At the Airport
Donald R. Fletcher, author
“I don’t need to put on the mask. I’m not going.”
How could any of us have anticipated that? From the time that we kids, any of us, were old enough to understand, when there was a decision to make, Mom and Dad would talk about it and look at it from every angle, and then jointly decide. This time, however, when it began to be clear that for Mom’s sake, she and Dad needed to find a retirement home with continuing care, where they would be served dinner with other residents, in pleasant surroundings; where there would be skilled nursing available in another wing under the same roof, whenever they might need it; Dad had selected the place and gone ahead to make arrangements. All was set, and we were at the airport to see Mom off.
She dug in her heels. She had never done that. The flight had been called, and passengers were lining up, but she just folded her hands in her lap, with her boarding pass in one hand and photo ID in the other, and declared, “No, I’m not going.”
I said to my sister and brother, “Just keep it low-keyed.” Then I said to her, “Sure, Mom, it’s a change; but in your life together, you and Dad have made some big changes, always to the good. You’re going to like the place Dad has picked out, once you’re there.”
“Fine,” she said. “He can stay there, if he has to; and he can like it. I’m not going.”
All the other passengers had gone through the gate and disappeared down the passageway. Ted went over to speak to the despatcher, who was looking our way and making an urgent motion. Jenny motioned back to her with a helpless shrug. Mom kept her seat, with her hands firmly closed.
It seemed an eternity before Ted came back, finally, and said to Mom,
“All right; I told the agent that you are not well, and she said that yes, she could see that and she’s known people with this sort of difficulty before. She’ll report that, so that the flight can leave.”
I felt totally chagrined—and alarmed, too. We got Mom in the car, and Ted was trying to get Dad on the phone to tell him what had happened—or had not happened. There seemed to be some confusion. Finally, he got through to a person in authority, and he put his phone in speaker mode, so that we could all hear as the person spoke:
“Mr. Jamison, I’m glad to reach you. We had known that your mother would be coming to join your father here today, and we were, of course, very pleased about that. But I have to tell you that last night your father began to experience symptoms of the virus, of COVID-19. We moved him immediately into isolation; but this morning the symptoms were more acute. He is in the ICU at the hospital and has been put on a ventilator. No visits are possible. The doctor says that at your father’s age and with the lung problem that I believe you know of, the outlook is very serious.
Mom said, “I’m going. ‘No visits’; but I need to be near him.”
I embraced her. “Mom, I’ll go with you. We’ll look after Dad together.”
Author Notes: At age 101, after publishing nine books, Don Fletcher is writing flash fiction and short prose pieces.