When I rented my first apartment in Québec City in 2014 several locals asked why I’m living in Old Québec (Vieux-Québec). Surely other neighbourhoods are cheaper. Why would I want to be so close to the tourists? Personally, I didn’t think it was a big deal. Old Québec is filled with history and character and marvellous architecture, why wouldn’t I want to live in Old Québec?!
I didn’t watch an episode of Outlander or sit through a couple hours of Braveheart and think, “Ooo, Scotland is pretty, I need to move to Scotland!”, even though, you know, it is pretty.
Actually, pretty is not the right word, Scotland is stunning and complex and rugged.
Sitting on one of the windowsills in my apartment, I survey my surroundings. Black reusable shopping bags filled with food, books, and other household items are strewn around the floor in the kitchen and living area; two black and country style kitchen chairs waiting to be placed, a white laundry basket filled with cosy blankets; two large cardboard boxes from IKEA are ripped open on the ground.
When you’re a bigger person, in a much smaller world, things are going to be different, and sometimes they may even be hard, but that doesn’t mean you need to fear them or avoid them. Body image in Bangkok and most of Southeast Asia is vastly different than what we face at home.
This is it, I’ve hugged my Mom, grabbed my backpack and day bag, and boarded a bus to Union Station in Toronto. Tonight I’ll be laying on a single bed with a white fluffy duvet, the sound of the train clicking along the tracks and the gentle sway of the carriage lulling me to sleep. The start of my four-day journey to Vancouver. But before I leave, before I start my journey, I need to do one thing. I need to change my desktop picture from one of Apple’s colourful landscape shots to a photo of my Dad. The same photo hangs in my Mom’s house. It’s the photo that rested atop his casket at his funeral. It’s the last photo I took of him that shows the man he was before his Alzheimer’s disease set-in and changed his personality.
I always debate about whether or not I should write about being an overweight traveller. It’s not that I think people will leave nasty body shaming comments, which I’m sure a few would, it’s more about the fact that I hate talking about it.
And that is the problem, nobody talks about it.
It’s been almost two months since my Dad passed away in a hospital room in Fergus, Ontario. I remember getting the call to drive home early from Québec City, which resulted in the longest nine hours of my life, where I pleaded for him to wait for me to get to his bedside. Two days later I was holding his hand, stroking his hair, and telling him it was time for him to go. I then watched him take his last breath.
Born on the dining room table at the farmhouse in Bracebridge, Ontario, Dad was the youngest of twelve children (nine boys and three girls). Premature at birth, he was taken to the hospital inside the doctor’s little black bag. In those first weeks Dad’s sisters would take turns holding him at night, resting their feet on the wood stove; heating their bodies, which would, in turn, heat his. When it was time for him to eat, they fed him with an eyedropper, and as Dad loved to say, “…now they use a funnel!”
It’s 7:40 a.m. and I’ve barely slept. I’ve been awake for twenty minutes, and out of bed for roughly six.
“There’s something wrong with you!” my Dad says, angrily jabbing his temple and glaring at me with every ounce of energy he can muster.
I’m tired. Too tired to start the day this way.
My Dad has dementia, and unfortunately, this is the new normal.
I will be the first to admit that my language learning has been slow. I do okay when I visit a restaurant or shop, but whenever someone engages me in a conversation I panic. I hear maybe two or three words, and I have absolutely no idea how to respond. If I’m eating out, I say ‘Oui’ in hopes that I have been asked a yes or no type question. While this most times, this is often a dead giveaway that I am anglo and the person I’m interacting with will either switch to English, or look confused and speak more French.