George and I took our first overseas vacation in the summer of 2017. We took my stepson, Michael to England, the country of his birth. George was stationed at Mildenhall Air Base outside of London and Michael was born during that time in 2001. We enjoyed it so much, George and I went back to London in November over the Veteran’s Day holiday.
Then came summer of 2018. We decided visit the country of my birth – Greece. And we kind of kept up that schedule for a few years…London in November, summer in Greece. The summers in Greece, especially, became something I relished – the sun, the sand, the bougainvillea, and the incredibly clear blue sea. The food, the music, the people, the sights and smells…and reconnecting with my family. How many years I have missed spending summers with my family! My mother and her sister had a falling out years ago and for 20 years, they didn’t speak. And Mom made it pretty clear that if my sister and I talked with our Greek family, we would somehow be betraying her. So from the time I was 14 until I was 34 years old, I had no contact with my first cousins or my aunt. My only first cousins and aunt, by the way. And although I had visited Greece four times with my husband, kids and and/ or parents between 14 and 34, I never looked up my relatives. Oh, how much we missed out on! Weddings, the births of our children, baptisms, summers at the seaside together. It’s hard not to feel a bit resentful and angry and sad.
So, in 2018, George and I took two of our three kids to Greece for a little over two weeks. It was George and my stepson, Michael’s first time in Greece and they fell in love with it, especially George!
We saw some incredibly beautiful places, ate some amazing food, and met some great people, but the highlight was being with my family again!
I was so grateful for the time I got to spend with my family! They accepted George and Michael like they had been family forever and showed them so much love! The love was mutual.
I had planned for us to vacation in France the summer of 2019 because George’s mother is from France and I thought we would take Michael to see where his family was from. But then George said, “I wouldn’t mind going back to Greece!” Hey – I was definitely good with that! I was excited I would get to see my family again!
We had planned to go back in the summer of 2020, but then COVID-19 hit and everything was put on hold. We had actually already bought our plane tickets and we were notified by Emirates Airlines that our flight was canceled due to COVID. So, we had our airline credits and we had two years to use them.
The summer of 2021 was still questionable as far as traveling overseas was concerned. Greece opened up to American travelers in May and we kind of felt it was a little too last minute to go. We had taken a few little get-aways to the Hudson Valley and Maine and thought we would just be good with that. But earlier in the year, my godfather had died and then a few months later, my aunt died suddenly.
A reminder: you think you have time.
George suggested I use my airline credit to go and see my family, so I decided to go in September. I felt comfortable doing so because masks were required on the plane and in the airport and I was fully vaccinated. So, I got my ticket. I asked him to go with me, but he said no. So, I was planning to go alone. Then, two days before I was leaving, he decided to join me! He would meet me over there on Saturday! It was an absolutely wonderful trip…we spent the whole time with family! Yes, we still did some sightseeing, but mostly we lived like locals. We stayed in an Air B&B down the street from my cousin, Anny in Athens and shopped at the local grocery store. While on the island of Paros where my cousin Elias has a home, he let us use his car to go all over the island to swim and sightsee. And he cooked for us and we went out with friends. It was glorious.
Visiting with my cousin, Elias at his home on Paros
So, George and I developed this deep and abiding love for Greece. It just feels like home to us. No real way to explain it. When we left, we longed to return while still in the Athens airport. And we loved having family to visit and build/rekindle relationships with. Anny and I had deep conversations, being vulnerable and honest with each other and I treasured that. I miss her and that a lot. Anyway, we started thinking of ways to retire in Greece in about 5 years. We were researching health care, where we would reside, etc when George got his leukemia diagnosis and it put the breaks on all those plans. I think the best we can hope for as of now is to visit for a few months every year.
But I have developed great expectations. And by that, I mean that I have the expectation that I will get to return again and again to continue building my relationships with my family and reveling in every year we all have left on this earth to spend in each others’ company.
I am grateful my cousin, Elias was back in my life when his daughter, Elpida got married and gave birth to her first child. So grateful. And I want more. More of that with my Greek family.
While George’s health issues have affected his ability to travel for the time being and we are dreaming of returning to Greece next September, he is scared to make any plans and I get it. Who wants to make plans, look forward to them and then be disappointed when you can’t follow through on them? But I still have the ability to travel and I feel the urgency that comes with the passing of each year, reducing the amount of time I have with him, of course, but also with my family in Greece. A limited amount of time to make up for all the lost time.
So I am still making travel plans. One plan is to perhaps visit Greece during Pascha (Greek Easter) which is April 16. I would love it if George could go with me….but if not, I feel the freedom to still go. Maybe with my daughter, maybe my sister…who knows? Is that selfish? I don’t feel it is. I am caring for my beloved husband the best way I know how every day. And I think it’s ok to take care of me, my personal life, my dreams and relationships in the midst of that once in a while. Of course, all these plans depend upon George’s state of health. He comes first. But I can dream and plan…and I have great expectations.