Wednesday, April 16, 2008

30,000 feet again, and me without Kleenex

It took me forever to pack. I kept procrastinating and I just couldn’t find anything that had a lower priority. I finally packed this morning. My husband said it was obvious I didn’t want to go and packing just made the reality of going a bit too evident.

Totally unrelated side note: I just realized that although it may seem kind of sick, I launched iTunes and just clicked on a random album to listen to. It’s America: A Tribute to Heroes, a CD produced in the aftermath of the 911 attacks. Perhaps an ironic choice for flying, but it’s actually an outstanding collection of performances. At the moment, though, Wyclef Jean is singing, and frankly, I can’t stand Reggae.

I woke up in deep pain. I felt like someone had stomped on my liver during the night, and my ribs had joined in the assault.

My mother called at 7:00 and my husband answered the phone. I heard him say, “Well, she’s doing better, but this flight—with a connection—is gonna kill her. She’ll need to rest when she gets there.” He wished my mother well on her surgery and handed the phone to me.

“Hi, Mom. I’m just finishing my packing. Are you all ready to go for tomorrow?”
“Yeah, yeah. I had all of my pre-op stuff done yesterday. I’ll tell ya, I love that hospital. It’s a great place. Everybody is so nice there”

I stopped packing for just a second, a small pile of soft camisoles suspended in mid-air above the suitcase. Had she really just said that? This was the hospital where my father went for plasmapheresis and was pronounced incurable. How many hours had we spent there? How many days taking turns sitting in the one uncomfortable, vinyl-covered chair at the foot of the bed? Wasn’t this the hospital she railed against when my father was moved to a nursing home without my mother’s knowledge? When I pictured this hospital, I had nothing but memories of frustration and sadness. Why didn’t she remember things the same way? She never does.

She asked how I was feeling. I said, “I’m looking forward to spending several days doing as little as possible except tending to your post-surgical needs. I’ve been pushing the boundaries of reasonable activity and I’m not up for much more.”

My mother’s reply was quick and I could tell she was laughing for the benefit of the people in her work area who could hear the conversation. “Oh, I have a whip list—I have a whole list of things for you to do when you get here—things that I need done. I’m going to keep you busy.”

My husband saw the look on my face and cocked his head in concern. I tried not to scream something obscene into the phone. How could she still not be getting the message that my health is in a fragile state right now? Didn’t she understand, despite being told, that I shouldn’t even be making this trip? Apparently not.

“Well, Mom, if it involves lifting, twisting, bending, or exertion, I can’t do it.” I wanted to say, “My very able-bodied firefighter brother and his cop friend were just there three weeks ago. What was on their to-do list?” I already knew the answer so I didn’t bother to ask. I let out a sigh and told my mother I had to get back to packing if I planned to make my flight on time.

When I told my husband about the conversation, he did something he never does: He put his arms around me and gave me a deep hug. “I’m sorry honey. I’m sorry you have to go, and I’m sorry your mother just doesn’t get it. I’m sorry.” He recalled that I had once told him that as a child, I was only allowed to stay home from school if I had a fever or was throwing up. While at home sick, my sister and I were expected to get some chores in instead of just “wasting the day.” I remember once when I was on day three of the flu, my mother came home from work and exploded because I hadn’t dusted, vacuumed, or started dinner. I said, “But Mom, I was lying down. I’m sick,” and she shot back, “You’re not that sick.” I was 12.

And so, after getting off the phone, I finished packing and headed off to the airport. I must say, “troubled” must be written all over my face today. The TSA workers were exceptionally nice to me today. Even the guy who checked my ID looked at me, looked at my boarding pass, winked, and said, “Oh, off to better weather, huh? I just know you’re gonna get in some beach time. Maybe some Margaritas? That’ll shake off the last of winter, huh?” I tried to smile, and thanked him as he wished me a fun trip. “If you only knew…”

Once I entered the plane, I was looking down, dejectedly, hoping for a decent seat (Southwest doesn’t assign seats). The male flight attendant at the door dipped his head down low so he could make eye contact, smiled, raised his eyebrows, and welcomed me aboard. He could just as easily have skipped it and said hello to the next person. When he brought my snack (graham crackers! Sweeeet!!!), he gave me funny look meant to make me smile. It had limited success.

As it turns out, I have my precious window seat, but over the wing where the ride is not so bumpy and my body won’t feel so buffeted by any turbulence. By some stroke of very good luck, there is no one sitting in either of the other two seats next to me. This is good since while writing this I just had a little crying outburst. I tried to be quiet about it, but had someone been sitting next to me, that would have been embarrassing.

Next stop Chicago.

1 comment:

Spilling Ink said...

Hmmm... this post reminds me of so very many things...

My parents used to be glad when I was too sick to go to school because if I needed to stay home, they would get some work out of me anyway. Sometimes it was easier to go to school sick.

One of my novels has a scene where a woman is on a plane to Florida to visit her mother. She cried, too.

I wonder if your mother has any idea how lucky she is. Were it me, I would not go. She is VERY lucky.