man and woman at the beach

Grace and Gratitude 2021

two purple flowers

If you’ve been here long enough, you know that I’m not one for Thanksgiving “I’m Thankful For…” posts. Oh, it’s not that I’m not thankful for certain things (and entirely un-thankful for others), it’s just that I tend to keep my feelings for these matters private. I will of course share them with Handan, just as she shares hers with me. But I’ve mostly kept it away from the blog.

Until now.

mother and son working in a garden

As corny and trite as it sounds, I do “feel compelled” this year to dedicate a small space of the infinite internet to gratitude and grace.

You’re wondering why the change of heart.

You’re wondering what happened. Something must have happened, right?

Just sit back and let me tell you.

boy playing basketball in a driveway

I suppose the best starting point for this tale is Baris’s departure for university. In mid-August, Baris, my babes and I drove 6 hours to Blacksburg, Virginia to drop him off and get him properly installed in his dorm room at Virginia Tech. It was a subdued weekend. Baris wasn’t acting like himself, at least that’s how it seemed to me. I thought he was angry with us for some unknown teenage reason. Or perhaps he sensed his upcoming freedom and couldn’t wait to shake the parental baggage. It’s how I felt when I first set foot on the Middlebury College campus back in August of 1990, so I certainly wouldn’t blame him.

His mood persisted until our departure day, and shortly before we were to drop him off and head back to Georgia, I couldn’t take it anymore so I asked him what was wrong.

And then I understood.

mother and son at a restaurant table

He wasn’t mad.

He wasn’t itching for us to get the heck out of his hair.

My boy was sad to be leaving us. He was sad and a little scared at what lay ahead – this great unknown and uncharted territory of university life away from home.

We were sitting in our car in a Kroger parking lot, and Handan jumped out and went to the back seat to comfort our boy as he let his emotions spill out.

dog lying on carpet

Before the trip, I had made Handan promise me to keep it together during the final goodbye. I told her to put up a strong and positive façade so Baris wouldn’t feel sad that his mother was sad. She carried through on her promise (much to my surprise – I really expected Blubberfest 2021), though Baris shed a few final tears. We dropped him off in the middle of campus, as he needed to visit the bookstore. Before we turned the corner, I saw that he was walking with his head up and full of purpose. The tears were gone.

He would be okay.

Of course, that was precisely when Niagara Falls erupted in the passenger seat next to me.

dog standing in a landscaped yard

Baris’s absence was much harder on me than I thought it would be. Though he spent most of his time in his room, he was a constant presence in the house these past 8 years, and I’d really grown accustomed to having him around. I comforted myself with the fact that we’d be seeing him only two weeks after dropping him off. We were moving to Florida the week after that, so the weekend of September 4 was the only one open until we would see him again during this Thanksgiving week.

It was during his second week that Baris got his first college sickness, complete with fever, coughing, sneezing – the whole enchilada. It seemed our visit was very well timed! And then on Tuesday, August 31, Handan and I got the scare of our lives.

We were in Walgreen’s. I had just received my second jab of Pfizer, and already I could tell it wasn’t going to be a party afterwards. As we walked slowly towards the front of the store, my phone buzzed and alerted me to a new text message. It was from my sister Margo in Long Island, and it read:

Tornado heading towards VA Tech. Make sure Baris is inside. Engineering school will be hit within 5 minutes.

Baris is an engineering student.

Dog sitting on grass

I stared at my phone in disbelief. How the hell would she know that? She was up in New York! I immediately called Baris and relayed the news. They already knew. The dorm alarms had sounded and they kids all ran to the basement. We spoke for a moment, and then the phone cut out. Handan texted him while I called my sister for more information.

Apparently, my brother-in-law Chuck had been watching The Weather Channel trying to get a read on a storm system headed their way when he noticed the scrolling news at the bottom of the screen tell about the Virginia Tech tornado.

