Out of the two trips my mom and I planned to New York, both were disastrous yet wonderful. The first trip, I was getting over a lung infection and she had been recovering from bronchitis & a bad cough (I realize in retrospect this was likely her lung cancer back then already). We were a hacking pair that could only take a few steps before being completely winded. It was her first time in New York but because we had respiratory issues, we couldn’t walk around much and needed more rest. We had tickets for four musicals, went to a few famous chef restaurants that my mom really wanted to try out and then the rest of the time we hunkered down in our hotel room watching movies on the hotel TV. Our hotel was conveniently located right back a Shake Shack so we would usually grab burgers and shakes on the way back to the room as well. Although it was not the grand New York trip we had envisioned, we still had a lot of fun that weekend and I have some great memories from our time together.
We didn’t make it to New York on our second trip. My mom was flying to Montreal to meet me (I was living in Quebec at the time) and then we were going to fly to NYC together. We had just found out that there was the possibility she might have cancer so we weren’t sure if she should risk traveling but being the adventurous spirit that she was, she wouldn’t take no for an answer and insisted that we still go. On the way to Montreal, she almost died on the plane from a blood clot in her lung. So, she was taken to emergency right off the plane and had to stay there for three days and wasn’t allowed to fly for a week. While she was in the hospital I would bring her tasty Montreal food and we would play Yahtzee together on her hospital bed (we used magazines to cover up the annoying noise that Yahtzee tends to make…). Then she spent a few days with me at my place and I flew back to BC with her. Also not the New York trip we had planned and it also included some scary and sad moments as we anticipated what the future might look like once we got her full diagnosis, but through it all I still have fond memories of laughter and making the best of a situation that wasn’t the most positive.
So, when I went to New York, I thought of my mom often. As I walked around Central Park I thought about the fact that she never got to see the park even though we were there for a few days. I ate burgers at Shake Shack both days that she would have loved, in honour of her (portobella mushroom burger for the win). And I saw some fantastic musicals that transported me into other worlds, left me crying and laughing and feeling inspired and hopeful about life.
If you know me, you know that I love musicals. My love for musicals is perhaps a bit over the top and obsessive but I see them every chance I get. When I was younger, whatever musical was in town, my mom would buy eight tickets (because that’s how many seats her vehicle had), she would fill up her suburban and we would all head to Vancouver to be dazzled and wowed by the different shows (and the odd time disappointed but with funny stories of a show that wasn’t so great that we all tediously endured together). I’m so thankful she introduced me to musicals at such a young age and fostered my love for them.
Although my whole family enjoyed musicals, I especially shared a love for them with my oldest brother, Leon. He was amazingly gifted musically and he performed in a couple different musicals in high school and it was such a joy to watch him perform and come alive doing something he was so good at and that he loved. One of my days in New York was the anniversary of the day Leon died. So I thought it likewise fitting to remember him by going to see musicals I know he also would have loved.
Each musical I saw was spectacular in its own way and spoke deeply to me and to different aspects of grief in unexpected ways. I love how stories can do this, especially stories that come at you in the form of singing, dancing and acting. Remembering my mom and Leon while there made it even more special.
New York- Part II
About two weeks after my initial visit to New York in NYC, I spent some time in upstate New York (at least I think that’s what they call it) in the Finger Lakes area. It was a wonderful day and it ended up being a formidable waterfall tour. While driving I passed some waterfalls on the side of the road and then I went to Glen Watkins State Park which is a river running through a gorge and has countless waterfalls, some of which you can even walk behind! It was lovely. They had stone steps and bridges throughout the park so you could walk along the entire length of the gorge. I ended up getting soaked as I walked behind a couple of the falls but it was humid and it was worth it to take in the experience of being so close to something that is so majestic. The entire day felt filled with wonder and the continual gift of being able to see one of my favourite things.
I even wore shoes for the walk through Glen Watkins. It’s amazing how different an experience can be when you’re somewhat prepared for it. Of course, I didn’t bring water or food and hadn’t eaten since breakfast, but I guess you can’t be prepared for everything at the same time. What I loved about the park was I was struck with awe at each new point. I would lower my expectations but as soon as I turned a corner, I saw something different and wonderful in its own way. A good reminder to keep moving forward and although the 100 steps in front of you seem daunting, it is worth it in the end. All in all, the 800 stairs in this park were well worth it and the whole day was absolutely wonderful.