Monday, March 7, 2005


(Wrote this two years ago, the night before I left on a vacation. I'm 86 hours away from another plane ride... and I'm struggling with that same uneasiness. I've changed the names to protect the innocent, but otherwise, this is straight out of my personal archives.) (Note how much I haven't matured.)

“Dear God. Please fill this emptiness with peace.”

Those were the last words in my journal, written at 2:30 am on Sunday Mar 16 2003.
I was supposed to be excited and happy. In seven hours I would be on my way to the airport… then off to Phoenix, Arizona with Dena.

But I had this sick feeling of dread, sitting like a lump of bread dough in the pit of my stomach.

I think it had to do with “The War”.
It loomed like a big, fat, huge, dark rain cloud…

My usual sunny personality (OK. That’s an outright lie, I know… but for the sake of this metaphor, it works best if I usually have bright spirits that are darkened by a heavenly mass of icy airborne particles) …my sunny personality was struggling to be joyful in light of the uncertainties brought about by the conflict in the Middle East.

I was heading off to the United States… a country that was hours away from declaring war on Iraq. How would that affect me? My holiday? My kids? My life?
(How very small minded I am. Embarrassed to admit it. But in the early hours of that Sunday morning, the lives of innocent Iraqi citizens did not cross my mind. Nor did I lose sleep over the men who were risking their lives for the cause of Freedom.)

Instead, I was worried about my own affairs.
What would happen if I never came back? What if a terrorist blew up the plane I was on? Or what if World War III broke out… and I ended up in the middle of a bloody battle? I depressed myself. Not hard to do.

So, it was in that frame of mind, that I completed my pre-trip preparations. I gave my mom a copy of my recently revised ‘Last Will and Testament”. And handed over all my financial documents, including my RRSP’s, GIC’s, Savings and Chequing account numbers, and my life insurance policy. I am responsible, if nothing else. I did not want my mom, or whoever, to have to search and hunt for my important papers. My passing was not to be a burden for those left behind.

(Isn’t this a grand way to prepare for a sun-filled 10 day vacation with a good friend?)
In addition to world politics, I was reflecting on the upcoming funeral of Loni’s father-in-law. His death was not unexpected, yet… the loss of a family member is painful. Dealing with the ache is one thing. Having to sort through papers and policies is another.
So, with that on my mind, I planned my funeral.

Do I need drugs?

Anyway, got all my paperwork sorted out, prayed for a bit, and then wrote that line in my journal.

Sunday morning, hours later…
I’d repacked my suitcase three times, making sure my tweezers, nail clippers and any other small metal objects were safely tucked into the luggage that would NOT be carried onto the airplane. I got my ID handy (WHY oh why didn’t I follow through with my plan to get a passport?)
(Because the pic they took at Walmart was hideous, that’s why.)
(How vain am I?)
(I’m traveling with only a birth certificate and driver’s licence because I didn’t want anyone to see that ghastly passport picture? What’s that all about?)
(I will probably be pulled aside at the border. They’ll strip search me. And see my big flabby stretch-marked stomach. How embarrassing will that be??)
(I’m pathetic… in an attempt to “hide” a bad photo of my face; I’m opening myself up to the possibility of having my stomach exposed.)
I should start smoking pot.

Dena arrived shortly after that. With NOT a concern in the world. Nary a one. She had not lost a single minute of sleep worrying about wars, passports or her stomach.
I don’t think she’s normal.

Jake dropped us off at the airport. Where we proceeded through 5 checkpoints (!), showing our ID at each stop. Apparently a driver’s licence and birth certificate are acceptable pieces of identification. No one pulled me over, asking me to undress. Which is a good thing. I guess. (Although… nah. Forget that.)

As we approached our last ‘hurdle’ (the x-ray machine that ‘looks’ inside your carry-on bags) Dena wondered if they’d notice the banana she had hidden in a side pocket.
“WHAT? Have you not read all those signs? We’ve passed at least 6 of them. No fruit allowed! They even have a picture of a banana on the sign for those unable to read English…”
“Do you think it will be a problem?”
“OF COURSE IT WILL BE A PROBLEM!! They said ‘no fruit. That means NO BANANAS.”
And I would probably be considered guilty too, simply because she was my travelling companion.
We would be denied access to the USA because of a banana.
What was she thinking? Did she not know about the conflict in IRAQ? I felt like I was travelling with a 15 year old.

That 15 year old made it through the last checkpoint with no problems.

I “beeped” when I walked through the metal detector.

After scanning me twice with the hand held wand, I was allowed to proceed. (Either my mouth full of metal set it off, or my new underwire bra.)

