When my husband “Deke” and I went to Greece, we enjoyed places and experiences that will last a lifetime. In Mykonos, we stayed in a luxury hotel with not only great service, but also great people. The staff, including sensitive Virginia, insightful, young and accommodating George, and a very serious staff worker I nicknamed, “The Philosopher,” We waved good-bye as we left, and I felt like I was saying good-bye to friends. My heart actually hurt when we boarded the ship and sailed for Santorini. Santorini being Santorini helped to heal the wounds incurred by our departure from Mykonos. Truthfully, Santorini could help to heal the heart of anyone with its white cliff-side homes and breathtaking drops into the Aegean. When it was time to leave Santorini, Deke and I were hopeful. Athens awaited, and we planned on spending our anniversary in Paris. I was filled only with happiness, anticipation, and hope. The Gods, however, had some surprises in store.
The sky was gray when we arrived in the city of Athena. We checked into our hotel, and proceeded to explore the city. We enjoyed seeing history everywhere we went, and walking on Athens’ unique, marble streets. I felt somehow profound in the shadow of The Acropolis; I took some glorious shots of the famous edifice at sunset, and we snuggled at night in the happy contentment that couples feel when they are having an adventure together.
It remained mostly overcast, and soon the rains began. Deke had some business to tend to, so he wore a suit and his dress shoes, as Deke tends to do. Next to a bank, Deke stepped on wet marble, and down he went in his dress shoes. The good people of Athens rushed over to Deke, but he refused their imploring to go straight to the hospital. Instead, Deke stood up, limped to cab, and came back to the hotel. When Deke walked into the room, he was ashen and I knew that this was worse than your average fall. The pain in Deke’s knee and the rains only increased as he lay in the hotel bed. Finally, the concierge called to have a doctor come to examine Deke’s knee. Through the rain, the orthopedist came. Deke was not in the best of states, and couldn’t quite understand the doctor’s Greek accent, so I translated. For some reason, I am great at interpreting accents for others. “I am afraid your patella is broken. I will send over an x-ray technician to confirm this.” And still the rains came. The x-ray technician arrived, and right there in the room, he took an x-ray. Try getting that kind of medical service in the United States. The x-ray confirmed what the doctor had suspected all along—Deke’s knee was broken. The doctor ordered a splint to be delivered to our room, and as the torrential rains only increased, a dedicated employee delivered Deke’s splint. That night, Athens got so much rain that cars floated down the narrow streets. The storms made the international news.
Are the Gods pissed off that we’re here? I thought as I gazed at The Acropolis from our window. The doctor recommended we go back to the United States for Deke’s treatment. It took days to get a first-class flight out (so Deke could keep his knee outstretched), so he languished in his bed tending to insurance and airline business. In the meantime, I climbed up to The Acropolis without my Deke, and though it was glorious with the clouds over Athens, I couldn’t help but be a little cranky without my man.
When we departed from Athens, our driver told us that on the day Deke broke his patella, his son broke his leg. I realized that I had been a bit self-absorbed worrying about my problems; the whole of Athens had seen better times.
When we arrived at the airport, a happy and enthusiastic young man helped Deke get into a wheelchair, and then wheeled him to our plane bound for Paris.
“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry honey that we won’t be able to spend our anniversary in Paris” (it was our anniversary that very day). I assured Deke that it was okay—that we had a glorious time in Mykonos and Santorini.
When we found our seats in first class, we were a bit puzzled. The seats were no bigger than those in coach. To make it seem roomier, the airline simply put a seat between people; the only problem was that the airline put down the armrests permanently and Deke couldn’t put his leg up; nor could he stretch it out properly per Doctor’s orders. Deke grew cranky.
A French, feminine flight attendant did her best to cheer Deke up. When he complained about the pain, she gave him extra attention. “But you did not touch your breakfast; you must eat; you must eat for your strength!” Deke did not oblige. She tried again, “Would you like some chocolate sir?” Voulez-vous un peu de chocolat ?” “Who di ha di what?” asked my husband. I translated. “No,” he said sadly, missing his appetite.
The pain in Deke’s knee was only increasing as we flew past the Matterhorn and closer to Paris. Overcast and grim-looking, Paris did not look inviting. Still, I looked with anticipation as the ground approached during landing. Suddenly, the plane ascended rapidly; the pilot had abandoned the landing. He simply didn’t feel comfortable in the dense fog. Deke groaned. The pilot circled and attempted a landing one more time. This time it was successful, and the passengers broke into applause. Though the flight attendant tried to be charming even as Deke was wheeled off, he was not so charming in return.
When we arrived at the airport, a frenzied employee greeted us. It was possible we would miss our flight to Salt Lake because of the first abandoned landing. The employee put Deke in the wheelchair, and pushed. Bang. She pushed Deke into the wall of the elevator. Deke cringed. We nearly ran through the airport, Deke leading the way and feeling every bump. We made it, barely. Finally, Deke could lie down and stretch out his leg! We settled in. I looked up. There, on all of the international flights in the world, was the former wife of a man with whom I had once had a thing. I knew she did not particularly appreciate me being a figure from her former husband’s past, so I lay low—literally. I couldn’t hide forever, and besides she was a flight attendant and on her feet. Luckily, she was not our flight attendant, though she did glance our way now and then. I don’t know if she ever recognized me; she was accommodating and nice to Deke—maybe she felt sorry for him sitting next to me. I will probably never know.
The flight was long and because of the pain Deke felt when he stood up, he avoided drinking anything to dodge having to use the bathroom.
When we arrived in Salt Lake, Deke found that his paperwork from the Greek orthopedist was missing. We looked everywhere. Our flight attendant looked everywhere. It was simply missing.
We needed it to get reimbursed from our travel insurance company. I approached the “luggage patrol.” I asked if our paperwork had been turned in. “No,” she said disinterested. We waited around for a while, Deke’s knee throbbing, until we finally gave up and went home. The paperwork had of course been turned in, and the next day I drove back out to the airport to pick it up.
Well, we’ll always have Mykonos and Santorini.
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Thanks to travel writer and photographer Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow her on Twitter @Sonag2000