.  When it was time to say goodbye, I hugged everyone and got in Scarlet.  As I drove down their lane, I glanced in the rearview mirror.  Three human beings were standing in front of their house, each of them waving to me.  Ditto again.

***

Hi
Bye
I see you

Day Nine: Saying Goodbye

Is saying goodbye to dear ones different for me in Cuba, since I’ve only known these folks for days?  Yes and no.  The moment of meaning can be just as deep here as with someone I’ve known for years.  The time shines … or it doesn’t.

Hector is one of the attendants at the gym in the village beside my hotel.  He’s a young guy, very enthusiastic, without much English.  He’s let me know, however, that he’s impressed with me working out in my 60’s.  He figures that most Cuban men don’t lift a finger past 40.  Hector has helped me understand some of the strength training machines, such as how to adjust the torso twist.  All done with a huge smile.

Yesterday, he played American songs on his iPhone as I was doing yoga.  While lying on my back, I was singing Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock”, with all four feet and hands dancing in the air.  Hector laughed.  And I’m pretty partial to anyone who laughs at me.

I had money in my pocket for a tip and something inside told me I needed to give it to him right then.  He was so happy to receive the gift, and then told me he was about to leave for a week’s vacation.  Thank goodness I followed my inner guidance.  I’ll miss him.

Last night, Elisabeth was serving me in the lobby bar.  What a sweet person, endlessly animated in the eyes.  She told me she was about to go on a week’s vacation.  Oh, the sadness.  I asked her where she lived.  She said Santa Clara, a three-hour bus ride away.  Six hours of commuting a day!  She talked again about her husband, and of Jody.  We both love our spouses so much.  Now she gets to spend a week with him.  We said how much we’ll miss each other.  We held hands.  We hugged.  We said goodbye.

Now it’s a day later, and I’m back in the lobby bar.  Celida, a waitress who’s served me several times, comes up and asks “Do you miss Elisabeth?”  “Yes.”  (So much)  Celida then said “She talked about you.  She loves you.”  I started crying.  How can a 20-year-old Caribbean woman move me so much?

Two young Cubans whose lives are very different from mine.  And just the same.