I feel in reserve. I am sitting in a B&B drinking coffee. It’s seven a.m. We need to figure out how to get a Pizza Hut pizza to Dave’s grandmother before her normal lunchtime of 11:30. Pizza Hut opens at 11. Grandmother expects to go out, but after spending the day with her yesterday, neither of us feels up to the task. After much hemming and hawing I finally told her, “I’m sorry we’re not more confident about getting you in and out of the car. We don’t want you to fall,” but she ignored that, or didn’t hear it, or revised it into something else.
She doesn’t remember she has a son named George (Dave’s dad), but she knows all about another man named George. He was stolen from the family when he was very small by the couple in the picture (Dave’s parents), who travelled around from state to state to avoid capture. The upside was, this George got an excellent education (true enough). She told us, “They pretend it’s not there, but there’s a seventh floor, and if you go up there, and he’s there, why, he’ll let you in. But if he’s not there, he won’t let you in. And he lives there in majesty with his mother. It’s just his mother and him, they don’t have anyone else. And every now and then I can hear him sing. It’s wonderful.”
Yesterday we flew in on a small jet, the kind with two seats on one side and one seat on the other. Just before we took off I said to Dave, “Next time we book a flight, remind me that I never want to fly a plane this small again.” Dave looked annoyed. “There are so many things we’re always supposed to remember for next time.”
The take-off was so smooth that after an hour in the air I almost said, “Take small planes off my list, this is great,” but five minutes later we started bumping and hurtling through space. Suddenly I could feel the speed we were moving at, in the rattle of my seat and in my chattering teeth. I realized that one of the things I take for granted about flying is that you rarely feel like you’re actually moving.
I couldn’t tell whether this was normal turbulence or pieces of the plane falling off. I looked down the aisle and the flight attendant was sitting in her jump-seat. I gripped Dave’s leg and he covered my hand with his. Other passengers were looking straight ahead but no one was screaming. I saw these things in snatches because I was slightly less nauseous with my eyes closed. I wasn’t so much afraid of dying as I was that I might need to take some kind of action and not be able to because of nausea.
Dave was trying to read his iPhone, but as the plane lurched like a wagon down a mountainside, he raised his eyebrows at me and turned to the window. I shrieked, “Is something happening?” But the plane noise was so loud even I couldn’t hear myself. I shut my eyes again. A few minutes later, the flight attendant announced, “The captain has begun the final descent into Wichita. Please make sure your tray tables are stowed and your seat backs etc., etc.” We landed smoothly and no one clapped, so I knew it wasn’t a big deal.
As we walked to Dollar Rent-a-Car, Dave surmised that we’d been moving through storm turbulence and the captain probably descended more quickly than usual to get us out of it. I decided that after the return flight, I will never fly again. Unless it’s somewhere I really want to be. But I’ve decided that before, and I always forget.
We spent an hour in Wichita, bracing for the final bit of the journey. Dave shopped for a gift for Grandmother while I got my nails done. On the way out of town we saw a billboard for a motivational conference. Is Self meant to be the target customer before all the motivating, or after? Doesn’t Self know we’re all going to end up in old age homes, those who survive cancer and other tragedies, wheeling around the social room as we wait for five o’clock dinner, trying to steal the red slippers off a neighbor or trash-talking the only resident who seems to smile consistently? “I don’t know if her family sends her money from China or she’s just here for the freebies.”
We called Pizza Hut and they told us to be in the drive through at 11:10. By the time we get to Grandmother’s the pizza will be cold, and she’ll still wonder why we aren’t taking her out. Come on, Self. One more day. If Cosby and Giuliani can do it, Self can do it, too.