In late March, I received my first ever Evite. It was announcing the 2023 Mihos family reunion to be held June 11 at the home of my cousin in Metamora, Mich., just outside of Flint. That surprise …
In late March, I received my first ever Evite. It was announcing the 2023 Mihos family reunion to be held June 11 at the home of my cousin in Metamora, Mich., just outside of Flint. That surprise email set something in motion that would present some unexpected challenges and valuable lessons.
Throughout my adult life, most of my traveling has been done solo. My spouse is just not a wanderlust. Lucky for me, he is most content staying home and “holding down the fort”. But this trip felt special. It would gather my mother’s side of our family including my two brothers who I hadn’t seen since her death in June, 2018. We’d always been a pretty close-knit crew. My mother and her four siblings had very close relationships and hung together like the proverbial “peas in a pod”. I guess you could say it was modeled that family was everything! And a reunion was an event not to be missed!
It surprised me when my husband, John, agreed to go with me! I got right on the “RSVP for two” and began researching plane fare, hotel accommodations, and a rental car — all things for which I was totally out of practice. As I dove more deeply into trip logistics, I discovered how much had changed since I’d last boarded an airplane back in 2016. My anxiety level began to rise with every step of the process. In addition, I was having trouble reconciling the massive carbon emissions that air travel creates, along with the high cost of the flight and related expenses, for such a short three-day vacation.
After many sleepless nights of second-guessing the path I was on, there occurred a seismic shift in the plan. After having reviewed the travel itinerary, John suddenly decided that he couldn’t go, after all. I would have to change the arrangements. “Oh no!” I thought. “Not starting all over again.” Feeling (irrationally) overwhelmed, I just wanted to blow the whole thing off. My mind began swirling with possible excuses to wiggle out of it but that didn’t seem right. So, I kept pushing forward to revamp the plan, this time just for one.
I could hear the harried call-center agents as they prodded me to try rebooking again on-line. Co-mingled with this pressure, I still fretted over all that carbon dumping into our fragile atmosphere — all for my measly three day get-away. The whole trip seemed like a bad idea.
My inner pessimist raised a panoply of fears (trouble at airport security, mechanical failure at take-off, terrorists or even worse, snakes on the plane!) My silly superstitious streak got me ruminating that these “complications” were actually meant to save me from some imagined tragedy. “Oh,” I lamented, “I used to be so brave. What’s happened to me?”
It had been seven years since I’d last flown. Then three years of isolation through a pandemic. Of course, the world had changed! I felt like I’d been left behind in a cloud of dust. I drew a simple conclusion. Traveling had become just too daunting for me. Shortly before departure, I decided to stay home.
John responded with an emphatic, “No way, Kath. You can do this!” Then, as if by divine intervention, I received a phone call from my older brother in St. Louis, Mo. providing an additional nudge. He exulted our upcoming visit after five years apart. Those two voices rang in my ears. I couldn’t chicken out.
On schedule, I boarded Flight 1907 to Detroit Metro Airport. As planned, my younger brother was waiting for me with his warm welcoming smile and comforting pat on my shoulder. The stress that had been building up for weeks instantly melted away. When he’d tucked my carry-on into the back seat of his Ford Fiesta, I knew I had landed safely.
Later that afternoon, my brother from Missouri arrived. We sat in Jason’s backyard, doing what human beings who have known and trusted each other their whole lives will do. We recapped our trips, caught up on life’s happenings, some routine while others not, shared health concerns, etc. etc. etc. — gradually exploring deeper and more nuanced details of the changes and challenges of retirement. We closed the gap that developed from separation and the passing of time. It felt so good!!
Reunion day was soon upon us. We drove to our cousin’s farm and were met by 50 other members of the Mihos clan who’d come from near and far. Three generations! Mine now counted as “the elders”. We over-indulged in the best BBQ potluck we could remember, all seated under one very large tent. No rain could dampen our spirits. The food was fantastic and the love of being together overflowed.
After dinner, folks leafed through stacks of photo albums, piecing together stories of our grandparents migrating from Greece and Canada culminating into our present-day family. Indeed, we were their legacy!
At 5 p.m. everyone was handed a shot glass. We filled them from bottles of Ouzo, a liqueur made from licorice-flavored anise seeds. A cousin hollered above our murmurings, “To Grampa and Grama, George and Mary Mihos!” And with that, we held our glasses up, whistled, and shouted in unison, Opa!!
We downed our shots, in celebration of our heritage which, in that moment, we were all very proud! Hugs were shared. Some tears were shed and our long good-byes exchanged at the end of a beautiful day together. We vowed to meet again, sooner next time. Early the following morning, I left my birthplace of Detroit, Mich. and returned to a hearty welcome home in northern Minnesota.
It’s been weeks since arriving back in the northland but I’m still feeling the joy of belonging after being with “my people”, even if only for three short days. The image of us raising our glasses in a jubilant toast to Life still reverberates, reminding me of what really matters! And by the way, I know now that I’m not too old to travel!