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Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Home Commentary OKLAHOMA, O.K.

OKLAHOMA, O.K.

By JoEllen Collins

JoEllen Collins—a longtime resident of the Wood River Valley—is a teacher, writer, fabric artist, choir member and unabashedly proud grandma known as “Bibi Jo.”

I left San Francisco yesterday on my way home to Idaho via Oklahoma City, where my “new” brother lives. I will be home early next week, but now have the joy of visiting my family found three years ago through 23 and Me. Most of you know my story from this forum, a place to share my amazing experience with my readers, so I will not repeat the details behind this late-life adventure.

This visit is vastly different from my first one here, due to the pandemic. Air travel is in the flux of change, naturally. When I boarded a plane on Valentine’s Day, seats were spaced for safe distancing and the concourses almost empty. Even McDonald’s was closed. Yesterday, with sanctions eased, more people vaccinated, and a swell of spring family visits in progress, it seemed eerily like the old days of crowded air travel. I was sandwiched between two people, but I had received the vaccine, and everybody wore masks at all times. United deboards passengers by exiting passengers five rows at a time, front to back. Being in the rear of the plane (with only a 35-minute layover), I was almost late for my second flight, from Houston to Oklahoma City. Only those who have tried to get from one end to another of one terminal in this Texas-sized airport will appreciate my tension. I just made it.

Now I am happily ensconced in my brother’s beautiful home, ready to relax, laugh and HUG (a pandemic no-no) my brother, my vibrant sister-in law, my new nieces and their families, including their sons (my great-nephews). What a treat for one whose adoptive family is almost entirely deceased. I did visit three precious women cousins who live near SF, a priceless time of memory and affection. The three of us have lived full and productive lives, albeit quite different from the ones we expected or planned. We’ve been teachers, caregivers, parents, and active community members. We shared how lucky we are to have lived when we have and to have survived a fair amount of personal tragedy and disappointment but also to have experienced lasting friendships, beauty, love, and adventure. In my case, I have seen a world I never expected when I first traveled to Ecuador via prop plane as a volunteer building playground equipment at small schools 11,000 feet in the Andes.

Now I get to jet from California to Oklahoma in a fraction of the time it took to fly from L.A. to Miami and then on to Quito. So the huge world I began to see at 19 now includes a wider family for me. I have always felt loved, and the only real wish I have had is that I could earn enough money and have enough time to be with those I love, wherever they may be. Because of frequent flier miles and a generous family, even though I am by no means wealthy, I feel richly blessed. Quite a trip, this life!

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