Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dad's Turn

Remember when I took my mom to St. George last March?

Here's a refresher:

My parents live in a small home that is perfect for them. They have everything they need and almost everything they want, so when it's gift-giving time, it's hard to decide what to buy them.

Last November, I had a stroke of pure genius.

For Christmas 2013 (and as gifts for every gift-giving holiday in 2014 as well), I gave them each a card, explaining that more valuable to me than any possession are the memories I have made with them. I wanted to spend time with them, making memories and going somewhere that they would only dream of--anywhere they wanted to go, we would go. My treat.

Mom doesn't like to travel, but Dad does. We talked about places he might like to see, and I suggested the East Coast--Washington, DC and the surrounding area. He agreed.

Since my parents live in southern Idaho, we decided to meet in Salt Lake City, then fly out to Baltimore together. My flight left Phoenix at 6 am.

I've lived in Arizona for 19 years now, and I don't remember ever flying out of Sky Harbor when it was raining.
While I was waiting for the flight to board, texts began chiming on my phone--"Can you believe this storm?" "Wow! Did that thunder wake your family?" "What about the rain? And in the morning!"(Monsoon storms rarely come in the morning--usually in the late afternoon or evening.)

It was raining in Phoenix, but Mesa is 15 or so miles away, and I hadn't heard any of the commotion. When we got above the storm, I think I spotted Mesa under that huge thunderhead.

I always miss the best storms.
We had smooth air all the way to SLC, and as we flew over Kennicott Copper mine, the reality of the big adventure began to hit me. Dad and I were finally going on our trip!

I had a long layover before the next flight left (2 1/2 hours), so I rechecked my luggage and found a cozy seat next to an outlet where I could hunker down and wait for my dad. (Have you noticed that the technology age has changed which seats in the airport are valuable? Used to be those seats closest to the boarding gate were prime real estate; now the seats everyone fights over are next to an available outlet to charge phones, iPads, and laptops before long flights.)

I've only recently been converted to downloaded books--I know. Where have I been? I pulled out my iPad and "opened" my book. Before the end of the first chapter, I was completely hooked on Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and the airport and my dad and upcoming flight had been pushed to the back of my mind. Suddenly, the loudspeaker came to life, asking for one volunteer to give up their seat on the 11:40 flight to Baltimore. The announcement rousted me out of the Berlin Olympics and back to Salt Lake City.

I looked at my watch, and it was almost 11. Where was Dad?

I called his cell phone. No answer. I called Mom's phone. He had left in plenty of time. I called his phone again. Still no answer.

Now what?

I didn't want to fly without him. I approached the desk and asked if there were any way to see if he had checked his bags yet. The attendant tapped on the keyboard, reviewed the screen, and said that he had not checked bags yet. The loudspeaker crackled with the request to line up for boarding. I had an A boarding card!

Now what?

I decided there was no way he would make the flight, so I better make alternate arrangements. The next flight to Baltimore left in an hour, but it had a 3 1/2 hour layover in Denver, arriving at 12:30 am. Ugh. I really didn't want to do that, but I saw no other option. The attendant told me that our seats on the current flight would be reserved until the flight was boarded, so if Dad did magically appear, we could still be in Baltimore by 6 pm. If not . . .

One more call to his cell phone couldn't hurt, right? I dialed the number, hardly expecting it when he answered. He was at the check-in counter and the attendant was telling him that his flight had been changed to 12:30, but he knew that wasn't right. Oh. I knew what the problem was, and I could fix it.


The attendant at my desk quickly switched us back to our original flight, and I told Dad I would board the plane and save him a seat.

I got settled in the emergency exit row next to the window, the prime seat on the plane--how did I get so lucky?--and pulled out my iPad and Unbroken while I waited. Every few minutes I would glance up to see if Dad had boarded yet. The plane was filling up, and he still wasn't there. I called his phone again. He answered, slightly winded, saying he was at gate B6--almost to B15. It looked like he would make it.

The line of people walking down the aisle got thinner as the seats around me filled up. I kept telling people that the seat next to me was taken, but would it be?

Dad was the very last person on the plane.

I think my sigh of relief was audible to everyone.

After storing his carry-on bag above us, he flopped down next to me, cane in one hand and fanny pack in the other, red faced and drenched in sweat.

"Hi, Heber. I made it. Sorry I'm late."

While parking his car, he had been unable to find a parking space in one lot, so he was forced to park in a farther lot. Two suitcases are unwieldy, but when you throw a cane into the mix, it's a mess.

I quickly texted Mom that he was safely sitting beside me, and we were off.

I had been excited for our adventure, but I didn't think the adventure part would start in the airport in Salt Lake City--at departure.

Four hours later, we landed in Baltimore, got our rental car, checked into our hotel, and Dad's days of new experiences began. First on the list--dinner.

Brad and I went to Baltimore three years ago, and I knew just the place to eat. Phillips right on the water has amazing seafood. Softshell crab, shrimp with Old Bay seasoning, and crab cakes--just the first of the new culinary experiences Dad would have that weekend.
The crazy misadventure at the airport was behind us. A good night's rest, and we would be ready for the real adventures to begin.


  1. How fun that you got to take a trip with your dad! I lost my sweet daddy unexpectedly last spring at age 70. I would give anything for time like this with him!

    We live in Baltimore! I hope you enjoyed your visit to our part of the world.

  2. I love this trip idea. And LOVE unbroken. Such a great book.