I wake with a start. Natural light enters the bedroom. Something is terribly wrong. I fumble to look for the time. “Oh no, it’s 7:45. My plane leaves in 30 minutes. There is no way I can make it!” This is my worst nightmare.
I wake with a start. It is pitch black in the room. We never close the shades. I relax the smallest bit. It is supposed to still be dark when I need to get up, but also when I need to leave. I fumble, grab my glasses and flip the lid of my iPad. It is 4am. I sigh. Plenty of time. The dogs stir against my body. I double-check the alarm setting: 5:30am. I double-check the volume: all the way up. I only have one alarm without Mark by my side. I asked him to call me on Skype at 9am EST (6am my time), in case I overslept. Of course, my iPad is on “sleep mode” whenever I am, so someone trying to reach me will be useless.
There is no way I can fall asleep again after that dream. Around 5am, I do doze off. Wait, was that a plane flying over the house? They usually don’t start until 6:30! Oh no. Maybe it was one landing? Or, a delayed departure from last night? I am wide awake now. 5:20am. I might as well get up. I send a quick email to Mark – I’m up! Don’t worry about calling me. – and to the home owner’s mother. She requested the contact info of the helpful guy – a friend of the owner – who will take over our house sitting duties for two weeks. Time to get ready! I have 45 minutes, so don’t have to rush. Sandwiches were made and put in the fridge last night; plenty of snacks are packed. After the “blizzard of the century” in New England yesterday, I am prepared for the worst. With record low temperatures, massive snowfall, and heavy wind gusts in Boston, I expect delays getting there.
My last shower without the heat on. I eat breakfast, do the dishes and call Elvis and Frida. They are not used to getting up this early and lay together, huddled under the bed covers. They have moved from their previous spot to where I slept. Warm and cozy. I wake them and feed them. “Come on, buddy.” I try not to lose my patience. Usually, Elvis gobbles his medicines up without any issues. The pill is covered with fresh, organic peanut butter. He manages to spit it out. I smear more peanut butter on it. Nope! I’m running out of time. The third attempt is the charm. Down goes the pill, with more peanut butter. Three servings of peanut butter. He gets away with it!
I brush my teeth, remove our toiletries from the bathroom, wipe everything down, and give the whole house a glance over. All our belongings are contained in the guest room, our bedroom. I drag the dog bed in the kitchen, so Elvis and Frida have access to the doggy door and the yard, and close the doors to the living room and hallway. Dog-proof furniture. “Bye, sweethearts. I’ll miss you, but I will be back.” I hug the two Italian Greyhounds, give them a kiss on their fragile heads, grab my daypack and leave my temporary residence of the last two months. Dawn is breaking as I briskly walk towards Liberty Station. I decided to get to the airport on foot and am loving it. No stress about my ride showing up late. Or never.
Mark and I were scheduled to fly out on the same day, but because his mother was doing worse than expected after her stroke and subsequent surgeries, and because “watching” all the hospital antics, extra procedures, complications and decision-making from afar was terribly frustrating, he changed his plane ticket and left a few days earlier. He took a backpack full of work stuff and our only carry-on bag. I managed to stuff most of my clothes in there with his. Today, I am reaping the benefits of my packing talent. My backpack has a few undies and toiletries, and the rest is filled with food and electronics. Traveling light. I love it!
Like clockwork, one plane after the other catapults into the sky. I hear them before I see them. 6:30am. Every minute, another one departs. Usually, we are still in bed, woken up by the noise and disturbed by the continuous mayhem, right above the roof or the yard. Certain half hours are worse than others. It is part of life in this area of San Diego. Hundreds of iron birds, taking off until 11pm. Every day. They amuse me today, as I make my way to the international airport. Each time a plane lifts off, I am one minute closer to my destination. I feel free. I feel self-reliant. I don’t need much. But, I should have brought my ergonomic pillow. I will miss that. And the dogs. And the pleasant climate. And our lifestyle all together.
The walk takes about 45 minutes, and printing my boarding passes at a United kiosk is a breeze. I even manage to change my seats to emergency exit row ones to have a bit more leg room. Normally, you pay for that, but within a couple of hours of departure, this appears to be free. As I arrive at my gate, a voice sounds over the intercom. “350 dollars. We are up to 350 dollars for anyone who is willing to give up their seat on this flight. We will get you to your destination as soon as possible and you receive a $350 travel voucher.” I am all ears, standing in line for boarding. No takers. “OK, folks. 450 dollars. What a nice Christmas gift, right? 450 dollars if you volunteer your seat to someone else.” I consider it. This would be the perfect time to take the risk and obtain a free return flight to the east coast. We could certainly use it! I only have carry-on luggage. I can tell Mark I’ll arrive later. Nobody is inconvenienced. But, what if all those other flights are delayed and I’m stuck at an airport for the night? Before I can make up my mind, someone else steps up. I guess I’m meant to get on this flight from San Diego to Washington DC. We leave on time.
Never has a plane trip gone this smoothly! I must be extremely lucky. I wander from one gate to the next, glancing at the departure screens. Many flights are delayed or canceled. The boarding process starts soon after I arrive at my gate. I devour one of my sandwiches and pick at a Ziploc bag of peanuts. My leftover pizza slices will have to wait until later. Once again, no delays, and we are scheduled to arrive in Boston ten minutes early. This can’t be true, I think, as I continue reading my book. I hoped to catch up on blog reading and commenting, but there is no internet time to be had. I better enjoy my “down time”, because soon, there will be none of that anymore.
I hold my breath and grab the arm rests of my seat tightly, when the pilot attempts to land in gusty, icy conditions. Lots of turbulence. The plane shakes violently, seconds before hitting the tarmac. The brakes whine, while airborne ice chips and white flurry obstruct my view through the window. The pilot slams on the brakes a bit harder. Passengers simultaneously jerk forward. It is dead quiet in the cabin. When we come to a stop, I swear I can hear a communal sigh of relief. The world outside is white and inhospitable. One stress is immediately replaced by another. Will I be able to make the next shuttle bus, or will I have to wait an extra hour? Mark suggested to pick me up at Boston Airport, but I opted to take the hour-long bus ride. He drives into the city every day to visit his mom at the hospital, so I figured three hours of car time is enough for him. We don’t need to add another two today.
I shouldn’t have worried. Ten minutes after the plane lands, I am standing at what I think is the right door for my scheduled bus. Usually, we wait at the bus stop outside. This appears to be impossible now, based on the mass of passengers gathered inside. I know it is cold out. I checked the forecast. There is nobody to be seen in the icy surroundings, resembling the sidewalk and streets. I give it a try. I last three seconds. A cold blast hits my unprotected face. Tears run down my cheeks and I lose the ability to breath. I’m happy for my dawn coat and fleece hat, but it is my hiking shoes that swiftly guide me back inside.
I went from 73°F (23°C) to -10°F (-23°C) in one day. I can’t say I like it. But, I don’t trust this is the right place to wait for my bus, so every now and then, I sprint back outside and as quickly back inside. Sorry, people. I’m a weird one! And, I’m not from around here. It is during one of these random checks, that I notice a big bus, its sides all frosty white. What does it say? As I approach the vehicle, I decipher the decals: it is the one bringing passengers to Newburyport, my destination! Soon, I’m back at my New England base, the “room above the garage”. I reunite with my husband and, after a quiet, plane-free night, am ready to shift my focus to full-time care of my parents-in-law.
Have you ever had to drop everything to take care of someone? How did it go?