On Monday we got word that my folks had made it to Florida, only to have it fall apart on the first step to the house. My Mom fractured her femur. The bone specialist who had outfitted Mom with a titanium rod when she fractured her hip a few years ago had outlined a rather bleak prognosis: The next bone to go would be her femur, right below the rod. Seems titanium doesn't give way, so the next tumble on the left side would mean a break south of the rod.
And so it happened.
And I'm 500 miles away in Georgia, and my sisters are 1000 miles away in Michigan.
What to do? What to do?
And my Dad, my dear Dad, as good-hearted a guy as ever there was, is worried out of his mind and shuttling between a house in the Florida Keys that he hasn't even moved into and a hospital in downtown Miami, 100 miles away.
Thursday morning I enjoyed brunch with a bunch of women I have known for two decades. Some are older than I am; some are younger. The older ones have been where I am now -- concerned about aging parents -- and every last one of them said go.
Friday was a whirlwind of laundry, shopping, emails, phone calls, thinking through a daunting To Do list. How will the boys get to swimming? What's easy to cook? Car-pools, field trips, basketball, school uniforms. As I learned when I was a teacher, it is far, far easier to live your own life than to get twelve other people to live it for you.
Friday night I took a three hour break from mad preparations to enjoy The Nutcracker with my sweet daughter who dressed in purple taffeta and was flat out mesmerized by the falling snowflakes and the dazzling leaps and spins.
A magical night.
And I needed a little magic to get me through the rest of the night. John started coughing and clutching his ear. He walked through the living room crying and bashed his mouth into the treadmill. Out came the tooth that's been hanging on by a thread. As if that weren't enough, he had left his glasses on the floor, and Ainsley oh-so-helpfully crushed them. Poor John spent half the night holding his ear.
So Saturday dawned with Kelly headed for the Florida Keys and Dave headed for the pediatrician and the optometrist. As we gathered bags and glasses, Tim came up with his specs in two pieces. Hey, we were already headed to Penney's with John. That's Dolin efficiency at its best!
We were minutes from heading out the door when I got the call from my sister. Dad's defibrillator was firing, and an ambulance was headed to his house.
Life brings with it moments when the key is simply to draw the next breath, to take the next step.
My flight out of Augusta was delayed because of weather. We arrived in Charlotte a half hour late and then sat at the gate for, hmmm, eternity, I do believe. E-t-e-r-n-i-ty!
I landed in E22 and was headed for C19 -- an easy 5K, I am certain. So I attempted to do the O.J. Simpson through the airport. Readers might remember that in between football fame and infamy, O.J. Simpson was the spokesman for Hertz Rental Car. Commercials always showed him sprinting through the airport. The Juice, I am sure, had the good sense to don sensible shoes. Of course, O.J. also traveled in the days before 9/11, so no one was insisting he remove those sensible shoes. I, however, was wearing sandals -- easy on, easy off. Great for security. But sprints through three successive concourses? Not so much.
I pulled them off and hauled.
You know, I've been meaning to start running again, but whoa!, this about knocked me out. Surely we didn't need to defibrillate a second family member.
I arrived at the gate utterly spent but encouraged to see the plane had not yet pushed back.
The gate agent quickly burst my bubble. "Sorry, ma'am. You just missed it."
I gave them the spiel: My mother is in one hospital; my father is in another. I've just run from E-24. E-24! Please, please ask.
Oh, both agents were as nice as they could be as they re-booked my flight, and I literally stood hunched over panting for breath. I watched the Jetway retract. The first gate agent began to brief me on the next available flight.
And I didn't listen.
I prayed and prayed and prayed.
Catholics call Mary The Undoer of Knots. I asked Mary to intercede for the whole complicated affair.
The Jetway un-retracted.
Is un-retracted an actual verb? If it's not, I'm coining it right here and now. The Jetway un-retracted, re-attached to the plane. As the gate agent handed me my new flight arrangements, his telephone rang.
"You're on the flight!"
As I walked down the re-attached Jetway, I spotted the second gate agent who obviously had contacted the pilot and pleaded my case.
And I started to cry.
All the stress of my 5K through the airport and packing and leaving and John crying and miserable and who knows? who knows? where my parents are headed -- and one kind stranger had made it all a few hours more bearable. She didn't mend my Mom's broken femur or straighten out Dad's funky rhythms, but she was kind, and her kindness lightened a heavy load.
I was grateful, so very grateful.
And I knew that I knew that I knew that a legion of friends were praying for me, for my Mom, for my Dad.
I made my way through nearly entire plane, tears coursing down my face, to seat 22B.
In the midst of it all, I asked God for a word of encouragement. I cracked open my prayer book and looked down to find Psalm 73: 25, 26:
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there in none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Flesh and heart are failing left and right. Who knows where my parents are headed?