Thursday, March 05, 2009

Snapshots: Way Beyond SADS

MORE than a little wing, there.

We’re at the Midway Park and Fly for an overnight check-in and Chris, a man-of-girth parking attendant, has lifted my carry-on to the shuttle.

"Wha’cha’ flying?" he asks FD.


"AirTran it is."

Yes, AirTran has wooed us away from American, at least when we fly south. And we do this so often that the Park and Fly knows our name. They reserve us a special angle parking spot against the garage, Aisle J.

I’ve blown off a Sunday full of patients and FD has a new baby in the hospital, so both of us have misgivings about the trip. But we’re Bubbie and Saba* and we have a job to do.

It’s supposedly snowing down south. We land and it’s not snowing. It’s driving snow. Someone up there is pelting us with snow. There is snow on the ground, at least two inches, and the kids in the row in front of us are saying, Yeah, we’re getting four inches, for sure. Maybe more.

This isn’t why Chicagoans fly south.

The city is up in arms, freaked out, at a standstill. They don’t own scrapers in the south. What’s a snow scraper?

They don’t know about salt. There are no in-service workshops teaching Streets and Sanitation that if you salt icy streets, magic, snow will melt.

I look out at the ground crew scratching their heads. A minivan with a miniscule plow at the bumper weakly pushes snow along the tarmac. "That’s what they use to plow runways," I crack to FD. He chuckles.

"So glad you’re in a good mood," I shoot back.

Our son picks us up from the train. The city has a nice public transportation system and you know I love trains. He looks good, our boy, as all young people look good to us, but he seems to look better than most. He tells us our granddaughter has her wish, this wish for snow, and I’m thinking . . .Marvelous, should have brought my skis. We pull into the driveway and there she is building a snowman with her aunt.

And everything changes.

The endorphins rush from the walls just seeing her. FD is out of the car in a flash, building a snowman, too, searching for a nose. Of weaker stuff, I slowly gather my things, wave to the kid, and head indoors to see her sibs and stretch out a bit. It's a long time in that sardine can they call an airplane.

These other grandchildren are edible, so I eat them, mostly visually, the camera snapping away. My beautiful daughter-in-law is laughing as I brush snow off my sleeve. She's apologizing. "We didn’t ask for the weather, honest, Mom, you have to believe me."

Sure I believe you. I continue to eat her children, three months old, six months in all. We do multiples in our family, not quite on the scale of the octuplets, but doubles aren’t that unusual. And for me, having had twins over thirty years ago, having one of these small people father very new multips--well, watching him and his lovely wife juggle the two of them, it’s déjà vu all over again.

They try to feed us, but we’re too busy with the entertainment.

None of us wants to go anywhere and there’s ICE out there, you know, and people can’t drive in this, some of it could be black ice. We're led to believe southern drivers are all homicidal maniacs; we believe what you tell us.

At some point FD thinks of the obvious way out of the cabin fever that has followed both of us from the airplane and gingerly suggests, "Let’s go to Target!" Well, this is an acceptable field trip, nearby, and there’s always room for diapers.

Before we go, my granddaughter reminds me that I'm supposed to make her warm milk and honey, some weird tradition she associates with me, so we do this. She’s sipping, searching her brain. "Remember those kids at your house. . ."

"Your cousins! Yes! We’re all going to be together again soon, for Pesach. (rhymes with grey socks and it's Hebrew for the Passover holiday coming up). And you’re going to see all your other aunts and uncles, even the one who JUST became editor in chief of law review and it’s not based on looks. . ."

"And, and, and. . .play with the kids."

"Uh, huh."

“What’s this?” she asks, tugging at the tangerine silk blouse I have under a pale orange cotton sweater. Neither is warm enough in this unexpected cold, but surely better than the silk kimono on a skinny fellow we saw rushing off the train. Did you see that? A kimono! He must be freezing!

"Do you like it? It’s my tangerine blouse. Want me to get you one, too?"

And we’re off to Target. I buy her mother a book, Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's by John Elder Robison. It comes highly recommended, although I haven’t read it myself. This is my cheap way of getting books. I buy them for Rac, she gives them back to me to read when she's finished, then I send them to the next bidder in the family who shows an interest.

It's that or the library, also a good thing, but they charged me $2.40 for an overdue book the other day, and I swear** to you, I renewed it on time.

