Our date with destiny has finally arrived - February 21, 2015. When we purchased our first flight back in August and committed to this date, it seemed so distant. At this moment, we're on a direct flight to Lima, Peru cruising above Cuba.
Today, the departure day, was the culmination of a joyful and heart-piercing process. The goodbyes have been taking place the past two weeks, meeting with friends over drinks or dinner. The amount of excitement, encouragement, and thoughtfulness expressed during our "bon voyage" get togethers exemplifies just how special our friends are and how much we'll miss them. Last night our four parents, Lindsay's brother Christopher, Aunt Dana, Uncle Steve, and Aunt Peggy gathered together for a final dinner before our departure. Enjoying a nice steak dinner, Uncle Steve's fine wine collection, snuggles with Nash in front of the fireplace, and the company of family was a great way to spend our last evening in the USA.
I thought sleep would be hard to come by, given our level of anticipation and the gravity of the next day. However, we both got a decent night's sleep. In fact, I think I slept more soundly last night than I did the night before I quit my job.
This morning, the emotion that had been growing the past few months came to a head. Lindsay had a difficult time saying goodbye to Nashville, our big, needy ball of fur. He just looks so forlorn every time you leave, even if it's just to the grocery store! But the power of that look this morning was hard to bear. Our parents all escorted us, caravan-style, to the Tampa airport to pick up our rental car. After checking in at the counter, we exchanged our heartfelt goodbyes in the Alamo lobby. One day we'll know what sending off a child feels like. Whether it is to college or a trip around the world, I imagine they feel a combination of deep love, pride, fear, and courage. Teary eyes abounded and we held it together, but the emotion was palpable. Even the nice lady who took this family photo started getting teary!
We hit the road to Fort Lauderdale, and after about 30 minutes of silence, the distance allowed us to shed the emotions of the goodbye. Four and a half hours (and a final Chick-Fil-A lunch) later, we arrived at the airport and bid adieu to the good ol' USA.
PS - It's unfortunate that we had to fly out of Fort Lauderdale, but the direct flight and the cost of a rental car was still cheaper than flying any two-legger out of Tampa International. Our outstanding airport is always adding international flights and trying to establish commercial ties with Latin America, and it can't happen fast enough. Hopefully there will be more direct international offerings on our next trip abroad.