Sunday, September 12, 2010

Our Drive Eastward (the final episode of our leaving Albuquerque)

We thought we had a good plan....

Our plan was to rent a Penske truck on Monday, pack it up with the few things for our temporary stay in Ohio, and then leave on Tuesday Morning...first thing in the morning.  I will try to recount for you the events, but what happened, a blur in my mind, was not in our plans.  

The Lord always knows best.  

Have you ever listened to a sermon or lecture by Archbishop Demetrios of America?  He has the most amazing way of mentioning a word or sentence in Holy Scripture that at first just looks like a trivial detail.  He then shows us how that very things is essential and   the whole context is even further illuminated. Life can be that way too.  One detail can change a lot of well thought out plans.  But if we think like the Archbishop, there is more meaning when we see it as essential; even the unexpected.

I am sure that  anyone who was there, could correct me on what I can recall. We were pretty tired.  So lets call this historical fiction for now even though some might say it was more like hysterical non-fiction. On little sleep, and behind schedule the whole time, there was really  nothing we could do but keep trying.  

Here's just a part of our to do list:

Father Paul still had one more house visit to make.  He had to get the church car ready for it to be returned.  Someone had to go pick up our glasses from the eye doctor's. We hadn't cancelled our utilities yet. Rapha's backpack had been left at the tailor's shop. Besides being tired we were so inefficient too. For example on that day, I thought that I was going to be able to save our computer files, and dismantle our computers with the ease of a child coloring in an old fashioned coloring book.:30 minute job. Thanks to JP who did that for me or else I might still be there. 

It was interesting watching JP watching me fumble through the morning.  He kept adjusting his expectations regularly as he observed my fatigued clumsiness for the first time.  I imagined what his thoughts might be…  "Does she really think another sip of coffee is helping her?  Is she without her entire short term memory or does is just go away in spurts?  Should I offer to drive the rental truck back to the house for her while she drives my carrrrrr um no I"ll drive my car"   JP had gone with me to pick up the rental.

GC and RA were back at the house to get the truck loaded.  Others had arrived as well and it was fun hearing them cheer me on for being able to back up the truck into our driveway. The day went at a high speed... delegating tasks, answering questions, wondering what happened to that box, hunting for tape, scissors and bubble wrap at every turn, and don't forget trying to unload semi valuable things onto anyone who might pass by. We even had the mini van detail-cleaned and sold it in the afternoon just as a hard rainstorm was hitting. 

Any moment was an opportunity for sadness, focus, humility, disbelief, gratitude, you name it. But we got by, by treating each other with lots of respect.  A good tone of voice went a long way! So did a good sense of humor.

By the late afternoon it was obvious that not only were we not going to be finished on that manic Monday, but we also would need to do significant work on Tuesday, with a "worst case scenario" of having to leave on Tuesday at 10 am instead of 7.  Little did I know.

So at 7pm on Monday evening, heading into a rainstorm we saw the most hugest rainbow we had ever seen.  Vibrant and taking up the entire city in our visual field, I know that the kids for sure felt that the day was ending in a gift from above.  We got to Mario's Pizzeria, just in time to be 40 minutes late for our friends.  But the food was great and we really needed to unwind.  

After so little sleep we went back to the house to get a couple more things done. Father Paul and I separated while he took care of errands that couldn't be done on Monday, and I went to the house with the truck and set my sites on getting out by 10am. 

RA and AA greeted me and two kids with breakfast burritos. GC was there like a soldier on duty.  We began what we thought was the final part of loading up the truck and cleaning out the house.  At some point we noticed that the backup lights weren't working. Neither were the turning signals and flashers.  There was no way we could leave yet. I quickly remembered two irrate drivers on the road when we were going for dinner the night before…oops.   We needed a repair.  We called Penske.  They sent their best guy out to look at what was wrong.  It took him the better part of an hour to get there. 

We had amongst us "our" best electrician.  Together they went to work analyzing the fuses and the truck's electrical system.  It was a mess.  We continued loading things onto the truck with the expectation that it would be fixed. After two hours, we all agreed they should send another truck.  For those of you who are into mechanical details,  something in the electrical system was causing random shorts and there was no predicting if it could happen while we were on the road. It was a risk that we didn't need to take.

Our friends were fearless.  No one said "let the Panske guys empty the truck and fill the other one".  Except for me who didn't want our friends to over work. We all got on the truck and emptied it, while Penske sent professional moving guys to help us to load the new truck.  

How way cool.. the new truck was not that obnoxious yellow and black thing.. sorry Steeler's fans, but white with blue!  Yeah! We are Greek.   Rapha saw it as one of those little things…like the rainbow…like a little blessing that can help us see things anew if we let it. 

But someone, somewhere, was praying for us in a big way.  Our patience seemed to be not our own, rather a gift, and it was much needed. Abba Dorotheos of Gaza says that if we have a need, God, Who is good, can influence even the heart of an unbeliever to come to our aid. Someone was praying for us, and adding to our prayers.

T&K P had us over for dinner.  It was nice, but I had to go to Avis to get a rental car to follow the truck.  TP came along with me.  Then we went to drop off the church's car in the parish parking lot. We left the keys securely inside. I disconnected the car keys from the rest of the set, and watched them drop into the compartment between the seats. I tucked the rest of the set that was loaded with all those little cards: rewards cards, miniature credit cards, points cards, and my Sports and Wellness membership card, into my purse.  We went back to their house for dinner and it was delicious. 

