Day One: September 8, 2009
The quick but stunning 25-minute, commuter flight from Bellingham over the San Juan Islands into Seattle was on time and worry-free. When we arrived in Seattle a motor cart met us on the tarmac. For over a year Mike has been taking full and eager advantage of the wheelchair service. They cheerfully pick him up and deliver him to his connecting gate. At the Seattle airport, I took advantage of a walk-in pedicure—a dollar a minute—at Butters of London conveniently located opposite our arrival gate. After seventeen minutes, I admired my fresh red toenail polish and decided, this would be our best trip ever. Confidence, that’s the name of the game. I’d thought of everything, designed a worry-free trip and covered all our bases. I stopped at the Ivers kiosk and picked up something hot to go with the sandwiches I packed along with my traveling pepper grinder, a whole lemon and a zester. Just in case.
With two steaming cups of clam chowder to-go and a package of crackers for Mike, I hustled on to concourse D. Mike would be so pleased that I remembered the crackers. Sweet.
Our flight from Seattle to Minneapolis was almost uneventful. But because we purchased Mike’s ticket so late, we had to take what was left for seating. We were lucky to be in the same row. Unfortunately, Mike was in the E seat—pickle in the middle, which made him a really anxious pickle for the entire three-plus hours of flying. As a result he made several urgent trips to the lavatory, thirty rows behind us. First strange bathroom.
On the plane we discussed the upcoming two weeks.
“I know it’s important for you to see your family,” Mike said. “And, I’m really content to follow you around, while you do it. But, please, make sure I’m settled someplace before you start popping around in ten different directions.”
“Okay,” I assured him. “I think it will be fairly simple. We’ll go to Geoffrey’s, wait for the baby to come, then down to Sarah’s and stay there till we leave. Maybe we could come back up to the city for one night before our flight home so we can see the other grandchildren”
We landed safely in Minneapolis at 5:50 p.m. and encountered our first snag. My son, Geoffrey, the soon-to-be-father (for the second time), was scheduled to pick us up at the airport. However, that night he was teaching his first class at the U of M law school and would be late. Late wouldn’t be an issue for folks who don’t have Parkinson’s. In the old days, we’d turn this moment into a date. But this was not the old days.
Two problems came into focus. Number one, Mike took his Sinemet on the plane at 5:15, so he needed food almost immediately; elusive food, like distant bathrooms, makes him anxious. In addition, his medications will lose their effectiveness without food at the proper time ideally 45 minutes to one hour after meds. The worst possible scenario would be that he would stiffen up and be unable to move.
“Well, I have an idea, Mike,” I suggested in my best cheerleader voice. “This might be really fun. I’ll get our bags and then, we could go upstairs to one of those restaurants and have a nice dinner while we wait for Geoffrey?” Here came problem number two. Mike looked at me, sad and tired, like he was going to fall over and go to sleep right there for the night, on the bench, at baggage claim carousel #13. Rightly so, we’d been up since 4:30 a.m. His body required food and sleep.
What had I done? Pushing the envelope. And he had been so willing to make the effort. Maybe he really couldn’t handle this travel business anymore. Maybe I couldn’t either. And this was only day one with thirteen days left.