Handan was starting to panic, so we hightailed it out of Walgreens and back into our car. It was a 20 minute drive home, and my heart was poundings out of my chest with fear and the aftereffects of the shot. At some point, we lost touch with Baris. Our texts were not going through and his phone went directly to voicemail. I had Margo on one line while Handan tried to keep in contact with Baris with the other. Margo told me that the tornado was headed right for the football stadium, which is essentially across the street from Baris’s dorm.

Now, a cool head with time to think about such things would have deduced that any tornado in the Virginia valleys could probably never amount to much more than an EF0 or EF1 at the most – not nearly strong enough to destroy stone buildings.

Glass gem corn hanging in later afternoon sunlight

But this was not a situation with cool heads nor time to think. The moment Handan lost contact, she erupted into full-blown, tear-driven panic. I just tried my best to keep the car on the road and my heart beating in my chest.

By the time we got home, we had again briefly established contact via text. Baris was okay. He was safe. His only complaint was that he was “a little hot” in the crowded and non-ventilated basement with his 102 degree fever during a brutal late-summer heat wave.

Poor kid. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that must have been.

I turned on the tv and tuned in The Weather Channel. The threat had passed. The kids were safe.

I assured Handan up and down and six ways to Sunday that it is impossible for a tornado to strike the same spot twice. Never happens. Couldn’t happen! I don’t know if she believed me, but it didn’t really matter, because just then The Weather Channel issued another tornado warning…

dog sitting in late afternoon sunlight

…for the exact same location! This was an epic storm that seemed hell-bent on throwing off tornados whenever possible.

I don’t know if the kids ever had the chance to leave the basement, but once again, we lost all contact with The Boy, and once again, my babes slid into terrified panic.

Obviously, Baris survived, as did every other Virginia Tech student, but this was our “welcome to college life” moment.

I would have bet large sums of cash money that the tornado scare would be the worst we’d ever endure this year (and likely any other). Good thing I never made that bet.

Well, it’s been an eventful semester. Baris seemed intent on picking up every virus and bacterial infection Virginia Tech had to offer. Four fevers, one month-long cough and two weeks of strep throat later, and it was finally time for Handan’s baby to come home for some much-needed rest and lots of good dad-cooked food.

His flight took him from Roanoke Airport to Atlanta Hartfield-Jackson Airport this past Saturday. He landed about 1:20 PM on Saturday, November 20.

mother and son working in a garden

Handan and I drove down to the airport to pick him up. I pulled into the parking garage and began to hunt for a space. It was crowded. Parking spots were scarce. It was the beginning of the holiday rush. As I drove farther into the garage, I came closer to the road separating the garage from the airport entrance. Just as I was driving through the last lane of parking spots before that road and the airport, a group of people ran past the car. There were travelers and employees – I could tell by their badges. I couldn’t say for sure, but I thought one or two were…laughing?

They were all young men and women – so maybe some sort of game?

I didn’t think too much more about it and continued my slow drive up that final lane. When I got to the end, I turned right and then immediately right again. Looking down that lane, I could see there were no spots.

“My babes,” I said, “You’ll have to get out and meet him while I look for a spot.”

Handan jumped out just as Baris called. He was in the concourse and making his way towards us.

I carried on down the lane I was in, and then turned right again to put me facing the airport and all those travelers returning to the parking garage.

The phone rang. It was Handan.

“I found you a spot, my babes. I’m standing in it. Come quick!”

She was around the corner, so I needed to take a right again onto that final lane I had been in before.

In an instant the scene changed.

A wave of screaming humanity washed past my car.

“What the hell is happening?” I said, panic creeping into my voice.

“My babes, something is wrong. People are running! Get here quickly!” she said.

More humans running. Luggage dropped. Screams of terror.

I whipped around the corner and found Handan in the spot. After parking, we ran to a crowd of people who were still standing across the road from the entrance to the airport.

“What’s going on?” I asked the first person I saw. He didn’t know. Nobody knew. I heard a few murmurs about a shooter inside.

oh shit please no

Then, “Shooter! Shooter! Run! RUN!”

And everyone ran like gazelles on the African savannah.

We were swept up in the final wave of humanity desperately trying to put as many footsteps between them and danger as they could.

