From the moment I decided to move to Ankara, troubling questions ran through my mind. What if something happens to my mother? How fast can I get a ticket home? Will my Turkish husband be able to travel with me? If not, will he be able to get a visa to join me quickly thereafter?
It never really occurred to me to worry about my siblings in such a manner. Afterall, they were mostly in good health and relatively young. What was there to worry about? In most families, playing the odds works well. But my family is so large that it seems Murphy’s Law always applies. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong – at least to somebody.
I was only here a couple of months when one of my sisters was struck with cancer. It really was hell being here – so far away from her. Although I knew she didn’t need me, I wanted to be there to hold her hand, give her a ride, cook her a meal. And this had all happened on what seemed like the heels of my brother finishing his chemo. There was a brief bright point between the two – my wedding. But other than that, family life had been rather gloomy.
All was back to normal a few months ago. My family was all going about their own business. Tending to their kids, going to their jobs, living their lives. Life seemed good.
About 6 weeks ago, I was out at one of the local outlet malls. I was shopping for gifts for some of my siblings, preparing for a trip home. While perusing the Mavi jeans, I decided to call my younger brother to confirm his size. It was then that I got the word that another sister had collapsed at work. The next three weeks were a whirlwind.
I flew home the next morning, two days before my scheduled departure. It was the hardest flight of my life. I had no idea whether I would get off that plane to head to the hospital or to go to a funeral. I literally packed a few black outfits and that was it. I left the gifts, the candies, the chocolates behind. I cried all the way to Munich. And then I went numb.
I arrived in Philadelphia 19 hours after leaving my home that morning. My oldest sister came to pick me up at the airport. She looked me straight in the eyes and said two words, “She’s alive.” We headed straight to the hospital.
In the following weeks, I escorted my elderly mother back and forth to the hospital, more than an hour from our home. I assisted with insurance documents and other paperwork. I did the grocery shopping and cooked many meals. I manned the phones, notebook and pen in hand. I spent a lot of time with my teenage niece and nephew, the kids of my sister. I was happy to be there, even though it was no longer a vacation. But I missed being home in Ankara at the same time.
My sister seems to be out of the woods now. She is progressing tremendously. She had suffered a massive stroke, an aneurysm had burst. The doctors had given her a very small chance to live, with no quality of life. She is now walking, talking, eating, and working on the rest. I have never in my life heard so many doctors use the word “miracle.” And that, my friends, is just what my sister is, a miracle.
Looking back on all of this, I am grateful for so many things. First and foremost – technology! The fact that I can get a call so quickly, get online to change flights, and jump on a plane – all in about 12 hours or so – is just amazing. I’m also extremely thankful to all who prayed for us, offered up some good kharma, sent food, visited, called and emailed. All of you were a big part of helping me get through this! I will never forget it.
Being in Ankara now, I realize that it doesn’t matter where I am, things can happen anywhere and any time. Perhaps I would feel differently if I had stepped off that plane to a different situation. But the fact of the matter is that I didn’t. And I know that I can, most of the time, be where I need to be or want to be in a matter of hours. Things aren’t going to be any different regardless of where I am. Making the most of what we have, what time we have with each other, is so important. I probably have spent more time in the past year with my sister than many of my siblings had. (Not that it’s a contest or anything.) And my time with her was always just a quick hello while I was talking to our Mom on Skype. But it was something. It is something. And it’s probably more than I would have spent with her if I were still in Philly.
Yeah, it’s tough being away from home, especially under circumstances like this. But giving up and going home isn’t the answer. I do what I can from here. Ankara is where I have dropped my hat for the foreseeable future. And so it is what it is.
I’m hoping there is internet access at the next facility my sister moves to. Would love to be able to skype her there!
Thanks again to all for your support!