Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Last-minute trip to Texas

It was around 4 p.m. Tuesday when Erin called my cell phone. I was still at work, wrapping up things for the day.

"There's a 7:30 flight to Houston. Should I book it? It's the last flight out of Nashville."

We knew we were going to have to fly to Houston sometime this week, most likely on Thursday. I had already talked to my boss and co-workers about taking care of the weekly newsletter on Wednesday before taking off the rest of the week on bereavement.

Earlier that day we got the call that Erin's grandfather passed away. His death didn't come as a shock--he was spending his final days in a hospice--we just thought it would happen closer to the weekend.

"Do you think we can make it?" I asked Erin over the phone.

I still had a good 40-minute drive ahead of me. But with a crippling snowstorm on track to hit Nashville starting at midnight Tuesday, this was going to be our only chance to get out of the mid-state in time for the funeral.

"Book the flight. I'm leaving work now," I said.

I arrived home at 5:30 to a scene of pandemonium. The house was a disaster. The TV was on, but no one was watching. Erin was frantically packing two suitcases while making last-minute arrangements with the American Airlines. Jacob and Dolly weren't even at the door to greet me like usual. Dolly was outside and Jacob was in our bedroom, tearing up paper into tiny pieces.

Before jumping into the frenzy, I took a moment to admire Jacob's ability to ignore his surroundings, completely preoccupied by the task at hand. Not once did he look up to say hi to me. Normally the 22-month-old would be adding to the stress by bringing attention to himself. But on this particular night of madness, he stayed out of our hair until it was ready to go. Dolly was picked up by some friends just before we left.

By 6 p.m. we were on the road. It was raining. Jacob was hungry. We hit traffic. But in spite of all that, we got to the airport, made it through security (grope free), grabbed some dinner and managed to board with 10 minutes to spare. I don't know how we did it, but we were in the air on our way to Texas before the snowstorm made its way to Tennessee.

Scratch that off the ol' bucket list.

Jacob was perfect the entire week. He didn't complain about going to bed at 11 p.m. after our flight to Dallas. He didn't complain about waking up at 4:30 the next morning to make our connecting flight to Houston. He didn't complain about sleeping five nights in pack 'n play, and he didn't wake up when we went to bed in the same room. He ate well, and he enjoyed playing with his cousin, Beau.

During the funeral, he stayed quiet and didn't try to squirm out of my arms, as if he knew it wasn't the time to act up. Toward the end, he caught a glimpse of Erin sitting with her family and belted out "mama!" He saw her crying and wanted to sit in her lap.

He made a great first impression with the family members and family friends he met for the first time.

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