Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Journey

Surreal. It's not a word that one generally associates with Christmas, but all day yesterday it kept floating around my conciousness.

I'm sure the day was surreal partly because of my sleep-deprived state and partly because I was fighting off yet-another-illness from the kids. Cheryl and I talked until 2 am and then I got up at 4:30 am to be ready in time for Dad to come by and take me to the airport. Most of the day my bowels felt scrambled, but thankfully nothing came undone due to a dose of immodium before I got on first flight at YVR.

The rest of the feeling was because of the object of my trip.

The mood first overtook me as I stood in line waiting to speak to the customs officer. They always ask you where you are going and why, and I really did not want to dwell on why I was leaving Cheryl and the kids and getting on a plane on Christmas day. I felt badly for her, for as soon as I explained that I was coming here for my brother-in-law's funeral, she replied that lung cancer had taken her dad as well. We exchanged "Merry Christmas"'es and I went to wait for my flight.

The rest of the day was a blur. I slept fitfully on the plane, ignoring my bowels and drinking as often as I could manage. I looked out the window and tried not to think of David and his love of flying. Texas and New Jersey are both pretty unexciting places to fly into and out of in the best of circumstances. On this trip they were absolutely monochromatic (well, except for sunset over the gulf coast).

About the only adrenaline rush I got during the whole day was when I arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC. The bus dropped us off on the top level and I had to make my way down 4 or 5 stories to the ground floor where the various bus lines had their ticketing counters. I felt utterly conspicuous as the obvious out-of-towner carrying around a laptop case and who knew what else. I bought my bus ticket and found out I would have to wait for about 90 minutes before the next bus. I used up 10 minutes wandering around the station aimlessly before I decided that was a good way to get myself mugged in some quiet hallway. I stepped into a coffee shop, bought a sandwich, and literally "ate" up another 30 minutes until the shop closed.

Reluctantly I went down to the gate where the bus was to leave from and found a young father there with his one year old son. His English wasn't so good, and my Spanish was worse, but I figured out that he had 3 children with the woman he was with and that she was leaving him in a month and taking the children with her. He just shook his head when I told him, "tengo cinco hijos" - I have 5 children. Later when he and his wife and sister-in-law got off the bus I wished him luck.

The bus ride from NYC here to Pennsylvania was relatively uneventful. While I dozed, the names of villages and places like Panther Valley, and Delaware Water Gap passed by. Some of them I recognized from David and Gail's writings. Some were new to me.

The fog was thick as pea soup and which lent itself to the dreamlike mood. Because of the visibility, it took the taxi driver a few minutes longer than usual to find the house - a fact for which he apologized. I stepped out of the car, my journey over, and wondered at how I had arrived here.

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