Friday, May 15, 2015

Remembering That One Memorable Trip

Whenever I fly I recall my first trip to Minneapolis with my parents in March 2003 when I was 19 years old. My life was stalled, I had dropped out of college and cancer was rapidly invading my bone marrow. Though, physically I felt fine. I felt great. I loved that trip and I had life-or-death purpose, or maybe I loved it because I had life-or-death purpose.

We traveled across the country to spend a day at the University of Minnesota Medical Center and speak with Dr. Andre Million. It was one of the top children’s transplant centers and he was one of its rock star transplant oncologists. Minneapolis symbolized hope.

My mom and I teased my dad for his fear of flying. He stared out the window wondering why the wing was slightly bouncing. “That wing is flapping because it’s going to fall off!” he said. Mom and I introduced him to Benadryl after that. I smile thinking of his quizzical expression.

Right now I’m sitting in the airport to begin a ten-day vacation. I’m flying to Denver, renting a car and driving to Vegas, stopping all along the way. My smile has faded as I realize how much time has passed since that 2003 trip. Did I accomplish what my 19-year-old self envisioned?

Road trip itinerary from Denver to Las Vegas
Road trippin' from Denver to Las Vegas in a Chrysler 200
Let’s say one of my books became a bestseller, I accumulated enough wealth to never need to work, and I gave the University of Virginia commencement speech instead of Peyton Manning. Those pretend accomplishments may actually be in descending order of likelihood: lots of books become bestsellers, far fewer earn their authors enormous wealth, and you have to be a sorcerer to overtop Manning for anything.

But none of those would have been as meaningful as searching for the transplant center we hoped would save me. It did. Minneapolis now symbolizes a clean slate, my cleanser, and my ultimate achievement.

I remind myself every day how fortunate I am. I must never forget: the Holocaust, what it is like to suffer with cancer, and what it is like to live with the clarity of life-or-death purpose. I ache for that purpose which is a losing battle. I never want to experience significant illness again, but without it I cannot experience that same purpose.

This vacation has a less meaningful purpose, of course. I just want to see the world and connect with people—some new people, and some old friends. Snooki and I will debate kale versus holy water in Vail. Colossus and I will catch up on the last decade while getting rich on Vegas blackjack tables. And Scooter and I will climb rocks in Durango.

It would take a lot more than Bendaryl to convince my dad to climb mountains with us. Mom and Dad can sit this one out.

Keep reading: Road Trippin' from Denver to Las Vegas in a Chrysler 200: A Picture Story


Dad said...

Powerful blog entry. I am still fearful of flying and I still need to take a drug before I fly.

Benjamin Rubenstein said...

Thanks, Dad. You even graduated from Benadryl to Xanax for flights.