Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Journey Home: Frankfurt, Chicago, and Minnesota

We landed in Frankfurt. The plane burst into applause. If only the pilot knew our stories, he would know that in fact, this was cause for celebration.

Next to me in the plane sat a Ukranian lady who lived in the United States. Both, her Ukranian and her English were perfect, and she helped me so much with Nina too. As we made our way out of the plane, my two angels waited for me to help. We found a wheelchair and got Nina situated as we made our way to the Lufthansa booth to arrange our next flights.

As we got there, my angels made sure to tell the Lufthansa workers that I had a child with a disability and that I needed help. A woman quickly came and got me to a waiting area. She took my previous flight itinerary and our passports and promised to get back to us with our new flights. We did not have to wait in line. It was a huge blessing, however, it left me unable to talk through options with an agent.

A few minutes later a nice lady came and asked me to follow her to a small room. As we entered she explained to me that there were no more flights to America that night, and we would have to spend the night in Frankfurt, which meant Nina needed a visa for the night. I then asked what time our flight would leave. 2:10 pm she said.

I looked at her, tears threatening to come out. I tried to push them back but they burst out, fast. They exploded. In a matter of seconds I was sobbing loudly and there was the nice Lufthansa lady along with the Visa employees dumbfounded at the crazy woman's reaction. All along I was trying to say "I am sorry" for such an outburst.

When I settled down, the nice Lufthansa lady asked, "I am sorry, but why is this so upsetting to you?" Oh I don't blame her! I would wonder that too if a stranger had such a meltdown in front of me. So I explained to her that we had been stuck in an airport for 2 days, that I had been gone from my family for 45 days, and that I had hoped to get on their 8:30 am plane, or at least keep my original flight at 10:30 am.

She was a compassionate woman, and she empathized with me. Somehow she understood that this was hard. So looked at other options and came back saying she was sorry, it was all they had and I was lucky I could get in a flight the next day. They had even had to switch airlines for us to go back home. She had arranged a hotel stay for us with our dinner and breakfast taken care of. She had even brought an overnight bag for me. I asked about my luggage, she said I did not have to worry, she would take care of that. And they drove Nina and I to our hotel.

We ate.

We slept.

The next morning we woke up and got ready, had breakfast and headed to our ticket booth. The man behind the desk spoke Spanish and thought it would be fun to practice his Spanish with me. He then informed me we were only on stand by, we did not have set tickets. "I have been gone 46 days away from my family, please. Can I pay more for a ticket?" He smiled. "I am working the gates, so I get to make those decisions, don't worry, I will give you a ticket." So he got us settled and on our way home.

The flight was long. Nina did fantastic.

Chicago welcomed us with a wheelchair and with Nina becoming an American citizen. We went through shorter lines reserved for those with disabilities and were able to do all the immigration stuff in no time.

We even had time to get some french fries at Macdonald's!

We boarded the plane and were finally headed to Minnesota, to see our family!

The flight is short. By the time you are up in the sky, it feels like you are ready to land.

"Ladies and gentleman," the pilot said over the speaker phone, "We will be arriving in 19 minutes at the Minneapolis airport."

The words wrapped around me, in a friendly and welcoming hug. I again started to cry. Oh I was crying hard, shaking, trying not to wake up Nina who was sleeping in my arms.

We landed, emotion washed over me once more.

There was only one thing in my mind. Get out of the airplane as soon as possible, and run through the airport until I saw my family, hoping the wheelchair was waiting for us. It was. I told the man to run with me, and he did.

We were home! Our family waited for us somewhere in the same building. I had to run!


Tami said...

Ellen~I am in tears right now. I am so happy for you!! I am still playing the waiting game right now not knowing when I will see my family. Pictures, we need pictures!!!

Leah said...

Oh..how incredibly exhausting, and frustrating, and every other emotion I can think of! I was so thrilled for all of you when we finally saw your face running toward us!

My Girls R Angels said...

Oh, Ellen, I must be crazy right along with you because I am crying just reading your story! Oh, my, what a journey. We are so happy that you are finally home!! :)

Marnie K said...

Ellen I hope you write a book about this someday. It is all so touching!

Lyndi said...

OK, you have me crying just reading this. Your journey was so long and so emotional, but I am so glad you are home and have your pot of gold on the "other side of the rainbow"!

Jaime said...

i absolutely love your writing. :)

Tami said...

In tears over here too...so glad you are home!

Karien Prinlsoo said...

Tears here as well. What a exhausting roller coaster emotional ride!

Cindy said...

Tears here as well. Someday you should write a book.

Jodi said...

you are such a wonderful testament of how a mother should love her family!


MoonDog said...

All this time and I had no idea you were from MN! where was my head?? I live on Lake Mille Lacs in Isle. Maybe one day we can meet up somewhere so I can see beautiful Nina! and you can meet my Sophie and Ben.

Anonymous said...

More proof that God is indeed God! When did you actually arrive back in Minnesota? May God bless you & your family as you begin this new chapter in everyone's life...

Nan and Dan said...

so so amazing!!!!