March 3, 2014

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I got the phone call Saturday morning. “It’s probably time for you to come down.”

My dad was diagnosed with an aggressive lymphoma a month ago, and it’s been a slow downhill path ever since. There had been treatments and hospital stays and complications and consults, steps forward and steps back, but the end result was that my dad was being moved to ICU and the prognosis was increasingly grim. It was time to say goodbye.

My parents retired to Hattiesburg, Mississippi a decade or so ago, fleeing from harsh Michigan winters and higher retirement taxes. To go from here to there by car is a fifteen hour drive, and there was an ice storm moving through the Midwest; so my younger sister and I booked a last minute flight for Sunday morning.

Hattiesburg doesn’t have a major airport, and so we found ourselves on plane bound for New Orleans. It was two days until Mardi Gras, so we were lucky to get two seats on the same flight. The plane was full of happy people looking for a good time: a man In a garish purple and gold suit jacked sewn entirely from Crown Royale bags; a gang of thirtysomething women already booth-tanned and wearing sandals in the airport; a pair of twentysomething couples probably looking to make some memories before kids and careers took over their lives. But not us. We were flying south to say goodbye.

The flight itself was uneventful. We flew out of snowy, eleven degree Detroit and landed two hours later in balmy, seventy-four degree New Orleans, where my older sister met us. The baggage concourse at Louis Armstrong International Airport hosted the first time in more than five years that we three siblings had been in a room together. Given the circumstances, it wasn’t a happy reunion.

The hour drive from New Orleans to Hattiesburg was uneventful. We didn’t talk too much about my dad, instead just catching up and enjoying each other’s company. It was a pleasant calm before the emotional storm that was sure to follow when we reached our destination.

(Obviously not finished. I’m writing this at 4am in the ICU. More to come.)


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