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Ester Marsh column: Flying home after the lockdown

I was finally able to see my family in the Netherlands after 22 months and one rescheduled, and one canceled flight, one in December and one in April. This Nov. 4, I have lived 33 years in the U.S. and it’s the first time I truly felt how big the Atlantic Ocean is. The only way for me to see my family is by plane or by boat.

As all of us, we had to make sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic. The one that affected me the most was not seeing my family and at one point the full closing of our YMCA. Fortunately things are opening up and I flew over and am back from my transatlantic trip. The trip itself went very well, however, the pre-trip was very stressful. Each country has different rules and regulations during COVID and there were times I was worried my trip would get canceled again or I would not be able to fly and see my family. Each day checking what was going on, and the closer I got, it looked like it was a go. I am fully vaccinated and still needed to get a PCR COVID test ($139 out of pocket). It has to be done 72 hours prior your departure. It states you get it back 24-48 hours but could be longer. So I was sweating it on the Wednesday prior to my trip. Finally I got my test results at 9:15 p.m. and was able to get a decent night sleep before the flight the next day.

The reason I had to do a PCR test (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test is that is more accurate than the LFT test (lateral flow test) or quick on-the-spot COVID test. I typically fly home once a year, so that’s quite a lot in 33 years. But this time, I was the most nervous and stressed getting all proper paperwork and tests in order. But it was worth it! I got to see and hug my family! I still have my dad, brother and wife, two sisters and husbands, five nephews and two nieces, one aunt and one uncle and a slew of cousins and dear friends who live in Europe. And, my middle daughter and husband are in Germany (son-in-law is active duty Army) and I got to see them too. I arrived in the Netherlands on Friday, June 25, and things were not fully open, and unmasked, until July 1.

Most of us fared well during the lockdown, but for my dad (who will be 85 this year) it truly made a huge impact. Being a widow and isolated due to the pandemic, is not good for an aging mind (even that he read over 30 books). Remember, if we don’t use it, we lose it. I was happy to see he was trying after many restrictions were lifted on July 1. He is riding his bike again and eating better and mingling with his friends. He also has already made plans for some music events and plays and hopes to go on a vacation this year.

Of course, enjoying the great foods and drinks it came to an end and I had to schedule another PCR test (75 euros out of pocket = $89) to come back home. Again, negative and trip back to North Carolina! And yes, I was super happy to land in this summer heat as it was pretty cold and dreary in my home country. And most of all, I love to be back into my daily routines and working and teaching my classes back at the Y. Don’t ever take your family for granted, especially when they live a drivable distance away. We all need it, but especially our older population, need human interaction and most of all, human touch. Let’s continue to play it smart so the world can continue to open up. Planning to fly to my Dutch home again in 2022!

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of the JF Hurley YMCA.

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