The best way to show Carol that I know how to travel with a companion was to show her the pictorial evidence. But that meant showing her Carolyn's Shutterfly books of our trips together. I worried that might be hard for Carol. Carol worried it would be hard for me. Instead, we were both awed to observe together the artistic eye that Carolyn possessed. For me it was rediscovery.
“These are amazing,” Carol would exclaim, as she turned another page that exploded in color and composition. “How did she see all that in just one shot?”
I couldn't answer that, because a lot of the time I'd found a cafe, pew or bench to park my tuckus to give Carolyn free reign to that photographic eye of hers without feeling like she was dragging an anvil chained to her leg. It's not that I can be a pain in the ass to travel with; it's that I know I'm a pain in the ass to travel with, and I try to take prudent measures to avoid being scolded for being a pain in the ass to travel with. This is why I make such a good traveling companion.
But back to those shutterfly books. “Did Carolyn help you to see details that you would have missed on your own?” Carol asked as she pointed to interesting filigree along the rooftop of a Parisian building. I thought of coming clean, and admitting that in most cases, I'd missed the filigree, the roof, the building and the entire streetscape that Carolyn would capture in a page worth of such superb photography that I was sorry I had missed it when I'd been with her that day.
Carol and I paged through the two Paris books, and then went on the three Carolyn had done on our trip to Rome, Florence and Venice on what turned out to be our last trip to Europe together. I've learned, though, it doesn't have to be a way I'll never see Europe again. Without her, I mean.That's Carolyn’s legacy for me, and for Carol, too. “You have to see these books," I heard Carol telling her daughter by phone. “They're beautiful.“
In a way, Carolyn's eye will be along when Carol and I travel to France in less than two weeks. Not in any third wheel sense, but as a standard of attentiveness for all that Carol and I will be seeing together. It will be our own eyes, but eyes better informed to what to look for, thanks to what Carolyn has taught us to see. This is why I will always have her memory and her spirit alive and well with me wherever she is now. And Carol will know that what she's gotten herself into is a much better deal thanks to the spadework Carolyn had so patiently instilled in me to become a better traveling companion than I could have become on my own.
At least now, when Carol says, “Wasn't that beautiful?” and she sees the blank stare of oblivion on my face, she'll have a pretty good idea of how much work Carolyn left for her to continue in order to make me the travel companion I've always thought I already was.