Thursday, April 5, 2018

Azores 2018 : Day 0 - Ready for the Azores

Tonight, we leave for a two-week trip to the Azores and Madeira. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity as my brother Curtis and his two boys Eliot and Lukas have been staying with us, so we’ve had a lot of late nights, early mornings, and activity-filled weekends. I haven’t spent this much time with my brother since we were kids, and it has been filled with a lot of great conversations, fueled by craft beer, hot tubs and good old-fashioned coffee. Ana, the kids, and I have spent very little time with Curt’s boys, so this has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know them a lot better and see the family dynamic in action. Sadly, Curt’s wife Carrie is not with them, as she is in the midst of an epic four-week journey through Southeast Asia, but tonight as we fly off to the Azores, the Saskatoon Olsons are blasting off for Bangkok to meet up with Mommy and spent a further four weeks exploring the region.

Curt and I both follow a fantastic blog called Wait But Why and one day we discussed one of the articles that really struck home for me. The writer, Tim Urban, has an interesting way of looking at things, and makes extensive use of stick figures to drive his points home. One of his other techniques is using grids with coloured boxes to represent things and present information that forces you to think about it in a different, more profound way. For example, he uses a grid with the appropriate number of boxes to represent a 90-year-old human’s life, with each box representing one week and each row on the grid representing one year. You can check out this post here -

One of his posts that really struck me was this one - It’s all about how much time in our life we are likely to spend with our siblings and parents once we become adults. Unless you happen to live close to all the members of your family, once you become an adult, the overwhelming majority of the time in your life you will spend with your parents and siblings is over. This is particularly relevant for me, as my direct family is either a 4-hour airplane ride (Saskatoon) or 6-hour car ride (Ottawa) away. This makes frequent visits unfeasible, and in fact I am lucky to see them once per year. So, even though I’m not close to the end of my life (hopefully), I certainly am nearing the end of the time I have with some of the most important people in my life. This is a frightening concept, and one which freaked out Ana so much that she refused to finish reading the article. It is quite likely that I have already spent more than 95% of the time with Curtis that I will ever spent with him. It is thankfully lower for my other brother Marty, where the 6-hour drive on the congested 401 highway is more affordable, but infinitely more painful than the plane ride to Saskatoon. In either case though, every moment I spend with them is precious; much more precious than the seemingly infinite number of days we spent together in childhood. Of course, the same thing applies to my parents in Saskatoon, but it is worse as they are further along their lifespans than my brothers so there are even less squares remaining on the grid.

To put it mildly, there is no time to waste.

The time with Curt and the boys has been well spent. We have been so busy that I’ve scarcely had time to think about our trip, which is good, as the anticipation would have been killing me. Ana, as always, has taken care of all the packing, with the utmost attention to detail, with every single included item held up to the highest scrutiny. Using her keen traveler eye and advanced fashion sense, she has considered seasonal weather patterns, anticipated state of living conditions (cold tile floors require slippers), baggage weight restrictions imposed by the airline, physical characteristics of the luggage, personal preferences of family members (smoked almond snacks) and expected adjustments to personal grooming habits (fewer clothes changes, three-day stubble). By some miracle, she has also purchased gifts of clothing for our family members, none of whom we have seen for six years, but somehow knows all their sizes, even the children who are no longer children. The only participation required by me during the packing process (which took 8 weeks) was to decide which clothes to wear on the airplane. Truthfully, I just had to review the clothes she had set out for me in a tidy pile on the bed this morning. I can’t even remember what bachelorhood was like when I had to make all these domestic decisions on my own, but I’m never going back there.

At 3:30 this afternoon, we will leave for the airport, with all seven of us in the van, with Curt and the boys flying out just a few hours after us. Our flight leaves at 9 and gets us to our destination around 6am the next day.

Tomorrow, we will awake in the Azores!

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