Handan was halfway up the ramp to the roof. She was terrified – for herself, for me, but mostly for Baris. Her face was a study in panic and grief.

There was a shooter or shooters in the airport.

Her boy was in the airport.

On the top level of the garage now, we made our way towards the airport entrance. We were one level up now – there was blue sky overhead.

Handan was a wreck. Her mind played out worst-case scenario after worst-case scenario. This made her tornado panic look like a happy birthday celebration.

I hope you never experience yourself or see another parent who is convinced their child is in mortal danger…and there is nothing you or they can do to help.

These were the worst minutes of our lives. We had no idea what was happening inside and no idea if our boy was alive or dead.

When we reached the safety of the upper deck of the parking garage, we called Baris.

He answered.

father and son at a restaurant table

He also had no idea what was going on, as ATL is the busiest airport in the world (and one of the largest), and he was about a mile back from whatever was happening.

But we didn’t know that then, nor did we know the extent of the threat. Handan told him through sobbing tears to find a bathroom and hide.

dog lying in grass

We made our way to the forward edge of the parking structure. We had a bird’s-eye view of the airport entrances. For the next two hours, Baris sat on a toilet in concourse D, as Handan and I watched no fewer than 5 swat teams with dogs pull up and enter the airport. No one knew what was happening, but those who had been inside that we spoke to and those posting on Twitter swear there were 3 gunshots that afternoon.

The official story is that a convicted felon tried to bring a loaded gun through the security checkpoint. When the scanners picked it up, he lunged for it, thus causing it to “accidentally discharge.” He then fled the scene in the ensuing panic.

Maybe that’s how it happened. Maybe not. Maybe we’ll never know.

The total ordeal lasted four hours. Four hours from our arrival to the time we finally got inside the airport and met Baris at baggage claim.

The relief and joy we felt was like nothing else.

mother and son

We made our way back to the car…just as everyone else did. The parking garage had become a parking lot. It took a full two hours to make our way to the exit. Handan and I were exhausted when we finally left the airport grounds. All that adrenaline had left us feeling worn and beaten. We both aged a few years last Saturday, but we had the best and most enjoyable evening when we returned to our Georgia home with Baris and our dogs.

Before that day, I never could have imagined that I or anyone in my family would be involved in something like that. Even though the threat turned out to be non-existent, the panic and terror were real.

Yup, this year’s Thanksgiving is a little different for me, and I’ll wager it is for Handan as well.

Sending a kid off to college is hard at the best of times.

Sending one off into tornados, chronic fevers and active shooter scenarios is an entirely different thing altogether!

My hope is that we and Baris have seen the worst and most terrifying this academic year has to offer. My hope is that it will be smoother sailing from here.

And I have to say, despite the hardships he has gone through with near-constant sickness, the kid is rocking his courses and is just a hair shy of a 4.0 GPA!

So this year, I’m thankful for my son.

boy putting on a tie in a mirror

I’m grateful for the joy he brings his mother and me.

boy standing with balloons in front of his face

And I’m awed by the man he’s become. He left us a boy and returned a much-matured young man.

boy in a  suit in front of a fireplace

He carries himself with confidence and grace, and I have no doubt he will do great things in life.

woman pulling upholstery from a chair

This year, I’m thankful for my family. Without Handan’s support and love, I’d be nothing. This blog would be nothing! I’m the one you hear from all the time, and mine are the hands that make the crafts, but my babes not only comes up with 99% of the project ideas, but she’s the one doing all the back-end tech work and keeping our Pinterest account rocking and rolling. There couldn’t be a Navage Patch without my babes!

woman smiling at the beach

And speaking of the blog, where would either of us be without you?

Look, I could make all the cutesy crafts on earth, and my babes could build a website more beautiful than any other, but if no one is there to see it, what would it matter?

Without you, madam (or 5% chance of being sir), we are nothing but two boisterous monkeys banging noisy cymbals into an uncaring void.

So while I am moved to share the events that have filled me with gratitude this Thanksgiving, Handan and I also want to commemorate our gratitude for you! And what better way to do that than to give away another Cricut Joy?

