Homeward Bound, Part One.
I haven’t seen my family in close to twenty years.
Not long ago, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. That’s never a really easy thing to deal with. Medically speaking, lung cancer is usually detected late, and that’s a real problem for treatment. He started going through a regimen of chemotherapy and radiation, and had been on that for the last few months.
I recently got a letter from my father. Usually, there’s a card, and a check for money that I don’t really need, and certainly don’t deserve. This letter was different, substantially. First of all, there was an actual letter present. Hastily scrawled, and on a torn piece of paper, but an actual letter, as opposed to the sentiments of a prefabricated Hallmark card. There was also a small package, and inside that was a piece of jewelry that he’s been wearing since the 1970’s. Giving away stuff that’s valuable to you is not behavior that is consistent with feeling like you’re going to be around a whole lot longer.
It pretty much suggested that he felt like he was not long for this world.
Since then, both he and my mother have denied that on a stack of Torahs, but the fact is, it was a pretty grim move. As a result, I started planning with my sister to see if we could meet up near my father, and get to the bottom of his health issues. One phone call led to another, and then a flight being booked.
Now, I’m on my way at the end of the week, to fly a good distance (my sister as well), and deal with a family that I haven’t seen for about two decades. That’s uneasy enough for me, adding air travel to it is just sort of the icing on a very unlikable cake.
It’s pretty much a “done deal.” I set up the substitute teacher for Thursday and Friday, the office is aware of it, and plane tickets are in uneasy hands. Since it’s Presidents’ Day Weekend, I’ll be able to fly back on the day that I would usually have off, minimizing the time I won’t be in class. I usually steadfastly refuse to take any kind of days, but this seems like a valid exception to that rule.
I have no idea what to expect. My students are all stressed out, not wanting me to leave, since it’s just such an unusual idea that I wouldn’t be in class. I have stress and trepidation about it, because honestly…I don’t have real relationships here. It has been ages since I’ve seen any of these people, and even longer since any real and meaningful conversations may have possibly taken place. The best relationship is with my sister, who I have sort of spoken on the phone with occasionally over the past few years, after she reached out to me.
Said like that…it’s a pretty depressing and daunting trip.
In class, we are reading “Persepolis”, a pretty famous graphic novel about growing up in revolutionary Iran in the 80′. Marjane Satrapi is trapped between two cultures, the forward thinking liberal nature of her family, and the traditional Islamic values of the revolution. It is all drawn in a minimalist, “indie style” fashion in stark black and white inks. That really influenced my pencils and panel composition here, and will probably continue to for the week.
In this moment, I’m also caught between two worlds, but in a more subtle fashion. The life that I’ve carved out for myself in Los Angeles is totally separate from the people I’m flying to see. They no longer live where I grew up…I’ll be going to see people that I barely know, in a strange house. Regardless of that, they will have expectations of me based on things that I can’t possibly imagine. Some hodge podge of their ideal version of me (in their minds), mixed with impressions they have from when I was younger, perhaps.
There won’t be any interruption of Adequacy…I’ll have plenty of time to draw while stuck on airplanes.