Dad goes gray as daughters travel world

Iused to naively believe that once your children fledged, you would be as free as a bird from those nagging parental worries.

Ah, yes, ignorance is so blissful.

Funny how a little knowledge, which just a month ago would have been unrelated to your life, can suddenly increase your angst tenfold.

Consider this little intro into an Associated Press story last week: "Downtown Bangkok became a flaming battleground Wednesday as an army assault forced anti-government protest leaders to surrender, enraging followers who shot grenades and set fire to landmark buildings, cloaking the skyline in black smoke."

Our fretting began when daughter Derra and her longtime friend Matt of Portland left May 15 to visit their friend Marcus in Bangkok, a trip they had planned for months. All three were undergraduates together at the University of Oregon.

Marcus is now a medical doctor in Bangkok, following in his father's footsteps. Matt is an engineer, thanks to a graduate degree in engineering from Colorado State. And Derra, armed with degrees in chemistry and biology, works at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland while studying to become a nurse practitioner. They've earned a vacation.

But Bangkok? Where unrest has been fomenting for weeks?

This comes less than two years ago after daughter Amy, a teacher, traveled to Uganda, where she became very ill from her malaria medication before we helped get her out of Africa. Wife Maureen, who was equally worried, says that's when the dark hairs began turning gray on my cranium.

Derra and Matt were both a bit apprehensive before leaving, but Marcus had called them the night before, assuring them it would be safe.

So off they flew with promises to be careful in the extreme. Still, Maureen has been wringing her hands. Having traveled to Vietnam a little more than a decade ago, I was a bit less worried, albeit I've been closely following events in Bangkok.

"Marcus picked us up from the airport and brought us back to his parents' condo," Derra reported via e-mail upon their arrival. "It is in the best (and safest) part of Bangkok, where most of the government workers live."

The next day found them exploring portions of the city of 10 million souls, including visiting an open air market.

"Many different people with strange foods," she wrote. "I had some Thai ice cream. It was coconut flavored, thrown over sticky rice with chunks of white bread and peanuts on top. It was, surprisingly, extremely delicious!"

But there was dark smoke billowing up from a portion of the city that was closed off, she noted.

"They are going to impose a curfew tonight — we will definitely not be going out," she added.

She indicated they would be traveling to islands off the coast of Thailand, including Ko Chang with its sandy white beaches. Marcus and his family would be with them.

"It seems difficult to find computers around here, so it might be hard to write again," she wrote.

That's when our friends at AP reported 45 people have died and more than 1,000 were wounded in clashes in Thailand since May 13.

"Peace was largely restored in the city Thursday, a day after a military crackdown on anti-government protesters triggered rioting in which 39 buildings were burned," the wire continued. "The government quelled most of the violence in Bangkok but not the underlying political divisions that caused it, and unrest spread to northern parts of Thailand."

As we would have expected, Derra expressed more concern about the Thai people than for her safety.

"They burned a lot of surrounding buildings near the central fighting spot," she reported. "It is a really big deal to the Thai people as they are very peaceful and find this quite disturbing."

She promised to keep us posted on their travels.

"Hope to see some mangrove forests and play with elephants," she wrote Friday. "Meanwhile, still traveling away from Bangkok ... ."

Then we have daughter Sheena, a coffee shop manager in Eugene, who may be traveling to the remote mountains of Central America within the next year to buy coffee beans.

As I contemplate ways we can pay for a ransom for her release from the jungles, I can already feel the gray hairs fading to white.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or e-mail him at

Share This Story