Any hesitation in making a decision to fly to Portugal in the summer of 1978 lay in the necessary financial commitment on my end. VISA credit cards were still somewhat of a novelty, and I was certain that the airline would not accept my Strawbridge’s credit card. When you make around $6000 per year (before taxes), even in 1978 the necessary expenditure was an impossible commitment. I nearly had to say “No.” Then, my dad stepped in and offered to lend me enough to supplement my budget. He said that I could pay him back when school started back up in the fall.
I went to a travel agency in town which took care of my passport photo, and my travel arrangements. I had never flown anywhere on my own, and was all in a dither getting things together. No one wanted to drive me to New York City, (go figure) so I reserved space in an airport limo.
In late June, or early July my whole family spent two weeks at the beach. Someone my dad worked with had a cottage on Fenwick Island, Delaware. We had been going for several summers. Our routine included cooking meals ahead, and keeping it simple when we were at the cottage. Another ritual included my mom putting together a jig-saw puzzle, and my oldest brother taking one of the pieces and hiding it. My oldest brother had joined the army by that summer, so someone else had to carry on that tradition. I can’t quite recall who it was. 😉 Mostly, we just kicked back and enjoyed sun, surf, and sleep. We kept the possibility of one more family member missing by the next summer in the back of our minds.
|TWA Flight Center|
Somehow I managed to keep both feet on the ground until the day of departure. The sad puppy eyes that my dad used when he looked at me might have helped that. When the airport limo arrived, it looked nothing like what I had pictured. But, the driver did his job well, and we arrived with time to spare before I needed to board the plane.
The direct flight to Portugal left in the early evening. As we queued up for takeoff, I had time to ponder Harry’s last letter. It was full of the detailed information I needed to get through the airport, and customs. He could not come in and help me get through, but his directions lacked nothing. When I got to the exit, he wrote, he would be waiting for me. He added that I should try to sleep on the plane, because it would be a long day after I landed. Right. At the end of the letter before his signature, he wrote: “I love you” with no further explanation. That pretty well freaked me out. But not enough to keep me from going.
|Lisbon at sunrise|
The flight was about seven hours. I wasn’t thrilled about being in a jet hovering between sky and water for seven hours, let alone doing that while trying to sleep, but I tried. I passed the hours reading, thinking, watching the inflight movie, and eating. Shortly after our on-board continental breakfast, the sun came up over the horizon, and we were circling over Lisbon. It was about 7 a.m. Lisbon time.
Even though I knew no Portuguese, Harry’s instructions were clear, and I had no problems. I was a little stressed when I didn’t see him immediately upon passing through customs, but it was only a short moment before he walked in the door with a big smile on his face. He walked over to me, reached out his arm, and shook my hand.
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