Saturday, May 17, 2014
Mom Flies Solo
My parents spent February, 2012, just south of Tampa Bay. Dad didn't feel well during that trip, though they did have a nice time. Returning home the first of March, Mom made an appointment for him to see our family doctor and he was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer on March 16.
Aunt and Uncle have taken this February Florida trip for years now and while they let Mom stay with me in 2013, they nudged her to join them this year. She agonized over the decision - she and Aunt talked, she and I talked, she and Uncle talked. Repeatedly.
It was at last decided that she didn't want to stay the whole month. She would instead fly to join them for the middle two weeks.
I blinked at her when she told me, but quickly recovered to smile encouragingly. "Great!" I said. "I'll fly down with you and then fly back the same day. And we'll do that again when you return."
"No," she replied firmly, though her chin quivered nervously. "I can do this."
So I watched her make reservations. Helped her pack, walked her through what would happen at check-in and security and while boarding. Told her to ask for help if she grew confused - she's such a sweet lady. People would help her.
I checked her in the day before, frowning thoughtfully at her ticket. It had merged her middle initial with her first name - making her a Judithe. But there were three letters - lower case i - at the end of our last name. I snorted, almost choking myself when I figured it out.
"You must have accidentally filled in the suffix when you made reservations," I told her, chuckling at her outraged denial. "You made yourself Judithe, the third." After assuring her it wouldn't matter and showing her the websites that reassured her, we giggled about it. I took to calling her "i-i-i."
We drove to the airport in the predawn hours on a Sunday. I kept expecting her to refuse to go so I could whisk her safely home.
She did not. We checked in, printing her boarding passes and asking the nice airline representative about the "iii." She told us it was fine, smiling warmly at my mother and promising she would be fine. I walked with her to security, leading her to the entrance of the empty maze of ropes before a TSA guy waved her over to the first class line instead.
"I'm proud of you," I whispered, hugging tightly and pressing a kiss to her cheek. She nodded, chin trembling, and took her bags from me and moved toward the ID-checker. She turned to wave before moving to unpack her luggage as we'd practiced and I waved back, standing on tip-toes so I could continue to watch.
She motioned to her knees - they've been replaced - and leaned closer to listen as they explained the stance you take in the scanner. And then I smiled as she gathered her bags and walked toward her gate, dutifully checking the monitor as we'd discussed.
She texted me from Atlanta, saying she'd made friends on the plane and they helped her find the train to her connecting flight, despite ATL being their final destination. Then she made another friend who watched her bags while she went to the restroom.
She enjoyed the weeks at the beach - wandering the shore, exploring shops and restaurants and spending time with Aunt, Uncle and other couples. And she missed my Dad. But she did OK.
I went to fetch her late one Thursday, rushing to meet her as she emerged from the concourse, looking exhausted but happy.
"Hi!" I greeted her, practically bouncing. "I missed you! You did it! How was it?!"
"It was hard," she told me, smoothing my hair as I took her luggage and widened my eyes and how heavy it was. "Presents," she noted, nodding at the smaller - and heavier - of the bags. "But I did it," she said and I nodded, immeasurably proud of her. "Let's go home."