Saturday, August 7, 2010

Day Minus 181 (Sep 9, 2009): Keeping up with the Joneses (Part 5): Houston - We've Landed

“Houston we’ve landed” I said as soon as we touched down. You fished your cell phone out of the front pocket of your shorts. I thought you were going to behave and wait for the official announcement before you turned on your phone, but you didn’t. You went right ahead like you owned the frequency and lives weren’t at stake. I said, “You’re going to H E double toothpicks for that.” But then shut up so others could hear the announcement for real.

While I powered on my phone (when I was really supposed to) you speed texted Katie first, then Morgan. I called Dad because it was a little after ten in Virginia and didn’t want to call him too late so he could get some sleep. I DID NOT text or call Aunt Chihuahua (Janiene). She could wait until we got to the hotel. Besides, my stomach was in knots. You knew how I hated driving in a new place at night.

It was a little after eight in Houston and was getting dark. And I’d only driven in Houston on the trip last April, over six months ago. The one where we found out you were cancer free. Me, you, and Aunt Janiene had so much fun. Remember the big a**ed 3D glasses we had to wear to watch the 3D movie about the sharks at Moody Gardens. You and Aunt Janiene looked so stupid. (I have pictures, so don’t make me mad.) We were so tired. We fell asleep during the movie because it was so boring. I told you to talk to the hand, when you complained, because you picked it. Not me! Not Aunt Janiene! It was all you.

Anyway, the knots in my stomach were so bad I swear they had a pulse, so I shifted in my seat like I had hemorrhoids. You didn’t notice because you were still going back and forth texting Katie. I checked for my license so I’d be set to rent the car while the plane taxied to the gate. I double and triple-checked to make sure I put my iPod back in my purse. I would have been pissed if I forgot it because I still had about twenty more minutes left on my book, The Reader. Plus, my iPod was my respite from the insanity of our lives.

We got through George Bush International in record time because we’d gotten smarter about where to make our bathroom pit stop. Our record time, didn’t really matter because we got a little lost finding the way to ground transportation since we were at a different terminal. This time, we flew Continental because they would only charge the difference in the flight price rather than a penalty like United did. We learned that lesson the hard way when you and Dad flew to Houston last February, expecting to stay a week, only it lasted eight weeks. But Continental’s flexibility with MD Anderson patients wasn’t any help now. A nice middle-aged man directing people to shuttles was.

Once we got to the car rental shuttle stop, I bragged, “Wasn’t it a good idea to pack light so we could just do carry on.” You smiled a little, but were getting tired. So was I. We’d both worked that morning. I only worked a couple of hours. You worked nearly eight. I kept looking for the shuttle and worried that we were in the wrong spot because six of those Parking Spot yellow and black spotted buses had gone by and we were the only people standing at the rental stop.

When our shuttle came, there was another one right behind it, like they had to travel in pairs. We both rolled our eyes and sighed.  At least we were getting closer to our objective: get car, drive to the hotel, go to Krogers for snacks and Diet Mountain Dew, and get some sleep.

When we got to the Enterprise desk, I made sure they added a GPS, since Dad took ours home. We also learned that you didn’t need me to rent the car because you were a patient of MD Anderson. I offered to let you be the driver, but you said, “Next time.”

Some chipper Enterprise Agent offered us our choice of cars as long as it was a Hyundai. I don’t think the Agent realized what he said. You kind of smirked and pointed to the silver one. While I was checking for dings and dents, you programmed the GPS for the hotel. I signed the agreement and handed it to you to hold on to.

“The car is already started, I told you.” You said it calmly, but I wasn’t. I yelled something like I didn’t hear what you said, being tired, not being an idiot, making many trips over the years on my own all over the world, and yada yada.

“Are you okay Mom? I was just trying to help.” I stared out the windshield and wished Dad were here so I didn’t have to drive at night and be alone if the treatment wasn't working. I knew he was stressed about work, grandma, and us.  I didn't care.  I wanted him with us.

“Sorry. I’m just tired.” I said with a sigh.   

“Take your time and get comfortable. Adjust your mirrors and seat first.” You meant it in a nice way, not a patronizing way. But I was still super annoyed.  At least you didn’t start singing, It’s All Right, like you had so many times today. I would have gone postal on you. Cancer and treatments would be one word – IRRELEVANT.

We headed out of the garage onto the frontage road. I drove slowly waiting for the GPS to pick up a signal. Meanwhile, you waffled between knowing the way without GPS “Go to 59 South then to 288” and calling Dad. But you wouldn’t commit. I told you to call Dad then you said, “No wait, it’s picking up a signal.” But it was taking forever.
It was really dark on the frontage roads. I wasn’t familiar with the car, so I was fumbling with the turn signal, then I turned on the high beams, then I couldn’t figure out how to turn them off. I made a U Turn and parked in an unlit parking lot, probably where something illegal was going on, maybe even something like a body dump. And had a meltdown until the GPS picked up a signal. By then you had Dad on the phone, your lifeline, to talk me off the cliff.

Dad said, “I love you Nance. It will be fine. Call when you get the room. And to Behave.” I started to breathe like a normal person.

It finally hit me. All this was not about getting to the damn hotel room. This was really is about trust and faith. Trust in the play-by-play of the directions from the Garmin chick, you, the doctors, and myself. Faith in getting to the final destination from the hotel room, a remission, or even eternity. 

“I hate you.” I said, giving you the bird. You laughed and so did I.  After that, we worked like a team. That's all it took to make you my favorite travel buddy again. I trusted your navigation skills with your early warnings for turns and exits from our rental Garmin chick. I had faith that we'd make it to our final destination for the night - The Residence Inn by Marriott. We were keeping up with the Joneses.  

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