When I was Dar’s current age, my mother took me around the world. The trip was audacious, vaguely inappropriate, and entirely wonderful. I remember very well our adventures in Japan, China, Thailand, India, Nepal, and Germany and Britain (yes). If Mom calculated that eight was an old enough age to remember things for a lifetime, she calculated correctly…at least for a kid like me.
For a kid like Dar, it’s impossible to make such a calculation. If I were to take Dar around the world, would he remember it? I remember trying to comfort a friend with a disabled child by saying, “You can still show him the world. They can’t take that away from you.” I know now what I didn’t know then: I lied. They can take that away from you. Showing a non-communicative person the world is a bit like the sound of one hand clapping (or a tree falling in an unoccupied forest). It can happen, but afterward we can’t agree on what happened.
I believe this informed my recent trip to Malaysia, a vacation that I took without Dar. Holidays were friggin’ amazing. One wonderful thing about my days in Malaysia was the feeling that I was living them as well as I could. Of course that’s only a feeling, not some kind of dispositive statement of fact, but when you’re spending the day eating tremendous food, seeing rare animals, immersing yourself in beautiful culture and surroundings…it can feel that way. I can never feel that way around Dar. With Dar, I never feel that I’m doing enough. It’s like working on a ship that never stops leaking and taking on water. Sure, some days are better than others, but the boat is never really functioning correctly.
In Malaysia, the boats functioned correctly – literally. We took several boat journeys, back and forth from Perhentian, over to scuba diving sites, across town rivers. Sometimes the boats were delayed, stopped, or spun; often we were made to wade to and from boat and shore. Yet nothing could dissipate my feeling that everything was working as well as it needed to. It’s island time, mon! I wish I could feel that same sense of island tranquility when Dar is screaming.
Apparently, Dar did quite a bit of screaming while I was in Malaysia. Could he have missed me? It’s not out of the question. Yes, I tried to Skype with him, but Skype and phone calls don’t mean anything to him; he just turns away from them. Dar did seem particularly happy when I returned. That was nice. Perhaps we both needed a break from each other to really appreciate each other?
Before I left for Malaysia, I changed my phone’s home screen to one of the rare pictures of the whole family in which Dar is actually looking at the camera. And I didn’t really know this before I left, but when you’re traveling, you look at your phone’s home screen a LOT. Maybe even more than at home. Because you take a lot of pictures. Furthermore, you take one picture, and then you decide you’re done taking pictures, and then a minute later you realize you need another picture, and then you’re done again, and then a minute later another clear photo opportunity arises. So in a weird way, while in Malaysia, I may have looked Dar in the eye more than I do while living with him at home.
While I was gone, what did Dar do besides scream? In two words: water play. Lot of baths, lot of hoses. Dar loves water. After coming back from my first real scuba-diving trip, I suppose I can say I do too. You know, like father, like son, like merlion.
By the way, it’s not like Dar never gets to have any fun. We take him to local parks and even local amusement parks. Later this month he’ll visit Disneyland and California Adventure and Universal Studios, all for the first time. So that ought to lead to an interesting blog post!
But I’m back from Malaysia, and Dar is still Dar. It reminds me of that wisdom from, among other places, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension: “Wherever you go, there you are.” Which reminds me of what I think (but rarely say) every time someone says “It is what it is”: “It isn’t what it isn’t.” Being halfway around the world isn’t unlike being around the world. Know what I mean?