Now here is where things get interesting.  In the morning I reached in my purse to look for the truck keys, and found the car keys that I had put in the compartment the night before.  I know I was tired, but TP saw me put the keys away.  I don't know. I may have to ask her about that.  

Whatever happened, had I not found the "wrong" keys, we would have left town with them.  Well, I was now in the predicament of having to go to the church again before we could leave town.  We loaded up the truck with our luggage that we had in GD's house.  I had asked Father Paul to leave it unlocked for one more check.  As I closed the back pull-down door on the truck, it hit me.  We had made such a "to do" about saying good-bye to so many people, but we forgot to say good-bye to Saint George!  Even on our last Sunday we didn't stop to say a thank you to him at all! He deserved the biggest thank you of anyone. 

So we went to the church and yes we found those little cards and things on the other half of the key chain right where the keys should have been. However, having relinquished my church key to the parish office, as is appropriate, I didn't have one to get inside to venerate the icons.  So the kids and I, stood outside the doors of the Church and faced them, and said our morning prayers. We called Father Paul who was in the truck, already on I-40 so that he could pray with us. Then we sang hymns to Saint George and to the Theotokos. 

Had I not known the pious traditions of my ancestors, I might have felt lost when we couldn't get into the church. But I remember both my mother and my grandmother Aikaterini telling me of how the men of their village, if they couldn't make it to vespers on a Saturday night, they would at the very least, take their animals to drink at the watering hole, and then they would go to the Church that was in the center of the village, and kiss the doors of the church before going to eat and sleep for the night. So we imitated them before we hit the highway albiet rather teary eyed.

We made it to Amarillo without incident, and stopped at the first restaurant that had space for a truck...  A Tex-Mex place called On The Border that served fish.  It was good.

We had to make it to Dallas as soon as possible, because my kids were flying to Dayton Ohio at 11:00 am on Thursday.  It was Wednesday afternoon and we were still 4 hours away from our friends house in Wichita Falls. B&B Mc have known us since 1997 or so. Father Paul had gone with B to Calcutta, in West Bengal, India.  It was so refreshing to see them!

We got there in good time, but alas in their kindness they had prepared to take us to dinner with friends at their local Red Lobster.  It was a good thing.  Had we continued past Wichita Falls, I might have realized a little too late that was too tired to drive. They were doubly kind and kept us in their home for the night and prepared a hearty breakfast for which we were grateful and ate as we packed up again.

We made it to the airport just in time for the kids to go comfortably through security. Their Uncle Father Deacon Philemon was there and they had a slight bit of quality time together. It was precious, complete with photo ops at the roped line and at the kiosks. Through security and they vanished; took off with their saints and angels watching over them, and with our prayers too. By 4 pm we learned that they had arrived.

Father Paul and I stayed with his brother and sister-in-law Diaconissa Maria for one night.  It was a day of warm hospitality and I kept seeing my brother in law as he might be as a grandfather, all ready to serve more food and full of these genuine smiles. We got to visit with their daughter who with her talented singing reminds me that the kids are so grown up now and we must make way for them to serve the Lord more independently in this life.

It was another hearty breakfast, and in the morning we drove to Memphis, but this time with only one vehicle, the beautiful "Greek" Penske truck, where we got to see his best buddy from Holy Cross, Fr. PC. Presvytera and their eldest daughter were in Florida. But we did get to see him and two children.  What a treat.  REALLY!  Their kids had grown so much and we got to see them at their best in so many ways.  Hospitality has a way of showing what you are made of, and with these kids it was pure love. We tried to get an early start again but there were so many things to talk about and to share.  We will miss them so much in the years to come. I wonder if they will get a chance to get away to NZ.

Once on the road, Father Paul and I vowed not to stop for lunch, just an early dinner instead.  Seeing the kids in Memphis made us miss our children all the more.  They were tucked away safe and sound at my sister's house, with our family there, which was our destination as well.  Thank God we made it safely.

If you, like me, are tempted from time to time to think that prayers aren't so helpful, and that God helps those who help themselves, I don't intend an argument here.  But think about this.  When we got to our first stop in Wichita Falls, we noticed that the lock was not on the truck.  Well not where it was supposed to be.  It was laying "comfortably" on the bumper.  I forgot to lock the truck back in Albuquerque that morning.  It never fell off the bumper through all that high way, the speed bumps, the turns and the stops.  No it was not wearing a safety belt either.  We were so surprised to see it lying there that we checked to see if it was magnetic by trying to stick it onto metal things. It was not a magnetic pad lock.

So after that long story, what is the meaning of it all? Maybe this. The Lord has His quiet ways of letting us know that He has it all under control. Praying helps us to stay with Him, even when the day is so full of work, mundane details and distractions that we miss even earthly essentials like locking up. By missing that detail, and letting ourselves just observe and listen, we learned to trust that the Lord's help is most essential.

Well, we have been in Dayton for about two weeks now.  It is quite nice. A luxury to have this time with at least some of our family.  We are also near enough to Father Paul's brother Panaghiotis and his family.  

Father Paul is helping out at the church in Middletown, Sts Constantine and Helen, so that he can keep us afloat until we leave. He is also editing a book for a friend that will be published just as soon as he completes his part.  Georgios is enrolled at the school where his cousins attend, and the girls are both going to community college to keep up with some academic interests.  We can talk about that later.  

Today, Sunday, we talked with the chancellor at the Metropolis of New Zealand.  They are happy to hear that we are making progress towards our going to see them. 

God bless you all.  

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