As I’ve mentioned before, I do not like airplanes. So sorry, Orville. Maybe if I did it more I wouldn’t feel like any second the airplane I’m on is going to take a nosedive. When on a flight (the few times I’ve been) my legs are always tense, holding up off the floor just a wee bit because I’m afraid the belly of the plane is going to scrape the ground.
When the kids graduated from high school five years ago, my parents took us all on a vacation to Florida. It was great fun, and the first time the kids ever went to a Disney park. It was the first time they flew too, and the first time I had since before they were born. My doctor gave me Valium to help me through the flight. It was a good thing. Though the belly of the plane stayed off the ground just fine, a few other challenges came along the way.
Initially, the trip was going to include all of us but Jason, because he couldn’t get off work to come along. But then by great chance, he had a bike wreck. His shoulder and upper arm were crushed—which wasn’t at all a good thing—but it put him on a leave from work for a month, though his doctor said he could fly. So Grandpa found him a ticket too and we turned it into a whole family vacation.
We boarded our flight to Florida, and I was deep breathing and waiting for the Valium to calm me down a bit. We took off and landed, though late, but we never had the nosedive I kept expecting. We had to catch a connecting flight in Atlanta, but because our flight was late when we landed, we had to beat feet it from one end of the airport to the other in something like ten minutes. The eight of us ran at different speeds. Grandma and I were at the back of the pack. Way back. The faster ones got to the gate in time to talk them into holding the plane for us, that we were indeed coming. When we got there, the ticket agents were impatient and stern (understandably) and waved us with their arms to get a move on (like we weren’t or something). As we raced past, we threw them our boarding passes—and it turned out that Jason wasn’t on that flight. Jason, my husband who doesn’t carry a cell phone, who had his entire arm immobilized to the side of his body, who couldn’t even carry his own bag.
The ticket agents gave us no time to make a plan, so as they shoved us down the boarding bridge telling us to hurry, I was looking over my shoulder yelling back to Jason that we’d meet him at the gate in Florida.
We ran onto the plane, grabbed our seats—which wasn’t too hard because no one was in the aisles anymore. I sat down, attempted to deep breathe, and tried to feel the Valium somewhere in my blood stream. I prayed like crazy that things would work out, that Jason would be okay back there, that we’d maybe see him again some day. Remembering that we needed to turn off our phones, I fumbled through my stuff, searching, hunting, digging—but mine was no where to be found.
Somewhere in the mad rush and shuffle, I’d lost my phone. There was going to be no way for Jason to let me know if something came up, like if his injury suddenly got worse and he needed the hospital, or if his flight was overbooked and they bumped him, or if his plane did a nosedive. Plus, I was really upset about losing my phone. Molly was next to me. She had her phone. “Quick,” I told her, “before you turn off your phone, text Colleen [my sister] and tell her I lost my phone. Ask her to page Dad in Atlanta and tell him to look for my phone!” Like mad, Molly’s thumbs raced over her keys as I dictated, trying to get the gist of what I was saying. Then she shut off her phone just as we taxied down the runway, leaving Jason behind.
To cope, I did deep breathing, praying and meditating, to calm down. Before long I found peace and relinquished the phone to being lost. I could surrender the phone, but I still needed to get Jason back. Images of his face as I ran away from him on the gangplank, yelling something like “Stay Alive! I will find you!,” kept me determined to hold it together and get him back.
When we started to descend, when thoughts of losing my phone and husband were still trying to break through my fragile state of tranquility (and thinning dose of Valium), I heard a muffled tinkling sound. “Do you hear something? Is that my phone?” Grandpa said it was just the landing gear. Once we were on the ground, I heard it again. “Don’t you hear that? It sounds like my phone.” Molly agreed and started trying to hear it with me through the noise of a plane full of people disembarking. Once the passengers thinned, we searched, following the sounds, and found my phone under some seats in a row farther up from ours. Colleen’s texts had started coming in with restored phone service, providing us with a homing signal. Her texts were asking What is going on? What did Molly want? Her texts didn’t make any sense. What’s happening? Molly’s rapid fire message didn’t work as planned, and Colleen didn’t send Jason on a crazed search for my phone, but nevertheless, the end result was we got what we needed to get it back.
With fervent prayers of thanksgiving for the return of my phone, we decided that Charlie and I would stay inside the gate (because we learned from a nice but unwavering security guard that once we left the gate area there was no going back). Pierce went with Grandpa to pick up the rental car. The rental agency messed up the order, trying to give them a car we wouldn’t all fit in. Grandpa used his charm and tenacity to wear them down until they finally agreed to provide us with the 8-seat Suburban we'd ordered. Meanwhile, Molly and Spencer stayed with Grandma and hung out in the terminal for an eternity waiting for some word of what was going on.
Charlie and I passed the hours (trying to keep me distracted) by playing Battleship on some Sudoku puzzle book pages, converting the Sudoku graphs into Battleship layouts. And mostly, I tried to stay calm. Finally a plane arrived at the gate and eventually passengers unloaded. What a huge relief when Jason appeared in the doorway. He’d stayed alive and we found him!
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