As lunch was being served, Grandpa took me off to France for a three-week tour, right downtown, where he had made reservations at a cosy 30-room hotel. We ate at bistros on the streets of Paris, and wandered through art galleries and hideaway museums. We drank the cheap wines and listened to songs we didn't understand but enjoyed anyway. We talked about how little of World War II had actually touched the city, and how the city was determined to forget and remember and deny and celebrate all in the same swirl of art and architecture.
Grandpa then asked me to take him to Singapore again. I took him off to Jurong Bird Park, where the fresh rain had just blown through and the sun made everything sparkle brighter than the birds. We wandered through the amazing tropical displays carefully and casually built into the hillsides. We laughed at the "exotic" display of hummingbirds, and pondered about how everyone believes something else is exotic.
I took a detour while we were in Singapore, to go back to Ecuador. I stopped off at La Selva lodge to pick up Helga. I told Grandpa the story - once again - of how much Helga meant to me in that moment in Ecuador that was transported seven years later to a morning in Singapore. Because of a lazy morning in the Ecuadorian jungle, where a tiny Swiss apparition in a huge slicker and oversized waders lectured all of us that this could be the best day of our lives and we weren't going to miss it just because of a little rain!, I ended up taking that hour-long taxi ride in Singapore out to the bird park in the rain. The rain ended just as I got there, guaranteeing me a beautiful almost-hour by myself in the park before the crowds arrived.
From that moment in Singapore, we let Helga go back to Switzerland and we also went back to Europe. Grandpa talked about the ways to make travel so much fun, and how much he and Grandma learned and did and enjoyed and loved. He talked about London, and Spain, and all of the places in between. Somehow the Dido line "And we danced, and we drank, and we said the things you prob'ly never got a chance to say..." came into my head while Grandpa was talking.
Grandpa wanted to know what was my favorite all-over trip, and what was my favorite piece of a trip. He wanted a recounting of everywhere I've ever been, both as a child and as an adult, and why. Iceland, Spain, Ecuador, Canada, Singapore, South Africa, Ireland... He had no interest in talking about where I wanted to go next, only where I'd been and how I'd lived.
If you want to know how I feel right now, go watch Secondhand Lions. It doesn't matter if the story was real, so long as it was true to the people who made it so.
Here's another thought, Meg Davis style:
I cannot live my life over, but I do not care to cry.
For all of my wishing and dreaming, well at least I gave it a try.
And if I can go on dreaming and thinking what I'd like to be,
I will be it all in the end, and it will all end up to be me.