Thursday, August 15, 2013

Traveling Mercies

Over the past three weeks, we have done a fair amount of traveling as a family. Two weeks ago yesterday, Steve and Daniel left for a tennis tournament in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They were gone for a week. On the same day, Kristiana and I went to Asheville, North Carolina, for two days. Last weekend, I went to Florida to spend two days with my brother and his wife. In between and following those trips, we have gone to the supermarket, the mall, the barber shop, church, parties, tennis practice, driver's education, community college, the vet's office, the homes of friends - among other places - and come back home.

Steve and Daniel arrived in Kalamazoo at 1:30 am two weeks ago this morning, several hours later than they expected. (Who can possibly be surprised that their flight out of Chicago was delayed? Given the option to do otherwise, you should avoid O'Hare Airport whenever possible.) The traveling mercy they experienced that night/wee hour of the morning was that the car rental agent in Kalamazoo had remained at the airport two and a half hours beyond closing time awaiting the arrival of their flight.

There were several traveling mercies experienced during our time in Asheville. Kristiana and I stayed at a hotel that provided shuttle service into downtown Asheville. The young man who drove us back and forth into the city center provided us with wonderful insights on restaurants we should frequent. He talked to us about the merits of vegetarian food. He was a delightful and kind-hearted young man. On the morning of our visit to the University of North Carolina Asheville campus, one of the hotel guests shared an elevator ride with us. She asked what we were going to be doing that day. We told her that Kristiana was going to have an interview at the college. The following morning, she asked how the interview had gone and whether or not Kristiana had been accepted. We were deeply moved by her thoughtfulness in remembering what we had told her. The admissions officer Kristiana spoke to said wonderful things about her chances to be accepted based on her grade point average. We discovered the darling little downtown area of Hendersonville, North Carolina, and sipped soda out of old fashioned glass bottles before making our way back to Charlotte.

On my return trip from Florida, the flight from Tampa to Jacksonville was delayed by more than an hour. That meant that my connection in Jacksonville would be less than twenty minutes. The USAirways ticket agent changed my seat on the outgoing flight so that I would be in the front row of the airplane, allowing for a quick exit. There were two other passengers hoping to catch the same flight back to Charlotte, so all three of us were in the front of the tiny aircraft. But just in case we missed the connection, the agent also issued each of us vouchers that would allow us to board the next flight back to Charlotte.

Upon arriving in JAX, I deplaned and began to run towards the connecting flight. Suddenly - Ouch! I injured my left achilles. I slowed to an unsteady wimpy, lopsided jog. When I arrived at the gate, they were boarding my group number. Huffing and puffing, I scooted down the jetway and collapsed into my seat. A minute or two later, the other two Tampa passengers walked past me towards their seats. We all made it. (The other two CLT-bound passengers were men. Yes, I'm proud that I beat them to the plane, even though I was limping. To be fair, they had to wait for their gate-checked roll behind bags to be returned. I had only a school sized backpack and cloth shoulder bag, so I didn't have to wait for any luggage.)

While in the car with Kristiana two weeks ago, in airport terminals in Charlotte, Jacksonville, and Tampa, on the runways, in the air, and in the car, one phrase kept coming back to mind: "traveling mercies."

I thought about a few of the many trips I have taken in my lifetime.
The big ones - Spain, Italy, San Francisco, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and other distant ports of call.
Smaller ones - like Asheville, New York City, Charleston, Savannah, Hilton Head, and the supermarket.
Car rides. Flights. Train trips. And many long walks through our beautiful neighborhood.
There were the happy trips. Back and forth to the hospital and birthing center where my children were born. Back and forth to the hospital where Karen, Moneesha, and Heather's children were born.
There were the sad trips too. The hospital where my father died. To Portland to visit Leza before she died of complications from colon kanswer. The hospital, surgeon's office, and oncologist's office where I underwent kanswer treatment.

The great news is that at this moment, I can happily, proudly, gratefully say that on each journey, whether I laughed or cried, checked a bag or carried only a backpack,
whether I drove or flew, walked or was carried in the cars or in the arms of others,
on every trip, traveling mercies have been abundant.
Delicious food. Healthy food. Hot coffee. Ice water.
Friendly co-travelers. Well-written guidebooks. Photos taken.
Hotel rooms. Guest rooms. Launa's garden level apartment.
Frequent flights paid for with frequent flier miles.
And a free business class upgrade on a flight to Madrid once.
Comfortable shoes. Warm sweaters. Travel vest. Money belt.
Hands to hold. Shoulders to lean on.
Stories told. Stories heard. Journal entries written.
I have traveled much. I have traveled well.
I have suffered. I have conquered.
I have been blessed. I have been loved.
And I have indeed lived to tell about it all.

On this Thursday night as every night of every week, I am thankful.

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