His flight came in at 11:26 a.m. — a few minutes late. I was waiting in the cell phone lot. I’d told him to call when he got to baggage claim. We’d discussed baggage claim at length the other night, when I said that even though he wouldn’t have checked bags, the airport would route passengers through baggage claim. After about 10 minutes of discussion, he told me that even though you don’t check any bags, they route you through baggage claim.
So it was clear he was going to baggage claim. Once I knew his plane landed, I waited 20 minutes. He’s severely hunched over and he shuffles his feet, so he moves slowly. I gave him another 10 minutes. By 30 minutes, he has to be at baggage claim, I thought. He must be. I called his cell phone, which I’d instructed him to leave on. Right to voice mail. I still wasn’t worried, because the last time he went through the airport, he’d left his cell phone off. Forty-five minutes, no call. Maybe if I just swing by Arrivals, he’ll be there, I thought. So I did, scanning the sidewalk carefully, looking for anyone with a significant hunch. No dice.
By this time, I started to panic. My husband and I had talked about how, with two shattered vertebrae, he might not survive turbulence during the flight. Maybe something happened, and the airline didn’t have my contact info. I called Delta Airlines. They told me that the plane landed, which I knew because I checked it online, and that I could have him paged at the airport. “Can you connect me?” I asked. She said no, I’d have to go up to the counter and ask.
By this time, an hour had passed. If he got off the plane, even with his old man shuffle, he’d be at arrivals by now. I headed out of the lot, and my phone rang. I skidded into a parking space. It was a local number. Oh, no, the cops, I thought. He’s dead and I’m gonna have to fly his corpse back to New York.
“Maria?” came his voice from the other end of the call. “I’m here. I’m at arrivals, by the…well, I don’t see a desk right here, but I’ll be waiting outside by Delta.”
“Ok, I’ll be right there,” I said.
“How long? I can hardly hear anything.”
I yelled, “FIVE MINUTES!”
“What? Well, I’ll be here.”
I headed back toward Arrivals. Again, I cruised the sidewalk, but saw no sign of him. And then I thought, he said there was no desk by him. If he’s looking at desks, he’s at Departures.
So I circled around and cruised departures. There he was, under the Delta sign. I got out of the car, “DAD!” I yelled. “DAD!” He just continued to gaze straight ahead. I walked up to him. He offered a feeble hug.
“My cell phone went dead. I don’t know what was wrong with it. I charged it last week,” he said. “I called you from a payphone.”
Where’d he find a pay phone? I wondered. We loaded up his bags and got in the car. “I was waiting for you,” he said to his lap. His head hangs permanently toward the ground.
“Yes, I was waiting for you. You were supposed to call, and you told me you were at Arrivals.”
I repeated, in my child reprimand voice.
“I WAS at arrivals,” he said.
Oh, Lord, can I get him declared incompetent for this? “No, you were at Departures.” Didn’t he notice that people were being dropped off, not picked up?
“Yes, Dad. That was Departures. That’s why the check-in desks were there,” I said.
We drove a few minutes. “I woke up at four in the morning, and I almost didn’t wake up. Both of my alarm clocks were so quiet.”
“You know, Dad, you say you don’t want a hearing aid, but you can’t hear alarm clocks, you couldn’t hear me on the phone, and you didn’t hear me talk just now.”
“Those alarms were always quiet,” he said.
“They don’t make quiet alarms,” I said. “Even so, you couldn’t hear them.”
“Well, the hearing aids you can’t see just magnify everything.”
Well, yeah! “Yeah, Dad. That’s what your phone does.”
“What? The ones that really work are the ones behind your ear,” he said. He’s got a permanent hunch and he’s worried about vanity?
The conversation ended, because when I looked over a few seconds later, he was asleep.
During the 30-min. drive, he woke up a couple of times to see the Seattle skyline and ask about the kids’ schedules. We picked up the kids and he was asleep. My son, who usually falls asleep in the car, didn’t, because my dad was in the car, and that was too exciting to bear. When we got home, we had lunch and then my dad fell asleep, sitting up, on my couch, for the next 2 hours. The kids were running around screaming, and even my son’s shrieks didn’t register. Eventually I got my son down for a nap, then my daughter’s friends came over so I had some “me” time while they played. I got to read a real grownup book. If he’s come to visit so he can sleep here, we’re in for a very relaxing weekend. AND I get two or three more blog topics. Woohoo!