Yep, it’s our 3rd Joy giveaway of 2021, and you’ll be able to enter the drawing tomorrow. We’ll have some great Christmas SVGs for you!

We here at The Navage Patch wish all of you the Happiest Thanksgiving! Whether you celebrate the day or not, be sure to set a place for grace and gratitude at your table and in your heart.

With Love,

Greg and Handan

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93 Comments

  1. Greg and Handan,
    Oh my goodness! You definitely do have a lot to be thankful for this year! I’m always happy to read your posts and see what new projects you’re working on.
    Happy Thanksgiving & all the best for the holiday season.
    Michele

  2. Oh my…I have no words. I can’t imagine. Your heartfelt sharing is what keeps me coming back to the blog. Great pain highlights great joy.

  3. Oh my, Wow, that is certainly alot! Thank goodness everyone of you are okay. I can’t imagine what you all went through. Thank you for sharing. 2021 has been another year to remember hasn’t it. 2019-2021. What will 2022 bring? I can’t wait to find out. Love your posts as usual. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your beautiful family Greg!
    Sandy

  4. I am so sorry to hear all the terrible things that happened to you all. I hope the bad juju is over. I can say that it will bring you closer then you could ever imagine.Good luck to you all and have a wonderful holiday.

  5. Thank you for sharing this! You had me bawling because I can only imagine all of the emotions the two of you were feeling!! But we are happy to hear all is well with all three of you!!

    We wish you all laughter, love, and gratitude!

    Cheers!
    The Leon Family

  6. That’s an incredible first semester of college! Thank goodness Baris is home safe where he knows he’s so very cherished. His trip back to school should be anticlimactic after all that. Full props for his great grades!! The first semester is the hardest wo being so sick. Thank you for sharing your gratitude and all the ideas covered by your social media. Here’s hoping Christmas will bring calm for everyone.

  7. Thank you for sharing your emotional stories of your precious son. They were heartfelt and wonderful to read.

  8. I’m so thankful for you & Handan. You make us laugh along with sharing your projects. I feel like you have taken us on a journey to different countries & states.
    God Bless,
    Marcia

  9. Wow! What a crazy few months you guys have had! So glad Baris is safe and well after everything. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Thanks for your wonderful blog and all the awesome crafts you share. And thank you for sharing the story-it never hurts to have a reminder to be thankful 😊

  10. Oh, WOW!!! I’m so glad you’re all safe, and that Baris is thriving, despite all the adversity he’s faced, in such a short time. Blessings to all of you!

  11. Wow! Great post Greg. Love the haircut Baris. Cannot imagine the terror you both felt at the tornado and the airport. When we can’t control things it is the worst! Thankful both outcomes were benign. Happy Thanksgiving to your family.

  12. Read this in horror and sadness imagining what this year must have been like for both (all three) of you. Extremely grateful it had a happy ending! Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! 🧡

  13. Wow! That is some year! Happy you and your family survived it! In a scary world we all need to be grateful for family, friends and each other–it takes a village. Happy Thanksgiving!

  14. It’s crazy what life throws at us! Glad everyone is alright and that Baris is doing so well in college. He’s destined for great things because he has seen greatness in his parents. Happy Thanksgiving, Greg, Handan, and Baris!

  15. I am in awe of how grown and mature Baris looks in the photo with his suit. He was so young when I started following your site. Your posts are my absolute favorite and wish all three of you joy, health, and happiness. Happy Thanksgiving 🍁

    1. Oh, Pam, that was from graduation! You should see him now! I just haven’t taken any pics because we’ve been so busy. I’ll take some after his haircut tomorrow! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! 🙂

  16. Wow! I can only imagine the fear y’all felt through each of those scary situations! So happy that no one was hurt and you were able to spend a thankful time together. You have an amazing family and I hope things calm down now. Enjoy the small moments.

  17. I remember reading a quote that said something to the effect of having three choices when something bad happens … let it define, let it destroy you or let it strengthen you. You’ve obviously let it strengthen you!!! Thank you for sharing such a personal story. Happy Thanksgiving!

