I am driving my 79-year-old parents to the airport. They are trying not to act worried. So am I.
“You’ll do fine,” I tell them. “Airlines do this every day. You’re going to have a great time.”
They are flying to Boston to see my brother. The last time mom and dad were on a plane, I think, was during the Nixon administration.
“I need to keep my cane,” mom says from the back seat for the third or fourth time. “They’ll let me keep my cane on the plane, won’t they?”
Yes, they will, mom. It’ll be fine. You’ll see.
I am telling them this, but what I am thinking is, “Please, please, dear God, let this go well. Please let there be no long lines at the airport. Let there be a place to park so I don’t have to leave these two all alone at the gate.”
We pull up to the Midwest Express terminal. Drat. There are long lines. There are crowds. There is no place to park.
“Lot of people traveling today, huh?” dad says. He is acting like this is fine with him, but I can tell it is not. “Help your mother,” he said. “I’ll be fine.”
“I’m sure glad you know about airports,” mom says, hugging my arm as I help her out of the back seat. “How’d you get to be so smart?”
I got it from you. mom. She thinks this is very funny.
I glance across the top of the Camry. My eyes notice dad stepping out of the passenger side. Then I see him fall straight down. An audible gasp from a young woman sitting on a nearby bench rearranging the contents of her purse.
Dad had caught his foot on the curb. His arms are bleeding. He is looking up at me. It’s probably the way I looked up at him that time when I was seven and I fell at the swimming pool after he had warned me to walk.
“I’ll be okay,” he says. “I bleed easily. It’s all that heart medicine.”
Please let everything be fine.
I drag their bags inside. The check-in line is even longer now. I wish I could quiet the crowd for a minute and get everyone’s attention. I wish I could announce that these are my parents and that everyone should be nice to them.
I want everyone to know that these two people raised seven kids. I would explain that since we didn’t have a lot of money, our summer vacation usually consisted of a road trip to my aunt’s house in Garden City, Kan. A blue Ford station wagon full of kids, sandwiches and swimsuits. I’d tell them how we all laughed and laughed the time dad hit a skunk on I-70 and the station wagon stunk so bad we had to hold our noses the rest of the way home.
I want everyone here to know all all thise and how important this man and woman are to me. But there is no time.
We finally get our turn at the check-in counter. The ticket agent is an attractive woman in her forties. Her uniform badge says “Lynette.” She has a nice smile. I can tell she knows how to soothe anxious elderly travelers. I can tell she knows how to soothe the children of anxious elderly travelers
“This is my son,” my mom announces as Lynette taps on the keyboard. “He’s a writer.”
Lynette smiles back and makes warm eye contact. “You must be proud of him.” Mom beams. Thank you, thank you, Midwest Express, for having Lynette on duty this morning.
Getting through security comes off with only 30 or 40 hitches. Mom trips the alarms repeatedly with her rosary beads and pill boxes. Dad is asked to remove his shoes. This takes awhile when you are 79 with bad knees.
Now a flight attendant is offering an elbow to mom. “You can walk down the jet way with me if you’d like,” she says. “You’re in 4-D and 4-C. ” Mom is relaxed now. She releases my arm and takes this new one.
“Your mother and I will be fine,” dad says. “Everyone in this airport knows her now, so she’s happy. Thanks for everything.”
Slowly, the three of them vanish down the jet way.
After a minute or so, I turn away. My eyes catch the glance of this sixty-ish woman with short-cropped hair and a denim top dress. I wonder if she notices how hard it is for me to swallow right now.
“Your parents?” she asks. I nod. She is smiling the way people do when they see things from a distance, like love and pain, and they understand without anyone having to explain it. “I’m sure they’ll be fine,” she says.
say nothing. Another slow, dry swallow.
“Yeah,” I say looking back at the jet way. “They’ll be fine.”
by David Chartrand
© David Chartrand