Blue times at Machu Picchu
When your family is going through rough times like mine is, you read into everything each person says, because there’s so much being left unsaid.
Shortly before Todd and I left for Peru, I visited my family in New York. I love love love my family, but lately, the visits have been emotional—and we’re not by nature and nurture an emotive clan. My mom’s not well; she has primary progressive aphasia (PPA). Please excuse me if I don’t go into detail about her condition, but I’m perfecting a mix of denial and acceptance.
During my visit home, I told my dad about our upcoming trip to Peru, and that Todd and I would, of course, visit Machu Picchu. My dad said, “I’d like to go there and see it one day.”
It’s the “one day” part that killed me.
The future is what stresses my family the most right now, because we know it will be so much different that we’d ever imagined for ourselves. Admittedly, the present ain’t so hot either.
Later, in my head, my dad’s words become more wistful than they actually were when he said them. My thoughts get gloomy as I realize—and accept—that if and when my dad travels to Machu Picchu, it will be without my mom. I wonder if that’s what he was thinking when he said “one day.”
Just before we departed for Peru, I told this all to Todd. I explained that I wanted to do something to somehow “bring” my parents to Machu Picchu. But, barring a time machine and two additional tickets, I didn’t know what that meant.
Todd didn’t know either. But, before we got on our flight to Peru, he printed out a few photos of my parents, figuring if some inspiration struck later, we’d have them to use.
At Machu Picchu, we spend an hour hiking high up Huayna Picchu, the mountain that stands tall over the rest of the ancient Incan site.
Todd suggests that we record a video postcard in front of the view of the ruins far below, during which I pull out the photo of my parents so they can “be” at Machu Picchu with us.
“You’re an asshole,” I tell him.
“Aww, that’s so sweet. I know that’s how your family expresses love.”
“You’re still an asshole.”
“Why?” he asks, wearing the same subtle smirk he gets when he bluffs at poker.
“You manipulator! You know I hate being on video. There has to be something else we can do.”
“It’s the only idea I’ve got, babe.”
In most of the photos that Todd brought along, my parents are having fun together, but they look goofy. I’m worried my mom will be upset if she sees an unflattering photo of herself in the video.
And then I realize it’s more likely that she won’t understand much of the video at all. That’s just the kind of absurd, contradictory mind-fuck that trying to simultaneously embrace both denial and acceptance will create.
Thankfully, there is one photo where my parents look nice. We record the brief video standing near (but not too near, since I have a dissipating but still sometimes incapacitating fear of heights) the edge of a high cliff on Huayna Picchu. By the end I’m a stressed mess of vertigo and mom-ache.
After we’re done filming, I call Todd an asshole one more time. Soon after, rain starts pouring down from skies that never really got blue.
The sudden change in weather diverts my stress to a more urgent matter: getting down the exceedingly steep and now mud-slicked trails of Huayna Picchu alive.
To be continued…