  18. Happiest of Thanksgiving Days to You’all!
    It is so Humbling to be a parent- Life is Delicate, and Tenuous !
    I’m so glad that You’re all well and together- and that you have been moved to share your heartfelt feelings! Good for You!
    Stay well and Love Each Other Always!

  19. Greg, thank you taking the time and sharing your unbelievable and nail biting story. I always look forward to your crafts, but if I were honest I enjoy your writing. Happy Thanksgiving to the three of you.

  20. I’m glad it all worked out ok. It can be tough for sure. Our daughter went to college the year of 9/11. Really didn’t like her not being home around that time – we live in VA Beach with a huge air base and she was at JMU a little close to DC. They she got so sick she went to the ED. So out of it she didn’t answer the phone and roommate wouldn’t, I was about to drive there when she called. Lived to graduate 🤣.
    So good luck! I just recently discovered your blog and enjoy it.

  21. Because I’m a big sook, I ended up crying at the end of this post. I’m so happy that despite all trials, you’re all still happy and healthy and together. There’s definitely something to the phrase “may you live in uneventful times”! But Baris has started his last big slog towards adulthood and seems to be rocking it and I know it will only be up and up from here.

    Happy Thanksgiving, you Yanks!

    1. Jay, it’s absolutely incredible how much he grew as a person these past 3 months. He looks the same (a bit thinner), but wow! what a leap in maturity and independence!

  22. Wow y’all have had it rough! Hopefully it is definitely smoother from here on. Beautiful family and hope you all had a great Thanksgiving too.

  23. Sorry for the stressful moments you’ve had! I would also be a wreck!! Thankful for you guys. I read your blog for the great ideas, inspiration and laughs. Seriously, you guys are my escape from everything else going on in the so called news.

  24. What a semester! Praying the rest of this year is smooth sailing and takes you through 2022 the same way. Thrilled that your son is home for a visit. It won’t be long until he’s home for the winter break. Oh, great job, Baris. You’re parents are proud and you should be too. Best of luck to you all. (Note the email address and you may be able to figure out where I live😁)

  25. Your family has certainly had a terrifying adventure. Your account of it had me feeling my heart in my throat, so I was so grateful that things finally worked out and that you are all safe.
    Best wishes from Canada. I enjoy your blog and your projects are unique and very creative. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving together and that the future is far safer…maybe a bit less exciting would be nice!

  26. I am so thankful that Baris is safe. There is nothing worse than knowing that your loved one is in danger. Baris is such a handsome young man. Greg, you and Handon bring such joy to us. Thank you and bless you.

  27. This was a quite a roller coaster ride, I can completely understand having a son 6 hours away in college . I am so glad you had a safe, happy Thanksgiving ! We are all thankful for you both.

  28. Thank goodness that Baris and you two survived all of those incidents. He sounds like a strong person who has a bright future and a supportive family. This too shall pass…. Family helps us to believe in ourselves so that we may become the person we know we are capable of being. Wishing Baris and the two of you a Happy Thanksgiving!
    Thank you for all of the posts and gifts of prints and ideas. You inspire me to think outside of the box when crafting and appreciate those around me.

  29. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful post. Your heartfelt expressions of love and gratitude are especially meaningful during all of the chaos and uncertainty we’re all facing these days.

  30. Happy Thanksgiving Greg, Handan and Baris from Derby in the UK.
    So glad all of your ‘terrors’ are behind you and enjoy the holidays. We obviously don’t have Thanksgiving here – just the ‘Black Friday’ sales where you get stranded in the retail park car park for half a day and have to make sure you take your lunch and supper with you!!

    Enjoy and Kindest Regards

    Jayne

    1. Thank you so much, Jayne! Oh yeah – I guess Black Friday is universal, lol. I’m about to head out with Baris for haircuts – hope we don’t get stranded! 😀

  31. Phew after all that it truly makes you thankful for the things in life that really matter.
    Hold them close and hug them often, tell them you love them daily
    Life truly is a blessing and we all need to treasure it
    Love and hugs to you all

    sue

  32. Thank you so very much, I read you post and it was exactly what I needed at this very moment. Many Blessings to you, Handan and Baris.

