“Borders? I have never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of some people.” – Thor Heyerdahl
I learned that the world has no borders from a Master of a 48,000-ton cruise ship.
Pappa was away much of the time growing up, but he always made it a priority to travel as a family when we could. Memories of troll searches in Norway, skiing powder in Utah, coral reef dives in the Virgin Islands, and helicoptering over lava flowing volcanoes in Hawaii speckle my soul like a map filled with pushpins marking unforgettable memories.
He worked tirelessly for more than 30 years for a cruise line. Although I cannot recall an exact doctor’s visit he took me to or a specific class project he helped with, his marks on my heart and my perspective of the world thanks to his persistence have stood the test of time.
He convinced me that one person, with enough courage and heart, can change the world. He was that hero to children of a Pacific island tribe who now have a school. He changed an entire country’s economy because he saw the charm in its scenery and more importantly its people.
He steered a ship through rough weather and high seas back around after someone spotted what looked like a small vessel in the distance. Two men had been at sea for four days after their sailboat caught fire and were nearing their end. One man held on just long enough for the ship to reach him, but his friend sadly died shortly before. I learned of this story when we met a sailing passenger one afternoon for lunch. The passenger was the man Pappa saved. Seeing the two of them hug after so many years and the man struggle amidst tears to speak the words “thank you” remains my most emotional prelude to any meal.
The day I landed my first job out of college I called home to share the good news. Pappa congratulated me on the start of my career and then softly said that as of that afternoon, his had abruptly ended for reasons beyond his control. He was one day shy from 32 years with the company that was now “going in a different direction” without him.
Never compromising his poise, Pappa remained strong reminding us that we were going to be ok because we had each other. I admittedly lost some of my optimism about my beginnings in corporate America but gained so much more in pride.
I saw the world from atop his shoulders riding along in a red hiking backpack. And now I find myself on a voyage to hopefully leave this world better in my own small way – and I am carrying him.
photo credit: Susan Stripling