I just returned to Seattle on Monday night after some time with my family in Ohio, where my beloved grandmother passed away after a courageous battle with cancer.
I think she was partially responsible for my wanderlust. I always thought it was kind of funny that my brothers and I have traveled to many countries (granted, my younger brother is in the Navy, which is why he has traveled so much), while our parents are homebodies and content to stay where they are. Then I realized, our maternal grandparents traveled extensively throughout their lives. A favorite destination of theirs was Gatlinburg. In fact, there's a picture of them on the Gatlinburg skylift - taken in 1989 - that I particularly like. I think they went to the Smoky Mountains just about every year and they stayed at the same place every time. I remember them getting Christmas cards from that particular lodge every year.
We have lots of pictures of Grandma during her travels. There's one that I remember from Devil's Tower National Monument. One I saw just recently - a picture of Grandma and Grandpa picnicking somewhere in Vermont. Their honeymoon photos - especially the ones of them visiting Lincoln's tomb and his home in Springfield, Illinois (places I would later visit during my senior year of high school). In other photos, it's a bit harder to tell where Grandma is, but there are mountains behind her, so she's definitely not in Ohio!
I also cherish the trips I've taken with her. There were a couple of trips to Illinois to visit family who once lived out there. We went to Norfolk, Virginia in 2003 to welcome home my brother's ship as it returned from its deployment.
There was a road trip to Pensacola, Florida in 2006 for that same brother's wedding. I vividly remember sharing a room with Grandma at a crappy Motel 6 somewhere in Alabama as we made our way toward Florida. We watched the movie Circle of Friends that night, and I remember turning back the covers to snuggle into bed, only to find that there were no sheets! At least Grandma had sheets on her bed. What a rotten hotel stay! But I cherish even that memory now. I think that was the last long road trip she ever took. She turned 80 that year, and it was getting more difficult for her to travel comfortably.
Still...she did a lot of traveling in her life. I think she only left the country once - during a cross-country road trip when my mom was a teenager. Grandpa drove past the Mexican border. I'm pretty sure he did it just so they could say they've been to Mexico - at least, that was the impression I got from the stories I've heard about that trip. If she ever left the U.S. again, I never heard about it. But she explored much of the United States in her lifetime - much more than I have. She always said that there was no place on Earth more beautiful than the United States.
Grandma ended her journey on February 5, 2011. I was with her, along with my mother, aunt, and older brother. As I'm reflecting back on her life, I'm realizing now just how much she has influenced me. I'm finding that she left a mark on my life in ways I hadn't considered before. My insatiable desire to get out and see the world comes from her, I think. And Grandpa too.
And I say thank you. Thank you, Grandma, for this inheritance. My longing for travel has enriched my life in ways I can't even describe, and has been incredibly valuable to me.