a special day.

This trip all started with some fatherly advice. I was sitting in my car at the auto shop in Charlotte, thinking out loud about what would come next after I inevitably quit my job.

Don’t just go back to school for no reason, Marian. Travel if you need to. Take six months. Take a year.

Uhh….okay.

So I left Charlotte, and I got on a plane to India, and four months later I met my parents in Rome, and soon enough my Dad and I began walking across Spain. Thank God I’ve started to actually listen to his good advice.

Transitioning between traveling with my best friend and traveling with the man who gave me half of my DNA was certainly a change. Mariel and my father are slightly different: different habits, different views on the world, different ways of interacting. When I explained that I would be traveling with my dad for six weeks, many young people I met in Southeast Asia looked at me with a combination of confusion and shock. You’re what? Why? It’s cool, I would respond, we have a great relationship. We’re close.

Except for the fact that, as my dad pointed out before this little walk we’ve been partaking in, we didn’t really know each other all that well. I moved away from home at 14. We’ve never spent more than a few weeks together since then. I soon realized he was right.

But, for better or for worse, we did this thing. At first I was impressed — shocked? — at how well things were going. Our days together were smooth and enjoyable and we communicated well. And the camino brought us — forced us — even closer. I’d call it a crash course for marriage: your decisions about eating, sleeping, and even moving each day are dependent on another person. We shared a room, we shopped for groceries together, and often met new people as a unit. It’s kind of an intense thing to do with your dad.

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But after 817 kilometers, 35 days, and countless cafés con leche, I now have this friend named Webster whom I understand and respect on a completely different level. He is and always will be my dad: he makes sure I never lose my water bottle, he’s patient when I’m cranky, and once in a while he’ll treat me to a piece of cake (if I’ve done all my chores). But he also treats me like an adult, and gives me my space, and supports me and challenges me to be a better person. He listens to my crazy ideas and responds gently, smartly, and lovingly. Some of my favorite memories from this adventure are those mornings and afternoons we spent talking, singing, laughing, and respectfully disagreeing. Just me and my dad, walking across Spain. He’s been my sounding board, my Shakespeare professor, and my favorite storyteller. His advice is still sound, and I’m still learning to listen. And I FINALLY know his favorite color.

Traveling with your dad is not always easy (I like to make obvious statements and congratulate myself for them), but it’s one of the best spontaneous decisions I’ve ever made. We both remember the day last year that I picked up the phone to call him and ask him if he would walk the camino last year. It’s one of his favorite stories to tell new friends along the way. I remember telling him that I felt like I had just asked him to the prom. And he’s been the best date ever.

And now, nine months later, we are in Santiago de Compostela together on father’s day. Two pilgrims, two friends, two Bulls. Soon he’ll go home to my mom and I’ll go off to do other random stuff in Europe. But on this day we get to celebrate the amazing journey that we have completed together. I’m the luckiest girl in the world to call this crazy bearded dude my dad, and I will be forever grateful for these weeks we spent together, for better or worse.

Happy Father’s day, Dad. I admire you and I love you and I’ll always be grateful for this pilgrimage that we shared. Go forth and set the world on fire.

4 thoughts on “a special day.

  1. Marian,
    What a wonderful story. What a wonderful father and daughter relationship you have. You are the lucky few, those whose blood binds them closer in love and kinship than those unfortunate to be distant from one another, or not know how to approach each other for that love which transcends all – family love. Some taste the salty bile of their bloodline and don’t share of themselves as I believe we are expected to do; this is not the case in the descriptive narrative you wrote. I may not have walked across Spain with Mariel, but we have walked a similar path of bonding and friendship and love.
    Please relay this message to your father – that he and I are the lucky ones, the dads that continue to nurture and support their daughters, regardless the age – dads who learn from their daughters as much as their daughters learn from them. This is a mature relationship that feeds and grows onto itself.
    I wish you the best, Marian and am so very happy that you shared your trek across India and parts of southeast Asia with my daughter before joining your dad to continue your journey. Godspeed!
    Tony
    PS – Please tell me the name of the cathedral pictured above. I have the same photograph from when I visited you and Mariel in Zaragoza eight years ago but can’t recall the name of the church or the city it is in. Thank you.

    • Tony, thank you so much for your kind words. I agree–we are the lucky ones. And I know Mariel feels the same way.

      The church pictured here is the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia. It is the most beautiful church I saw on the entire walk. You may also remember the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar in Zaragoza, which is also beautiful but much more modern.

      I hope you have been enjoying your summer and we can all get together sometime in the fall!

      Sent from my iPod

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