Anyway, it’s pretty hard to find our favorite three-year old a tangerine shirt, so she opts for a dress, navy and kelly green, although she really wants a frilly, lacy, yellow Easter frock that just doesn’t work for me. We find a Size-Me chart and she stands up next to it.

"You’re a 4-Toddler," I say.

"A FOUR!!!! I’m a FOUR!!!! My mommy says I’m THREE! But I’m really FOUR!!!" As in, I knew it.

We put in a solid couple of hours shopping and eating, meeting her mother and sibs at the pizza shop, and everyone behaves incredibly well. We return home for bath time and I'm elected to do this, which only makes sense, since I bought the new rubber duckies, the yellow ones, you've seen them, with the big momma duck and her three babies. I have also donated a fourth duck, a brilliantly engineered species that is really for testing the bath water to make sure it's not too hot. There's a sensor on the duck's underbelly and the word HOT will turn white if the water might roast your kid. The idea is that you put the duck in the water before the kid.

Anyway, the kid is swimming and splashing and I’m washing her, amazed at my good fortune, and it’s a good time overall, even hair-washing goes very well. At some point I sigh and say, "Maybe we better get you out of the tub now. I have to go."

She gives me this incredulous look. “You’re going?”

“Well, Saba and I have to get back to Chicago early in the morning.”

"You’re going?"

"You’re coming to visit soon!"

"Maybe I’ll come to Chicago with you now," she reasons. "And I’ll see Blue*** I want to go with you now. On the airplane." Done.

"But you’ll miss everybody, you’ll cry within minutes, as soon as you realize your mom isn't with us. You'll miss her, and your daddy."

"No I won’t."

"You’re only three."

"I’m four."

"Come on, let’s get you out of the tub into pajamas."

"No. I’m coming with you."

"Ask your mommy."

She lights up. Idea. She wriggles out of her towel and works the idea over with her mother.

Rac gives me a look to kill, as in, how COULD you?

But our little three/four year old is in pajamas and she knows she can’t go. But it is sad, and there's no getting around it, I've failed her. She thought we had a chance.

Next morning there’s hardly any more snow on the ground. Things melt quickly in the south. FD and I are back on a plane and the pilot’s telling us what to expect weather-wise in Chicago. We have a little snow.

He also tells us we’ll be taking off in ten minutes. A half hour later FD grumbles, “Good thing the pilot’s not a surgeon.”


“You know, Uh, lady, the surgery only takes ten minutes, you’ll be out of here in no time. Oh Mr. Jones, that surgery went just fine, just great, you won’t have any pain (sic)."

FD is in a hurry, hates wasting time. He wants to discharge that baby and AirTran doesn’t seem to care.

I’m marveling at my view. Usually I sit in front of the wing but somehow couldn’t get that seat, and now I’m right here, on the wing. I look down and see the wing is made of several pieces and shapes, and one of them has arrows.

“What’s the story?" I ask anyone in hearing range. "They don’t know how to put the wing together without the help of arrows?”

Something to do with airflow. I change the subject.

“I can’t wait to see my fish. I hope they’re all okay. Number #4 takes good care of them, which makes sense, since food is a priority for him. But you know, a mother worries.”

I ramble on, FD seems to be listening, maybe. “I worry a little about Blue, you know, I really do. He's my favorite fish and he’s grown so big so fast. Maybe he has heart trouble. How would we know if he has heart disease?”

“Don’t worry,” FD quips, totally deadpan. “He swims every day.”

We land with a thud and I’m pretty sick, stumble out off the plane. Chris, our driver recognizes us as we take a seat on the shuttle. “Didn’t I drive you here just a couple of days ago?”

“It was just yesterday,” FD tells him.

“How could you go for just one day?” Chris is flabbergasted.

“Gotta’ get back to work,” I offer weakly.

“And this weather,” he continues. "To go from there to here. . ."

He lets us off at our car and before we can blink Chris is sweeping the snow off the car with a huge rubber snow scraper. This is not your average snow scraper, it’s more like an industrial push broom.

“Where did you get that?” I cry enviously. “I must have one.”

He mumbles something, but I’m thinking: If it keeps up, this global warming, this climate change, call it what you will, then there’s a new niche in the south.

Think . . . . scrapers.


*The Wall Street Journal did a piece about a month ago on grandparents and how people in my age group hate old-fashioned names like Bubbie, Nanna, Gramma, Tatti, etc. The labels make them feel old. They want their grandchildren to call the Fred, Sally, Gert, Debbie, Jim, etc.

