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Make-A-Wish (Traveling to Italy)
I had never been inside an airport before. I had imagined it would be busy, packed full of panicked travelers running to their gates and speaking in languages that I wouldn’t understand or identify. Instead, it was quiet.
We sat in a room with walls and walls of windows that looked over the airfield. There were maybe thirty other people waiting in the room with us, either sleeping, reading, or texting on their cellphones. We had been waiting for our plane to return from Philadelphia for about an hour when we learned that all airplanes coming from Philly were delayed. The President had landed in Philadelphia causing all air traffic from that airport to cease momentarily.
That changed our flight plans. My parents were stressed, but Make-A-Wish took care of it all, just like they had everything else. Instead of a one stop trip to Venice, we were to fly to JFK, from there to Frankfurt, and then to Venice.
When they called our flight number I felt my stomach flutter. I had never been inside an airplane before, and I wa about to experience three take-offs in less than twenty-four hours. I followed my parents and my siblings to the gate.
My brother, Cameron, was the most experienced flyer under the age of eighteen in our home. He had flown to Chicago twice to shoot videos for a program called Speak to explain Cystic Fibrosis and to give hope to other children with the genetic lung disease. He didn’t look nervous at all.
We settled into the small commuter plane. There were maybe thirty other passengers. I sat next to my younger sister, Adrienne, in a window seat. My mom and brother sat in the row ahead, and my father sat in the aisle to my left. When we took off my mom reached back to hold my hand.
Taking off was strange. We were going really fast, but it didn’t feel like it, and I could feel the plane tilt upwards at an uncomfortable angle while we entered the air. The flight was kind of rocky, but nothing overwhelming. I had taken a dramamine on the ride to the airport.
The flight was about an hour, but it felt like only ten minutes. The flight attendant pushed a cart full of beverages down the tiny aisle. My sister ordered soda and I got water. I drank water thirty five thousand feet in the air. I took pictures above the clouds. I was scared, fascinated, sleepy and exhilarated all at the same time.
We had a short layover at JFK for our long flight to Germany. I didn’t like being in the air for that many hours straight, but I got my passport stamped, proof that my body had been propelled high into the air and over an ocean to Germany, so it was worth it. Cameron exchanged his USD to Euros and then we practiced our broken and limited Italian while waiting for our last flight.
I fell asleep shortly on the flight to Venice, but awoke when Adrienne poked me and pointed out the window. We were flying over the German Alps. I could see snow on the tips of the dark mountains. The valleys looked dangerous and cold, and I imagined goats running about freely on the rocks. The clouds were hazing just above the peaks of the Alps and I couldn’t help but gawk at the tremendous natural structure.
We arrived in Venice about an hour later. A Make-A-Wish representative met us at the airport and then walked us over to a small port full of little motorized boats with taxi numbers on the sides. We took the water taxi from the airport to the island of Venice. It smelled like fishy salt water and rocks which, surprisingly, wasn’t unpleasant.
A woman met us where the boat docked. The taxi driver helped us out of the boat and handed us our luggage. I finally felt grounded on the ancient rocks under my feet. The woman took us to our hotel, where we checked in and were led to our rooms by a man who spoke both Italian and English. I couldn’t believe how easily he switched between the two languages.
Finally, we stopped moving. We changed into fresh clothes and washed our faces. My siblings and I took a nap in our shared bedroom. My sister and I shared a queen sized bed while my brother took the single bed with the gold sateen duvet cover. The dark brown beams above our head were overlapping and a stark contrast to the crisp white paint of the walls. We had two windows; one overlooked a canal and the other a small sidewalk. A boat passed through the canal and I briefly heard a man speaking Italian to a young boy before their voices disappeared, echoing somewhere in the murky channels.
I looked over at Cameron who had just put a Biore strip on his nose, he said that the plane had ruined his skin. He turned on his air compressor to do a short treatment before we headed out into the foreign, twisting roads of Venice. My brother, who had never once complained about medications or treatments, doctor visits or fundraisers, had wished us here to Italy.
At seventeen years old, he was a year older than me, but my exact same height and weight, practically my twin in so many ways but one—Cystic Fibrosis. I would never understand what dealing with something like that would be like, but I knew that he didn’t just deal with it, he lived with it. He experienced everything with Cystic Fibrosis. He learned from it, lived with it, and loved with it. Cystic Fibrosis has grown him into the man he had become, and would continue to shape him into something that I could confidently assume would be brilliant.