As Mother’s Day approaches, I cannot help but think back to this time 9 years ago. I was in Illinois, doing a musical, finally living my dream.
I was also living a nightmare.
My mother was dying.
I was flying back each week on my off days to Texas to spend precious hours with her. This was not an uncomplicated process. The city I was in was fairly small. Though it had what they called an “International” airport (Hah!), I had to fly to Atlanta to get a connecting flight that would take me to Houston.
I’d fly out on the earliest possible flight on Monday morning, get to Houston around 12:30 PM or so, grab my carry-on, race off the plane and out of the terminal, catch the shuttle to get to the rental car place, get a rental car and drive the 40 minutes across town to my parents’ house. I could usually be in front of my Mom by 3 PM. I’d leave the earliest flight possible the next morning and do the same in reverse to get back just in time to go to the theatre for our first show of the week on Tuesday night. It was a lot of travel, but God, was it worth it.
Though my spirit and body was being fueled by every possible ounce of hope my heart could drum up, I still knew on some level that I had a limited amount of time left with my Mom. After all, she had lung cancer (this after having survived colon cancer) and had been through two rounds of radiation and two rounds of chemo only to be told that there was nothing else to be done. (Such is the way with that bastard, cancer.)
So any delay or problem with either flight heading to Houston was an agonizing torment.
There were more than a few times there were issues on those crucial flights to Houston. I recall most particularly one flight where the Atlanta-Houston flight was delayed. Then, after finally boarding, we were told that there was some issue with the plane – we had to get off again and await another. Oh, the rage and the desperation I felt!
I marched off that plane, demanding answers from Customer Service, operating in my Survival Mode – a steely cold exterior that surrounds a high-level swirling hysterical interior:
I had to get to Houston ASAP. What was the issue? How could they do this? What were they going to do to solve the problem any faster? What was their f’ing problem?
I don’t remember the reason they gave. They were not especially receptive, and in retrospect I understand why. My Survival Mode comes off as bitchy hysteria. I get it now. But then, it felt as if the whole world was just simply cruel.
After walking away in a mix of shocked shame and guilt at having gone into bitch mode publicly (shame and guilt at such out loud behavior being the response genetically engineered by my “good girl” Southern and Protestant-ly tinged upbringing), I burst into silent, hot-red fury tears.
I did eventually get to Houston that day. But I still want back those two or so hours that Air Trans cheated my Mom and me out of.
If there were issues on either flight heading back to Illinois, that was a different kind of hell. When you are a recovering perfectionist such as I, and a Betty-By-The-Book type of personality, it is simply not an option to not do a show.
Once, leaving Houston, I got to the airport to find that the weather in Atlanta was totally screwed up. No flights in or out there. I ended up buying a ticket on Delta leaving out of another Houston airport. I cried in silent outrage in a taxi to the other airport, flew to Chicago, rented a car and drove at unlawful speeds the hour and half drive back to the city to get to the theatre by call. I made it, too.
Hell hath no fury like a daughter grieved.
Part 3 to come.