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April 1, 2013     Leaving Home, Coming Home

"Here we go!" said Roger, taking my hand, as the little Pinnacle airplane positioned itself on the runway, ready for take-off. Here in Dayton, Ohio, the countdown begins. 20 hours until we will arrive in Kiev, Ukraine.

Ohio had been my home. I was born in a magical town of Xenia (at that time 13,861 people). I remember when I was 8 years old, riding my bright blue bicycle down the maple lined Galloway Street, my blond hair blowing in the breeze. As I became a teenager, my mother told me, "These are the best days of your life." And I felt disappointed. If these were the best days, would all future days be full of trouble? In the 1950's Xenia was a place where no one locked their houses or their cars. I could be excused from school to walk a mile to my Wednesday piano lessons with Miss Street. I learned to sight-read music by playing hymns for Sunday School on a pump organ at the age of ten. I solicited for the Red Cross every spring gathering dimes from passerby's on the main corner downtown. I was the only one in my group brave enough to go into the local bar and ask for money from the men at the counter. They gave quarters! I always felt safe in Xenia. I still do, 50 years later, even though the town has suffered many changes.

On our last day in Ohio, Roger and I went to lunch with my cousins in Dayton at a Bob Evans Restaurant. I only have cousins on my father's side of the family: 5 girls, and all but one are older than I. When we get together, we reminisce about our times as children on Grandma and Grandpa's farm, especially Sunday afternoons, swinging under the apple tree or playing bind man's bluff in the yard, while the adults visit inside the farm house.

Now as I fly above the farmland of Ohio I feel a sense of belonging. Having relatives, especially relatives who are fellow Christians, touches my spirit deeply, and I know it is more than being friends. We share some of the same genes, and that is a bonding that is hard to explain. It just feels good!

When we travel from America to Ukraine, time stands still. It's 10 am in Ohio, but it's 4 pm in Amsterdam and 5 pm in Kiev. So we are "no time." And I enter a state of rest-I've done all that I can in America, it's finished-I have no idea what to do in Ukraine yet-For 20 hours I am between worlds with no lists to follow.

Twenty hours later, we are circling the Kiev airport. The clouds are so thick that we will not see the ground until the wheels of the jet plane touch down. I've been eating Halls Lozenges all the way, due to a sore throat and tickly cough, and I don't want to scare fellow passengers.

The plane taxis to Terminal D, Kiev's newest terminal. We walk right into the customs area, and are processed in a short time. Soon we are wheeling our two large suitcases and four carry-on pieces through the green door exit and meet Dima Pilipchuk who has come to pick us up. Dima has a large square van, the doors of which must be unlocked by key to open. We crawl into the rear of the van, where two old couches have been placed, one big enough to lie down on. Roger gratefully lies down, and I sit on the other couch facing the rear of the van. Dima locks us in, and we whizz to the city, and make our way across the metropolis, but I rarely look out the window. I am so tired.

Then three miles from our village Gorenichi, we are stopped by the police. He says to Dima, "You have no seatbelts in your van, only those chairs." Dima replies, "You see, officer, this man is lying down because he is recovering from an operation." The policeman lets him go without a fine. (Well, Roger did have a neck operation in 2009, but that is a quite a stretch.)

The streets are snowy in Gorenichi, but passable. We arrive on our upper road, but we cannot drive the last 50 feet down the slippery hill to our house. So we unload the suitcases, and I take two carry-ons and gingerly make my way in some tire tracks toward the gate.

The dogs are there, barking and squeaking with delight as they smell our approach and know that their owners have at last returned home. The 100-pound Bernese mountain dogs are actually hopping on their back feet in joy, and they are taller we are. Sergey, the orphan who has taken care of them in our absence, has bathed and brushed them, and they look amazingly beautiful.

As we enter the house, it looks so clean, and there is a big pot of vegetable soup warming on the stove. The only problem is that the house is cold. No heat? When did this happen? It's 59 degrees in here.

There seems to be no solution to get our heating system going. I don't understand how this happened. But the hot water heater has exploded and water is all over the floor in the basement. Well, we can use the reverse cycle air conditioner in the bedroom, but where is the remote that turns it on? We cannot find it.

There is no dry wood left in the garage, and the wood outside is snow soaked. So we cannot build a fire in the fireplace.

The car is still in the garage, and Roger goes to start it. Dead as a door nail. That is not surprising since it has been sitting for ten weeks. But now another problem. The lower road has more than three feet of snow, and no one can come on that road to jump-start our car. Even the tractor man said it was too much snow for him to move. "It will thaw in a week," he says.

Well, meanwhile, there's hot vegetable soup and a warm bed with plenty of blankets. And if worse comes to worse, it will be a "three dog night" with three huge dogs to keep us warm.

The other problems? We'll think about that tomorrow. For as Scarlett O'Hara would say, "Tomorrow is another day!"