Thursday, March 3, 2011

Visits to Europe and recognizing the little things

Before I got married, I had taken a mother and daughter trip to Europe, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
We arrived in Franfurt as always, and were greeted by my family over there.  Even though there was no way to know that this was the last time I would see my several of family members, or how significant and special this trip would be, we lived each day to the fullest.  We took in every moment and burnt each moment into a memory.
We traveled to several different towns in Gemany, from Wiesbaden, Meinz, the Rhine and even up to Vorst. I had the best time reconnecting with my Aunt and Uncle, retelling old stories, getting to know each other as adults instead of when I was a kid.  I have always looked up to them and have looked forward to every phone call, email, any opportunity we had to connect.  My whole life we had a special connection, even with being so far away. 

When we got to go up north and see my extended family in Vorst, we were greeted by all the second cousins and their children.  We made it there in time for the festival, the Schutzenfest.  I am not sure if I understood this whole concept of what was going on but it was so much fun to see and be a part of.  The parade ended in a tent where we all drank and told stories and reconnected with the second cousins.  I am hoping that this bond stays strong so we can visit each other in the future and never lose touch with them.  What an opportunity to keep the generations going strong and connected!

Moreover, we hoped a flight to see my other Uncle, who I was not as close with.  He had recently built a house in Spain, near Barcelona in the Spanish region of Catalonia.  Because his house was under construction we ended up staying in a holiday home.  This is such a great concept, you feel like you live there and are part of the culture as opposed to a hotel room.  Much more personal, like a HomeAway Holiday rental.  If you have never been, words can't express how beautiful this area is. It was so interesting to me, that this region spoke a different language then the rest of Spain so you can imagine, speaking English and German didn't help but what was funny neither did Spanish- so we resorted to charades!  When in doubt that worked best, and was the most fun with the locals!  Unless of course the folks we were talking to didn't have a sense of humor- being American and not speaking multiple languages is as my uncle called it- ignorant, and uncultured.  Not really the case, and we had no issue with language.  The people were very nice!

Sagrada Familia Church, Barcelona, Spain 

Not sure if you have ever been to Spain but if you do, Barcelona is amazing, everywhere we went was amazing, just make sure you do not have a fear of heights and a fear of very narrow roads!  There is a ton to do in Barcelona we saw mountains, the ocean, churches, lighthouses, we even went to an old ruins.  Here is a great place to check out and research some cool places see the Barcelona travel guide.  I will have to dig out some pictures I don't have them on line at this time.  We did go here though when it was being built, you have to look at the details - AMAZING.  We were able to walk everywhere and take the Metro. There were amazing little restaurants and shops, museums and parks and the history of this city going back 2,000 years was fascinating.  We went to the farmers market in the city and walked around in amazement.  Although we didn't get to see any festivals while we were there, we did get to see so much more.
The Markets are amazing- why can't we have something like this here?
Amazing food Market

All the while we were there we had no idea my uncle was battling something.  This trip to Spain a blessing,  because it brought my uncle and I back together after years of being distant.  We were enjoying our time with him and seeing all of his accomplishments, he built his house on the Mediterranean primarily by himself, brick by brick.  Simply amazing man - I didn't know that about him.  My mom was able to reconnect with him as well which was also a blessing in disguise.  After saying good bye to my uncle we flew back to Germany to spend more time with my other uncle - we enjoyed more great German food, Italian food, and of course the wine and beer!  To me there is really no comparison to these places and I have nothing but great memories.  So great in fact that I long to be there, with them.

When we got back to the US I had the most wonderful surprise.  My now husband proposed to me ... at the airport!  We were elated!  We called back to Germany right away and invited my uncle to come to the wedding (only one could come- my Godfather).  My aunt, being terrified of planes opted out of the trip to America.  Although saddened, we understood and decided we would try to fly back to Germany someday.

Well after changing jobs, I found out I will not have enough vacation time to make the trip.  Saddened by this we called my aunt to break the news and also share the news that I was now expecting.  Our great news was nothing in comparison to their news.  My aunt has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  We were devastated.  Unfortunately she had no luck with Chemo or radiation, her time here was limited.  There was nothing I could do but by the grace of god my mom was able to fly back to Germany to help out.  This was so traumatic for all of us- still is.  When my aunt passed my mom soon returned.  We had our baby girl and again decided to try to plan another trip to see both of my Uncles.  Knowing this would take awhile to accumulate time again at work after maternity, we started to plan.  Then the call came, my uncle in Spain was dying.  And again we were devastated by the news.  Luckily he was able to go for treatments with some success.  Dodged a bullet! 

Soon after, we found ourselves expecting.  Over joyed with the news I called my other Uncle in Germany to try to figure out how we will get there- my biological clock is ticking and I can't put off having a family much longer and saving up enough time is very difficult.  Ultimately I had to break the news to my uncle that I did not think a trip was soon in my future and I would have to wait another couple years.  I then told him how much I loved him and that I missed him terribly and how sorry I was to knowingly upset him by derailing my plans all the time.

About a week went by since this call and out the blue my mom called me, my uncle in Germany had suddenly passed away almost one year to the day of my aunt.  She was right around mothers day, he was right around fathers day.  This was such a blow to the family, so unexpected, so devastating.  By this time I had a miscarriage- unrelated to the sad news of my uncle.

We kept trying to conceive and off my mom went back to Germany.  Meanwhile, my uncle from Spain had come to help my mom with all the estate stuff.  As for my husband and I well, we were expecting!  Now I am not sure the timeline at this point so bare with me.  My mom returned from Germany, and told us that my uncle was not doing well, his treatments were no longer working.  He is a fighter though- family trait!  As my life goes, we go to the Dr to find out what we are having- only to find out the baby has passed away.  We lost our son Justin.  Around the same time frame, we get another call, my uncle has passed away.  Unbelievable!

So our spur of the moment mother daughter trip, was significant.  It was the last time we got to see our family right before they all got sick.  We got to reconnect and form a bond that can never be broken.  My memories of Spain and Germany burnt in my memory forever, and tied to some of the best moments in my life.  The worst part is my mom lost her brothers, she is the last one of the siblings.  She is also the most important to me, she is my rock.  They say everything happens for a reason.  We took that trip for a reason.  We toured some of the most beautiful places in Europe we did it with people we love.  We have new memories, great memories that will live on in our hearts.  We were reminded of the importance of family.  We will be scarred forever with their loses, but know that they will never be forgotten and we will always shed a tear for them partly in sadness and partly in joy that we got the time we got together!

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