It’s funny sometimes how the mind works.
The youngest child graduated from high school in May 2013. My parents, who live in Virginia, came to California to witness the educational milestone. It was their first trip to California since Jill and I got married in July 2005. My parents determined then that they would fly everyone back to Virginia to see them. The first to take up the offer was the youngest child, who flew there with her boyfriend on the redeye on Christmas Day. The return journey was Saturday.
The youngest child’s first cross-country flights were also to visit my parents, only she was an infant at the time.
Things went well on the flight from California to Virginia. The visit itself was hectic, what with three young children in tow. There were the obligatory visits with family – those beyond my parents – to introduce all the kids to the East Coast clan. I have what’s now a treasured photo of my Bema – my mother’s mother – sitting in a chair, holding the baby on her lap and leaning over to “chat” with her.
Bema is an interesting side note. Her name was Amy and her daughter’s name is Amy. My mother’s middle name is Jefferson (a family name. It’s a Southern thing), so in my family, my grandmother was known as Amy and my mother is known as Jeff. They also went by Big Amy and Little Amy in certain circles.
I didn’t understand the Amy and Jeff thing as a young child, but I got the concept that my grandmother was my big mom. I just couldn’t say it. Thus, Bema. The name stuck until the day she died. My mom and I still refer to her as Bema when we talk about her.
Back to the youngest child and that first family trip.
The flight from Virginia to California was every parent’s nightmare. It was also the nightmare of just about everyone else on the flight. We were seated in the back row of the plane. The youngest – you should know she was born four weeks early, pretty tiny at birth and was barely a normal newborn’s size at this point (we had her pediatrician’s blessing for the trip) – became violently ill maybe a third of the way into the nonstop flight from Dulles International Airport outside the nation’s capital to San Francisco International Airport.
There was screaming. There was projectile vomiting. She couldn’t keep anything down, fluids included. Dehydration was a real concern, beyond whatever was making her ill.
Members of the flight crew were great. They got word to the captain about the severity of the situation. At some point a decision was made to push through to San Francisco – and I mean push through.
We learned later that the captain got air traffic cleared ahead of us and pushed the jetliner at top speed for the final third of the flight. We landed something like 40 minutes ahead of our scheduled arrival time. Paramedics met the plane – as I recall, before it docked at the gate. The flight crew kept all the passengers seated so the paramedics could get the youngest child and take her off the plane, to the waiting ambulance and on to Oakland Children’s Hospital.
I corralled the other two children and made my way to the hospital in our car.
That was an experience. There were no iPhones then to provide turn-by-turn directions from the airport to the hospital: I had to find my way there the old-school way.
Turns out she was fine. It was some stomach something or other. The doctors gave her IV fluids and watched her for a few hours, then sent us on our way – for the four-hour drive home.
The technology that was lacking then allowed me to track Saturday’s flights on my cellphone. I was at work late Friday night, in part due to the homicide at Parkway Gardens, so was awake at 3 a.m. California time when she was heading to the airport in Richmond. I sent her a text message to wish her a safe flight, having just finished an awesome dinner that Jill left for me to reheat. I then did some editing, cleaned out my work email (that’s a whole column in itself) and unwound from the day as the caffeine from the three large iced teas I drank over the course of the night worked through my system.
I tracked the California-bound journey on my phone, first from Richmond to Atlanta – where it was clear they had to sprint from gate to gate to make the connecting flight (a fact later confirmed via text message) – and then into the air for the Atlanta to Sacramento run. Then I went to bed. I was awake a few hours later and the flight was nearly complete. I tracked it until the plane landed – a few minutes late – just after noon.
With that came in inward sigh, a flood of memories and then . . . this column.
Reach Managing Editor Glen Faison at 427-6925 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him in Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlenFaison.