Today was an extraordinarily long day. Twelve hours felt like twenty-four.
My day started in Washington, D.C., where I spent the last several days at a work conference. It was excellent and I’m glad I attended. This morning I had two sessions left to attend before making my way back to Rochester.
I woke up in the hotel room and thought about my friend, Belinda. This morning she was scheduled for cataract surgery. Belinda authors her own blog, LosingVisionGainingInsight. It’s about her journey with vision loss. So, I said a little prayer for a successful surgery.
Next I checked my Blackberry for new email. The first thing I see are two emails about my old friend, Tom Coffey. I wrote about Tom in Magic Carpet Ride just last week. The news wasn’t good. Tom passed away on Saturday at age 63. I read the messages several times. I stared at the words on the screen in disbelief. One of my contemporaries. How could this be? I am not sure if I felt genuine grief over losing Tom or a combination of loss and the grim reminder of my mortality. There are no calling hours. Wednesday morning I will join many friends at his funeral mass. Most of these friends I see only at weddings or funerals. Sad that life goes that way as we grow older.
I found my mind wandering in my last two learning sessions. I was remembering the “good old days.” I kept thinking about Joan, Tom’s wife and my very dear friend. All the laughter and good times we shared. I thought about Joan and Tom’s three grown sons and their families. I tried to picture them together in Joan’s house, talking about their Dad, sharing stories from their lives. The first few days after a death, we seem to find comfort in the retelling of life stories. The real grief comes later, after the events surrounding death and burial. I prayed for all of them. What will I say to my friend, Joan, when I see her? My lifelong friend, my “Little Joe” pal. I am anxious to see her.
By 1 p.m. today, my colleagues and I left for Reagan National Airport. Our flight was not scheduled to leave until 3:45 p.m. Our hotel was in the Capitol district and just minutes from the airport. We were there in no time. We checked in and grabbed some lunch, eager to get home.
When we arrived at our gate, a good forty minutes before our scheduled departure, there was an announcement. Airline maintenance was checking our plane due to mechanical problems. They would get back to us in ten minutes with an update. Ten minutes turned to fifteen and then twenty. The departure time changed. Now it was forty minutes. Another announcement. The airline decided we needed a different plane. That was good news — I’d rather hear that while I’m still at the gate and not on the plane. Unfortunately, our plane was flying around somewhere and we had to wait for it to land in D.C.
After what seemed a longer time than it actually was, we boarded just after 6 p.m. We sat on the tarmac for some time but eventually took flight. It was a typical commuter plane. Not the best craft for a claustrophobic overweight woman, but I’ve learned to talk myself into feeling okay about it. All was fine until we began the descent into Rochester. The pilot informed us the wind was gusting at 50 miles per hour. We should expect turbulence. I’ve experienced turbulence many times. On a small plane it makes me think of those wooden toy airplanes that used to cost ten cents when I was a kid. They came in a plastic wrapper in two pieces — the body of the plane and the wings.
I already had a headache. The words on the page of my book began dancing. Things started spinning. I put my bookmark in place and closed my book. I put my head back, closed my eyes and took several deep breaths. Breathe in, breathe out. A wave of nausea floated over me. It got worse by the minute. I felt instant regret that I ate the peanuts at the US Airways club, after the steak sandwich I wolfed down at lunch. UGH! Too much Diet Coke. I pulled the safety card from the seat pocket. I began fanning myself furiously. It didn’t help. So, I did what I always do when I think I’m going to vomit. I said Hail Mary’s in rapid succession! I’ve done that my entire life when I think I’m going to be sick. Even the Blessed Mother wasn’t listening! I decided to search for the barf bag in the pocket. The poor young woman in the seat next to me looked at me in horror. I apologized. More Hail Marys. Just a few more minutes — PLEASE! Head, stop spinning, swallow the mouthful of water that somehow keeps coming.
After what seemed like an hour (the total flight time), we were on the runway. Now I just had to make it through the landing. WHEW! My head was still spinning when everyone began the mad dash off the plane. I waited. The one and only flight attendant asked if I was ok. I pulled myself together and grabbed my bag. I walked slowly off the plane.
Frank was all smiles when he picked me up. He was full of chatter about his day and his weekend. I tried to act interested on the car ride home, but he almost sounded like the grown up in the Charlie Brown cartoons. Then I told him about Tom and Belinda. And about the long day. He listened quietly.
He opened the door to the house and sent me in while he retrieved my bag. He made me sit down and relax. I had a little something to eat and we watched some shows he had saved on DVR. It felt good.
I am partly unpacked and I’ve taken a nice warm shower. I’m ready to climb into my bed, freshly made with clean linens. Time for a little reading and prayer.
Thank goodness today is over.