"Y es tanta mi fe que aunque no tengo jardin ya me compre una podadora"-Arjona
A little over 6 years ago, brain cancer officially started. It immediately shook up my life financially, emotionally, the kid who'd never called in sick having more medical appointments between a seizure in November and brain surgery in March than I'd had the rest of my life combined. A few months later, I was a single dad in debt. In life there are always questions marks, always ellipses, always parenthetical things but I can say that was the first time where the exclamation marks were missing. I've longed stated that if you'd told me from age 20 to age 30 to predict my life, I would have missed a lot of things but gotten many right. If you'd asked form age 30 to 31, I would have gotten pretty much all of them wrong.
Brain surgery had disrupted my plans and while I put it off to run a marathon, there was only so much I could keep delaying it so I cancelled a trip to Brazil. A few years before in 7/7/07 they had announced the Seven New Wonders of the world and I had decided that despite me having only been to a couple I'd try to knock them all out in due time. In March of 2011 was supposed to be number 5, the statute of the Christ at Rio, one more dream come true, one more passport stamp. It got cancelled. Mentally I wanted to say it got postponed but to me postponement means you rescheduled it; if it's not anywhere in concrete plans it's just a hope that it gets 'uncancelled."
As I wondered out loud, quietly, painfully where the next stage would be, I wanted something, anything to believe that a brighter future still lied ahead because well wandering was definitely coming. So I painted a wall in my guest room. I chose a room I'm rarely in because I didn't want the constant reminder but I also didn't want to give up hope. Though hope is frail it's hard to kill. I painted it an ocean blue and I placed a map of the world out there with a single dot to everywhere I'd ever been. It somehow looked so empty then and yet so promising at least with potential. I put a quote from one of only two books I've ever read more than once, the Lord of the Rings: Not all who wander are lost.
It would take me over 4.5 years to get to Brazil but I pulled it off last December and stood there with my arms lifted high. A few days later I got back and placing a dot on that map... well it'd never meant more. A few months later back in Austin one of the Livestrong leaders during the conference said I should come visit his home sometime. A few of us have offered that to each other and taken up on it but Louay was from Egypt. I told him he could count on it; he said a few people had said that to him but no one had followed up yet. I am if nothing else, a man of my word, I told him. Less than 2 months later, the same month I got out of medical debt and Brexit had dropped plane ticket prices across the Atlantic, I sent him my itinerary over the Thanksgiving holiday. He said he was surprised by how quickly I'd followed up and I reminded him I was known for being relatively fast. He was engaged at the time and when his wedding was set for that weekend he asked me, as his brother, to be one of the groomsmen. I've had a lot of good Thanksgiving perhaps because I try to follow the root of the word which starts with Thanks and then Giving but I was thrilled. It would be the first time in all of my 30's I wouldn't be doing a formal race Thanksgiving morning but somehow it would be okay.
I'd put together a good crew, the Bond girl, the executor of my will, the guy who'd given me the most rides when I wasn't allowed to drive. We took a slight detour on the way there and caught Petra hiking it all the way to the top to make sure we got the best view. Troy had a great caption to his picture of it on social media; check out this world wonder and some buildings behind me. While it was obviously tongue in cheek, I would never travel alone because there's isn't anything worth seeing to me that isn't worth sharing. Before Petra, I could count the world wonders I'd been to on one hand. While Petra now required me to use both hands, I hold that relationships are far more wonder than all of those buildings put together and I personally recommending building life effort in that order. My hope is that those buildings were made because humanity was trying to give proper credence to how awesome love and relationships are.
Only one of the ancient world wonders remain, The Pyramids of Giza, the oldest one of the bunch. Both Petra, a little over 2000 years old and the Pyramids closer to 5000 were ways to remember the dead in rock. They are impressive monuments and memories, gigantic. I hope that those people I care about know they are in proportion to that and yes I mean in proportion to the oldest largest monument. Those guys left monuments well past their death but to anyone who I've ever made a promise to keep till my dying day, whether that's near or far, I'll be keeping it. I sit here and wonder how I got to see these world wonders and don't have more to say about it but I just realize that some things are so grand that words aren't apt for them.
But the best part of the trip to me wasn't the phenomenal sites, not the amazing food but building up the relationships I'd brought with me and the ones I'd come to experience. I met Louay's family at dinner and had a driver who we hung out with. Being connected in the cancer community has gotten me to partake of too many hospital, hospice visits and funerals. When you say you're going to be there for people till your dying day, well sometimes you have to be there for theirs. But this was the first wedding I'd been to because of a cancer connection. I'd brought a special knife set for the couple which was the one that was used to cut the cake and I'm glad to be a small part of their first slice of life and dessert to each other. I was asked to speak, a bit overwhelming since my Arabic is less than adequate. I don't remember much of what I said other than my finish which was to encourage my brother that there shouldn't be a day he doesn't turn to that girl and Love her strong. I have full faith that he will. His father is part of the police there, the definition of a man's man and both Louay's wife and mother are brilliant women. They said as I departed that I was now part of the family and their handshakes and the men who we kissed each other on the cheek made it feel absolutely genuine. Moments of affection were my favorite world wonders on this trip.
I'm back home now and it's about time to start putting up the Christmas decorations. It's also around MRI time with an appointment next Wednesday, 10 days away and results Thursday's. Last year as Christmas decorations were going down I decided to get rid of the artificial Holiday tree. Kiana had always wanted a real tree and this was over a decade old with light and broken branches that made it... shall we say less than adequate? I threw the other one away and while I didn't tell her I internly said next year, she gets her real one. The map with missing spots had an indefinite timeline but this one I wanted to believe I'd still be around one year later, one more Christmas, with a new real tree. We'll go shopping for it this week. I brought her back a souvenir from both of the world wonders. I'll give it to her and we'll decorate the tree and that will be far more important than anything that happens next week. Not all who wander or wonder are lost and having faith a little in advance about concrete things even if's a blank spot on a wall or where tree used to be makes me think that maybe just maybe 2016 is about to be have the most wonderful time of the year.