I'd been locked in a bit of a mental battle with my mother during the course of much of 2012. It wasn't about what you might immediately guess: we weren't arguing over the length of my hair, or about whether or not I was eating right, or about whether or not she could throw out some old childhood toys. Rather, we were arguing about recreation and relaxation; her
recreation and relaxation, to be precise.
A bit of background before proceeding: my mother is Italian. Born in the 1920s in the town of Avellino in southern Italy, she spent the first twenty-five years of her life there, until a dashing young Canadian soldier somehow managed to convince her to trade operas and olives for the backwoods and blizzards of northern New Brunswick, Canada. And while she came to enjoy her new Canadian homeland over the years, she has understandably had the desire to return for periodic visits to Italy and to visit with her [quite large] array of sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces, and nephews. And this she did, on-and-off, for many years.
Over the last few years my mom had stopped going to Italy, despite repeated invites from her sister Rosetta - and from the urgings of her own children. In response to our urgings, my mother usually responded with various... shall we say, excuses; some in fact were reasonable, and some (in my opinion) weren't. On balance, I felt she was capable. While she definitely had some difficulty moving around, she has a fiesty attitude and a strong will. She was definitely capable of going, and I believed that it would be a shame if a mentality of "I can't" prevented her from ever again doing and experiencing one of the most enjoyable things in her life: visiting with her family - especially her closest sister Rosetta - in the land of her childhood.
I decided to put some effort into this, and so began the 2012 campaign-to-send-mom-to-Italy.
The first six months of 2012 consisted of a series of interactions - some on the phone, some in person when visiting, and some via mail (not the e-mail kind, mind you, but the old-fashioned on-paper kind). Of the three, I discovered the latter to be the most effective. Verbal interaction seemed to somehow diminish the main points I was trying to get across, which was essentially this: "Stop worrying and start living. Enjoy yourself. You deserve it. And yes, the world will still be turning when you return".
In the process of bargaining with my mother, I made her an offer: if she would agree to go on a trip to Italy, I would (a) handle all of the ticket purchasing and special needs arrangements, and (b) I would accompany her on one - or even both - ways of the trip. Perhaps this last offer convinced her that I was serious about this whole thing, for at that point she agreed. The mental wrestling match was over: my mother was going to go.
I immediately cast about for and secured airline tickets for my mother, knowing that it would not be easy to back out once tickets were locked in. I let my mother choose the dates of her trip; she chose to leave at the end of August and return in early October; about five weeks in all. And in the end, we agreed that I would only accompany her on the return journey.
So, the dates were set, and the trip was a go. I decided that if I was going to go all of the way to Italy to pick up my Mom, I might as well spend a few days there; it is Italy, after all, complete with excellent food, beautiful scenery, and of course many family members I had not recently seen. I decided nine days or so would make for a nice visit.
Given the familial aspect of this trip, I thought that perhaps my sister might be interested in this trip. It had been a very, very long time since she had last visited Italy - some forty years ago, in fact. Happily, she decided to come along.