Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"France---A fond au revoir"

Father and daughter at the mighty Allegheny River last summer. Posted by Picasa

Please subdue the anguish of your soul. Nobody is destined only to happiness or to pain. The wheel of life takes me up and down by turn.


Eliminate something superfluous from your life.
Break a habit.
Do something that makes you feel insecure.
Carry out an action with complete attention and intensity, as if it were your last.

---Piero Ferrucci

To the mind that is still the whole universe surrenders.

---Lao Tzu

The century is soft and the year yet new in my daughter. Her 14th year half over, Air France flight 8701 begins descent at this dawning hour over Paris. For the next 80 days part of me will be here in the Ohio River Valley and part will be reaching out 6 hours ahead to Ilona living and studying in France. A few hours ago, after weeks of preparation, her mother and I entrusted her to the care of the family who invited her to go with them. There have been agonizing moments of uncertainty, but finally we committed and several hours ago wished her bon voyage. Just before we left Athens Ilona sent out this email message~~~

"Before I depart, I wanted to share with all of you my love and graciousness for your love, support, prayers and comfort as I leave for France. It has been so wonderful for me to know that I have so many people to love me. Thank you all!

"Thank you all for your support, it's helped me to take a deep breath in order to embark on this life changing and beautiful experience.

(Big Kiss)"

The English teacher does not reach for his red pencil, impressed as he is with the Big Heart of his young lady. O she will be so changed! Already it has happened...and out of my sight and protection. She took off in an airplane for the first time. And in another hour she will go through customs into a country where her English will be merely a second language. I have Montreal with which to compare it, but her mother and I mostly must imagine everything that will be happening.

We've spent so much time trying to prepare her, but how have we prepared ourselves? We're going to have 2 weeks of adjustment and homesickness too! Fortunately we'll be getting phone calls and Instant Messages, complete with webcam, and all the intimacy technology can provide. Hopefully the pain of parting will be eased.

Things have changed at the airport. It used to be you said good-bye to your loved one as he walked through the door to the plane. Then you ran up a flight of stairs to the flight deck to wave as she climbed aboard or put her hand on the window, if she could get a seat on that side. You waited for the plane to close up and taxi out to the runway. Then you watched thrilled as off it flew.

Not any more. Now you get to Security and it's over. There was the first shock as Ilona realized this is as far as we could go. Tears and kisses. We would wait in the terminal another hour and a half until we were pretty sure that one of the airplanes taking off had to be hers...and then we'd go home. All we could do was try vaguely to squint half a mile across the airfield to where we thought the gate and plane had to be. Back and forth I went to the Departure Schedule to find out when they might be boarding, when the doors were closed, and finally when the flight disappeared from the list. The whole process required more stamina than we were prepared to endure.

The tickets had been checked as the family entered Security and moved towards the screening area. I stood on tiptoe and stretched to watch them as far as I could. At the last moment, Ilona turned to wave one more time. Our eyes met. Tears...but also bravery!

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