"Here we go loopty-loo, here we go loopty lie, here we go loopty-loo all on a 'Thursday' night!"
I actually cannot recall many of the details of that morning. I know that Donnie made lots of little jokes like "now, if we can just get that DTC date, maybe we can travel in 9 months or so." That elicited a half giggle and then a look of "this is serious, shape up!" from me. There was still so much to be done before we left our home that day. Our flight was set to leave at 8:05 a.m. from Tulsa on June 2 but we thought it would be best to go over the night before and spend the night, which also meant leaving our precious 3 year old daughter, Emma, for yet another night, which I struggled with.
At about 2:00 p.m., we made that trip down the street to drop off Emma for two weeks. We had already taken many of her favorite things over the night before. Soon after arriving, she and her little friend Jessica had started playing a computer game. Again, I went over every fine detail with our family friend. I had provided every list that could possibly be created and had hashed out every possible scenario so that Kathy would know whom to call in any event. I had back-up plans for back-up plans, family name and numbers, power of attorney authorizing medical care for Emma, insurance cards, calling card numbers...etc..
Our home, June 2000
I cannot believe we actually hit the point where we walked out with everything and locked the door behind us...we honked a farewell to our neighbors, Polly, Virg and Dottie who were taking care of things in our absence (did I mention we have great neighbors?).
On the way out of town, we headed for the bank to drop off our final items for the safe deposit box -including more lists I had created in case we never came home. Our final stop before picking up Donnie's dad was to mail a package at the post office for my sister-in-law's baby shower to be held while we were gone. Here is the first potential snafu of a trip that had barely started. For some brainy reason, I had my money belt in my lap rather than "on" me. It included my passport as well as my father-in-law's passport. When I jumped up to run inside the post office, the money belt fell onto the ground outside the van and laid there for the 5 minutes I was inside. (Yes, I succesfully paperchased us through the red tape of two governments and had managed to get us this far; however, I was too scattered brained to properly care for our passports!!) Approaching the van, I saw the money belt on the ground and assumed my joke-playing husband had laid it there to tease me. When I got back in, I held the money belt and said "very funny!" Turns out, he was innocent of any of his usual antics and we had a good laugh pondering the "what ifs" and what a lost passport would have done to our plans. (As luck would have it, he was talking to his dad on the car phone and LOVED relating the story at my expense!)
We arrived in town to pick up my father-in-law and moved all of our luggage into his vehicle. After a couple of pit-stops, we were on our way west, to T-town. Ahh...I was sitting back, had my headphones on so that I would not have to listen to any "pilot" talk (I was gonna be with these two for 15 days...I would hear enough later.) Donnie looked alarmed, I pulled the headphones away to hear him saying..."Uh, dad, is your battery light always on like this?" Stop, turn around, drive back, unload everything back into the van...start over, we were on our way west...again. More pondering the "what ifs" about the battery light and before we knew it, Tulsa was just ahead.
We found our way (after a call for more directions) to the home of wonderful family friends, David and Judy H. - Pastor Judy as she is the pastor of a local Presbyterian church - whom were starting us off on our journey with loving care. They had dinner with usat a fantastic Italian restaurant and treated us to a night in their warm home sparing us yet another night in a hotel (we would soon have our fill).
When it was time for us to go, Emma was so absorbed in her game, that she would barely look at me to say good-bye. We had been preparing her for months about our trip to China. Constantly, we talked about her sister Elizabeth and the airplane and Kathy's house, on and on. This was it...will she be okay without us for two weeks? Does she really understand what is happening? In a flash, Donnie had bent over to kiss her head and then zoomed out of the room. The moment was too much for him, he left sobbing. I had been strong this day until now (although had shed plenty of tears prior) but his emotion set me into a downward spiral and I, too, left in tears. We met up in the van, gave each other supportive glances and regained our composure within a few minutes, it was very close to "go" time and we had to be strong!
Well, back home for the last minute details...the packing was done, the house was in order, but there were those little things we forgot about or waited until the last minute to do. We went over the three packing lists I used, in a very serious moment we went over the required documents list and checked for each and every one. My best friend, Steff, stopped by with Mason and Hailey to say good-bye...the tears came again as I hugged her good-bye. She has been on this ride with me every day for 18 mos. From the first day in January 1999 when I said "guess what?" until the last moment as we were leaving, she was there, and for that I will be forever grateful.