We had to fight hurricane Nate to get back to Austin. The flight from London Heathrow took us 10 hours 45 minutes. By far the longest UK to Austin flight I have ever had.
The flight was full and in economy the seats are about 12 inches apart, even less than that when the seat in front reclines back into your lap.
My heart sunk when, within minutes of take off, the seat in front of me jerked back into my face. Since it was a day flight I had hoped to avoid the claustrophobic squeezing.
Things look up when, after 20 minutes, due to my husbands frequent flyer status we are brought glasses of champagne. I sip mine slowly, still disoriented about time. Is this a lunchtime or morning drink? I only drink alcohol in the morning on Christmas day.
The thought of Christmas makes me think of my daughter and I trekking along the underground walkways to the B gates lounge both in tears. My husband and son had gone off to the first class lounge leaving us to window shop in the expensive stores.
We were making our way to the gates when my daughter started saying how unfair it was that she only got 14 years with gran. Then she started sobbing
‘I was so mean to Gran last Christmas’. This is hard to simply deny, as she had heard my mum, in her typical overdramatic way, say my kids ‘didn’t love her’ because they hid in their room and refused to go on outings.
This is the horrible thing about death, it makes an arbitrary slice across your life. What normal 14 year old girl wants to hang around with their grandmother? That’s for earlier or later. Not bang in the middle of teenage angst. But there is to be no later and now my daughter is sobbing.
What can I say to her? I am wrestling with my own regret that I didn’t push harder for effective treatment for my mum’s cancer. That on two days in the last couple of months I lost track of time and forgot to FaceTime her. However, I do know that my mum knew my daughter loved her and that since my mum became ill my daughter has been amazing, attentive, loving, funny, thoughtful, way beyond her years.
I also know that the Christmas trip also contained times when my daughter was lovely to mum playing board games, feeding turtles and taking photographs of Christmas lights with her. I remnd my daughter of all of this.
We hug and wipe each others tears and head to the Starbucks by B gates. However, I can tell she’s still not feeling right when she only wants tap water. Nothing stops me having coffee! I’m really grateful for this time one on one with my daughter. Its been so busy with so many people to cram in to see in our brief three days in the UK, that she hasn’t had the support she needs.
I sip my cappuccino and marshal my thoughts. How can I comfort her? I know that we have only limited control over the events life throws at us. People die, we get hurt. But I do firmly believe we have a large amount of control in how we think about those events.
‘You can chose to think about the good times with your gran or the bad ones, angel’
‘Those events that you replay in your mind will linger longer. Give the good thoughts the room. The time playing upwords or helping her with her computer. You can learn from the bad stuff and move on or keep the wound open by reliving the bad parts.’
I realise I’m taking as much for my benefit as hers. Consciously reminding myself of the Cognitive Behaviour Self management that has helped me so much over the years.
Back on the plane, the thin spectacled man in front has got up and I put the champagne glass down on the seat-back table. I’m just sitting there, lost in thought, when, without looking he crashes back down into his seat, pushing it into my face and sending my glass flying: drenching me in champagne. I look down at my top, (another one I’ve aquired of mum’s: expensive and grey) it’s dripping through to my skin and black with moisture. The man doesn’t get up but mumbles as I stand up spraying droplets.
‘Look what you have done’ I fume at him..
He looks at his lap. I don’t know what to do. We checked all our baggage so I have nothing to change into and there are 9 more hours of this endless flight to go.
A kind air stewardess appears. She says that she is certain they have a spare pyjama top in First Class. When she reappears with one all smartly tied up with ribbon she tells me to bring her my top when I have changed and she will use cleaning wipes and hang it to dry.
Back home in Austin now, sorting out my clothes, I look at mum’s grey top all dry and fine now and next to it the First Class pyjama top the air stewardess gave me. The first class top looks exclusive black, really soft, large, long sleved and so comfortable. ‘I got lucky getting that’ I think and banish all thoughts of the silly young man who drenched me. The flight might have been long, but life is too short.