Fifteen months went faster than a toupee in a hurricane. Reflecting back, we feel a bit like the radio stations in December summing up the top 100 songs or news stories and other top this-n-thats of the last year.
Our last days were spent doing a lot of logistical things: selling the car, the air conditioners, packing, bequeathing toys to friends, and returning the many things Papou has loaned us over these last months. The car, naturally, was not without paperwork/appointments/more paperwork chafe (“oh yes Mr. Fefes, I can see that they are paid but you have to go to the other office downtown to get the paper, I cannot give you that paper at this office…” “Oh no Mr. Fefes, you have to have your signature notarized by the police department so go there and then drive all the way back here…”). Through this process, Demetri was told that he was in the country illegally because our visas have expired and that he should be arrested right then, and at the airport when we leave, we can expect to be detained, heavily fined and/or banned from coming back to the EU for 2 years. Via email, the Greek consulate assured us that we are not in violation. We’ll see what happens at the airport. Greece is nothing without drama and friction.
Despite our potential pending arrest, we also spent our last days enjoying the beach, the sea, the square and Athens. We had a couple of evenings together with Thodoris and Mina, who generous as always, brought the boys some new Fall duds. Katerina made her famous spaghetti and an amazing leek pie for the whole family one night last week, and the kids got to play together one more time.
We also had a surprise visit from our school friends, Natallia, Arthur and Edward this week from Denver by way of Russia and Italy. We celebrated Arthur’s 8th birthday poolside at their lovely house with a day full of swimming, soccer, great food and wine. In the taxi going home, a sleepy Peter proclaimed, “I had a blast today.” Michael concurred as enthusiastically as one can with half closed eyes.
We spent one last evening around the Acropolis, walking from Thiseio to Plaka. Demetri and the boys scampered up the rocks on the hill itself while Papou and I walked the boring way, past the Ancient Agora and up the hill. It was a beautiful evening to be out; the humidity was low and the temperature was perfect. We had dinner at το Καφενειο, a traditional-with-a-twist taverna we really love. Oh, and it’s right next to Papou’s high school, another favorite Athens monuments.
Family, neighbors and friends are asking if we want to go home or if we want to stay. What do we like better, the US or Greece? We’re not leaving because we don’t like it here. Quite the opposite in fact: we’ve come to love much about Greece, Greeks and European life. Leaving our beloved Papou is terribly difficult. At the same time, Denver is home. And home, is well, home. This experience made us appreciate things we take for granted and learn a lot about what we think we ‘need.’
A friend of Demetri’s sent him this note that ended like this: “I want to reiterate to you that you did the smartest thing you could do for your family: teaching values, lifetime memories and perspectives outside the rat race. I hope you don’t feel you missed any business opportunities. I’ve had older friends die recently and their millions meant nothing but their family and friends everything. Unfortunately, they don’t get that until they hear their doctor say, “Sorry but you have a year to live.”
That first part — values, memories, perspectives outside home — sums it up. Thanks, Jack, for saying it better than we did.