  33. Whew! I’m so glad there was a happy ending to this story! Glad you’re all together, enjoying your Thanksgiving. I always enjoy your posts and look forward to many more. Although I’ve been married for 20 years, you two are definitely my relationship goal! Happy holidays! I know you guys were in Atlanta last Christmas, but I’m curious to see how you’ll like a good ol’ hot Christmas this year. It definitely took some getting used to for me. Even all these years later, I still kinda miss the whole white Christmas thing…

  34. Parenting boys is hard enough without this kind of added stress. Glad your family is safe. Hug each other and maybe take it easy for a bit. You’ve been through some major stressors on top of the move. (At least Baris went to the basement during the tornado. My oldest slept through a tornado warning on his Texas campus. It took off roofs & fence posts were impaled in walls of houses less than a mile away. During parents’ weekend at another TX University, my second oldest texted me from his dorm that he was on his way to my brothers to pick me up for dinner. Meanwhile my sister-in-law & I were sitting in her living room 5 minutes away listening to Tornado alarms & tracking a twister on radar that was headed for his campus. I had to tell him to stay there and take shelter. He never heard the alarm. 🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️) Parenting is an adventure.

  35. Wow, I’m so sorry you guys had to go through the terrifying experience. You really do have something to be thankful for this holiday season. So glad everyone is safe and now you can enjoy the rest of your weekend. You deserve a quiet weekend. Enjoy & stay safe.
    Dorothea

  36. Oy! You’re making me cry. What a frightening fiasco you’ve lived in the the last several months. I’m glad all is well, that you are all safe and most importantly, together.

  37. Greg, Handan, and Baris,
    I am so grateful for all of you, and thankful that Baris is home safe for now! This post blessed me and reminded me of the things that are truly important in life. Family is at the top of that list.
    God bless you all! Happy (late) Thanksgiving!

  38. Holy cow! When I heard about that shooting incident in ATL, I was wondering if anyone we knew was there at the moment and what it must have been like. While none of them were there, you guys were! We had come via that airport just the week before from an international trip! It’s crazy to think what you guys must have felt like. I don’t wish that on anyone. So glad that all ended well. I myself have a son and I often tell him to be vigilant/careful/mindful of his surroundings given the crazy world we live in. Wishing you guys the best and I have no doubt Baris will turn out to be a wonderful young mature adult! Mine did too 🙂 Take care. PS: the details of that shooting are accurate, it was indeed an idiot who fired accidentally and then fled the airport!

      1. My daughter is a senior engineering student at VT, I remember that day well—it was her 21st birthday. We had gotten together to phone her to serenade her (badly) and she picked up the phone to inform us as calmly as she could with her intermittent signal about the tornadoes, that we shouldn’t panic, and her fellow students were finding things to make frisbees out of…and then the line dropped. Cue maternal panic, as I was already coping with my family having to evacuate for Hurricane Ida (including my father who was terminally ill)…so yes. I completely understand and have empathy for everything you and your lovely wife endured. Atlanta airport is hell on earth under the best of circumstances, I cannot imagine the fear you and yours had to go through…I am so very, very glad everything turned out well. You have every right to be proud. Best wishes for a holiday season, and I know you are anxiously awaiting the end of this semester! (We are, too.) THANK YOU for all the wonderful content you have given me and the world this year, I do not say it, or comment, because sometimes it takes me a while to get to…but I enjoy everything. THANK YOU.

        1. Hi Cherie, thank you for taking the time to write. Wow, so you went through the VT tornado scare, too! What a day what a day. We wish you a merry and stress-free holiday with your daughter!

  39. Phew, what a wild time. So glad Baris is safe and now healthy. It can only get better from here. And thank you for the blog. It’s full of great ideas, handy tips, warmth, and laughter. It’s a great way to start the day. Happy holidays to you all.