I write this first segment aboard a Lufthansa plane, at an elevation of 37,200 feet. Set against a crystal blue sky, the surging aircraft–with me in it–is traveling at a ground speed of more than 500 mph. Far beneath us I see a river. The screen attached to the seat ahead tells me the river is called the Nile, and I think of Moses, and bulrushes, and a floating baby basket. We will reach our destination in 2 hours and a half. The city of the airport is Nairobi, the country is Kenya, the continent is Africa.
I find it hard to believe I am here.
Jerry called from the living room, where he sat with Steve, to me in the kitchen in the afternoon following lunch, Easter Sunday 2017. “Want to go to Africa tomorrow?”
“I said do you want to go to Africa tomorrow.”
“What are you talking about?” I questioned as I walked into the living room.
And so began the trip. I knew Steve and Dearrah were flying on Monday to Nairobi, Kenya where Steve would preach during a church conference, then on to Rome for a few days of sight-seeing. I knew that, and that a few people from his church would be going with them. But we had not figured into those plans in any way.
“Why don’t you and Mom go with us,” Steve had said after Jerry casually asked of the airline price for the trip. “We bought rooms at a group rate, and it was cheaper for us to add a room we didn’t need, so your rooms would be paid for.”
Jerry and I stared at each other. Then we grinned, began talking of appointments, hotel reservations and such we had for the coming days, and that we could cancel them all, how that our passports were up to date, how much fun it would be, and that because of my cancer treatments last year when our 60th wedding anniversary rolled around we hadn’t really celebrated it, and this trip could take care of that little lapse, and that the fares were exceedingly reasonable . . .
Steve made phone calls to his secretary, Evette, to assure that seats were available on all the flights we would need. They were. We said yes. We were laughing, Dearrah and I hugged, and Steve reminded us we would have to cancel our plans to attend a drama that evening, get home as quickly as we could for Evette needed our passport numbers, visas must be arranged, travel insurance bought, packing for us, phone calls, and such. Our drive home before we could even begin the process was two hours and a half. The first flight was out of LAX at 11:00 on Monday morning, we needed to be there at 9:00, and the airport is a 2 hour drive from our house, so we would leave at 6:30 am, take Winston to Rebecca’s and transfer our luggage to Nate’s car.
I called Rebecca to ask her to keep Winston and to get Nathaniel to drive us to the airport. “We’re going to Africa tomorrow.” Stone silence. “We’re going to Africa.” When she could finally talk, it was to say how excited she was for us, and that of course she and Nate would help us with the airport trek, and with looking after Winston.
Panic set in a few minutes after we walked into the house. I could not find our passports. I keep mine in a desk drawer in a folder named Important Documents; Jerry keeps his in one of his dresser drawers. Neither passport was in its place. Expired ones were, and a copy of our current, valid one, but I could find neither of our passports. I was trembling. Called Steve. Asked how much time we had. Could the airline tickets be cancelled? “Keep looking, Mom. I’ll make phone calls.”
I tore the house apart, checked in pockets of all our luggage, pawed again through the places they should be, checked folders in the desk, and finally out of two drawers of a four-drawer file I took every file folder and plopped them on the floor, thinking maybe mine had slipped out of its file. Nothing. I went upstairs to the room where we keep our pictures and travel mementos. Same word: Nothing. I was sick.
Back to the study. I opened again the bottom file drawer, took everything out of there, and discovered a large file with ISRAEL/ISTANBUL scrawled over its face. I looked through it, and there among maps, cards and notes was my passport. I grabbed it up, ran in the bedroom. “I found mine.” Poor guy, Jerry had pulled a chair up to the dresser, still searching, and was just pulling out the entire big drawer when I walked in. “Maybe it’s behind there.” IT WAS! I reached my hand far to the back, and there wedged against the rear wall was Jerry’s passport. Somehow it had slipped over the edge of the drawer and had jammed there.