We were early. So we sauntered towards our gate. And, much to my interest, at a relatively empty stretch of hallway, there was a waiting area filled with a wonderful assortment of very good looking, well dressed, athletic-type young men. A smorgasbord of 30 year olds…
“Dena, look! It’s the Canucks. There’s Bertuzzi. And Sopol.”
She kept walking. She was looking forward to having her banana.
“Oh man. I can’t believe it. I should go ask for a few autographs.”
“I would never ask anyone for an autograph. I don’t believe in putting someone on a pedestal.”
“Yeah, but Drew would go nuts if I could get Nasland’s autograph for him…”
“I just don’t think it’s right…what makes their signature so much better than anyone else’s’?”


We sat at a cafĂ©’ near our gate and ate salads. (Well she had a salad and her banana. I had a turkey sandwich.)
(Which is why she looks like a banana, and I look like a turkey.)
At the table beside ours, a young man (early 20’s) was reading a book and drinking a coffee. Shortly after we sat down, he interrupted us,
“Excuse me… Could I ask you to watch my bag while I go to the restroom?”
We nodded as he left, then I mentioned to Denise,
“You know… this is dangerous… bags are not to be left unattended.”
“Well, there could be a bomb in them. He just walked away. How do we know he has to pee? Maybe he’s running for cover? Escaping. He was dark skinned. Dark haired. He could….”
She gave me that look.

I shut up.

His suitcase did not explode.

A few hours later, Hank, Jake’s dad, greeted us at the airport. He transported us back to their home in Sunny Loo’s Adult Retirement Community. After Dena and I put our things away in the spare bedroom, I set out a mat on the floor, covered it with a flannel sleeping bag, and lay down, wondering how I would survive the next 10 days.
I prayed again, “God. Be with me here in this place. I know it is Your will that I am here… help me to be a blessing to Hank and Dawn. And, if nothing else… ease my mind and let me get a good tan.”

I got a good tan. And had a great time.
I sat at the pool every day. And finished off 6 books. (That makes it sound like I ate them, doesn’t it? I didn’t, I read them, like a normal person.) I went to bed when I wanted. And got up when I felt like it. For the first 5 days, I didn’t show my face unless it was ‘made up’… but after awhile, I chilled out about that. No one went screaming from the room, or protected their eyes from my appearance…so I enjoyed the freedom of a naked face for the first time in years.
I walked a few miles every day. Sometimes by myself. Often with Dawn. And every night with Dena.
Meals were a joint effort. With 4 adults sharing the preparation and clean up responsibilities, it was not burdensome, but a joy. We ate ‘adult’ foods. No hotdogs. No Kraft Dinner. Lots of fruit. (Do you know how wonderful it is to have a freshly assembled fruit salad waiting for you in the fridge when you wander into the kitchen at 9 am?) (Or how amazing it is to help yourself to an orange, straight off the tree in the backyard?) Supper was eaten outside on the deck, at 7 (after Hank and Dena got back from their daily golf game) by candlelight, where we were seduced by the intoxicating scent of citrus blossoms.

I called the kids on my 6th day. (They were in Palm Springs, honeymooning with their dad and his new wife.)
“Hi Clint, How’s it going?”
“MOM! Are you OK?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” In the background, I can hear their dad talking about some sort of army helicopter and terrorists…
“Can you see it?”
“See what?”
“The chopper. It’s circling the power plant.”
“What are you talking about?”
“MOM!! Do you know there’s a war on?”
“Oh. That. Yeah. But it seems so far away. How are you doing? Did you guys go to Disneyland?”
“MOM!! There’s a terrorist threat at the Nuclear Power Plant… didn’t you know? Aren’t you watching the news???”
“Yeah, we watch the highlights. But, for some reason, I’m not scared.”
“MOM! The power plant is in Phoenix. Can’t you see the helicopter? The army is on alert. 24 hour chopper surveillance…”

After I’d talked to all three of them, assuring them that I was quite fine, I watched the news. Huh.
Turns out I was vacationing next to the largest Nuclear Power Plant in the dessert.
And it didn’t matter.

Total, complete, deep peace.

So much peace in fact, that at the Phoenix airport, on the way home, I stood there at the end of x-ray machine barefoot, (they took my shoes) watching two government employees empty out my carry on luggage. I didn’t pack my bags quite as carefully for the return trip. Tweezers, eyelash curler, bobby pins, nail file, cell phone, camera, manicure scissors … all in my overnight bag.
What was I thinking?

I wasn’t thinking.
I simply ‘let go’ and allowed God to answer my prayer. At some point, somewhere in Phoenix, I parked my brain. Forgot to grab it when I packed up. I traded in my overactive, imaginative brain cells for some sweet, blessed peace of mind.

What a great swap.

1 comment:

Christine said...

It coulda been a bomb. It could be the start of a great novel. I can just see it, you and Denise running all over the middle east, cuz you got on the wrong plane. It was all the banana's fault.

Have fun in Europe. I'll be checking in daily to see how you and Lori are doing. I can run myself ragged worrying about you guys drowing in gondolas, having my favorite statue fall on you -- The David -- but what a way to go, eh? Or you die of thirst and busted knees in that beautiful Italian seaside village, which by the way I've seen on TV. Keep us all posted.