Who ARE these people?

**blee neder, meaning I don't really swear.

***Blue, my favorite fish, is a Niger Trigger. He's from Nigeria and builds things out of sand when he gets bored.


Laura said...

Being a Saba sounds beautiful.

therapydoc said...

One of the few dividends that still pays!

Lisa Marie said...

Have I mentioned how much I absolutely love your posts? I feel like I am there with you and your family! Your grandchildren sound absolutley precious. They are lucky you can come see them by hopping on a plane. Even if you only stay a day, they will remember it forever!!!

Jew Wishes said...

What a wonderful post...and thank you for sharing your family with us.

Grandchildren are precious, aren't they?!!

blognut said...

...and a good time was had by all!

Sounds like you had a great trip - I'm glad for you.

YZF said...

We all miss you! But we'll see you soon.

Margo said...

I don't know if she's going to like that book as much as I did - maybe my bro should read it instead?

Syd said...

Sounds like a quick but worthwhile trip. Next time stay a little longer. The South is great.

porcini66 said...

Thanks for sharing your trip! I needed it too and I felt like I had a mini vacation day while reading. :)

Glimmer said...

Southerner married to an Iowan here: We think y'all are homicidal snow drivers too! Said with affection, certainment.

therapydoc said...

Hey, I never called anybody a bad driver. And you notice, I try to ride a bike.

Cat said...

Flying south and finding snow is so strange but the trip sounds wonderful and being a grandparent and all that it involves has got to be tops!

kirsten said...

Grandparents who can't stand being called grandparent-ish names are still much better than the grandparents who, as reported in yesterday's New York Times, can't be bothered by their grandchildren at all:

Retriever said...

Love your family visit description! More than worth a trip to see them! Post a picture of the fish, please...Brought back memories of two homicidal water creatures we foolishly introduced into our aquarium. We had ordinary fantail goldfish in a lovely variety of shades with ever growing tails and fins, and one kid insisted on buying an algae eater and another got an African albino frog. Both the two new creatures rapidly grew and grew, and then we noticed that the fish were starting to look nervous. One got reduced to a skeleton by murderer unknown, then we had to partition the tank, the fantails got stressed and depressed and died, and the frog ate algae eater. Then frog died with no more prey (didn't like pellets after a taste of live prey). All in our elementary schooler's bedroom. A little dire....

Your blue sounds more soothing....

therapydoc said...

What can anyone say but oy vey to the missing grandparents. In Chicago, unfortunately, many are parenting their addicted kid's kids full time. They have custody in child neglect cases.

Thanks all for the well wishes, and yes, getting to see those kids is a real good thing for me.

Retriever said...

Kirsten, that link from the NYT was horrific. Sounded just like my kids' grandparents, and one of my aunts. When the four grandparents died, my kids barely missed a beat, tho they were polite enough to look sad at the appropriate moments. They had no relationship with them. Oh, the grandparents spent all their time jetting around all over the world, but wouldn't visit, let alone babysit...Sorry to rant, stirred up quite painful memories of how deprived my own kids were(my own grandparents partly raised us when my mom was ill)

Glimmer said...

Those grandparents must have made the choice to navigate their own dependent years alone, then.

Anonymous said...

Well geez. Just melt my heart and call me Mary why don't you, Doc? *grin*

therapydoc said...

About that absent grandparent article, I'm thinking that this might be associated with having parented full time. Remember, I wasn't around to do cookies and milk, and my kids (and our car pool) tended to be the last ones to be picked up when it was my turn.

But that's a whole other story.

Anonymous said...

Therapy Doc said..
Checking is an anxious habit, one of those symptoms in the anxiety disorder family. Maybe you have this symptom. I check for a lot of things. Like I check to see if every door is locked before I go to sleep...

Hi Doc,
Check this out!

And this!

Dr. Deb said...

YOur posts are so great to read!

Mary said...

What a great post, and felt like being there with you..take care..Mary

Jack said...

My folks love being called Grandma and Grandpa. In fact as soon as the grandkids came I was forgotten about, relegated to the role of chief shlepper.

Ok, that is not totally true. But it is true that my dad says that the best title he has ever had is grandpa.

Mark said...

Thanks for sharing your trip. Your children and grandchildren sound wonderful!

Annie said...

Your writing is delightful. It is fun to go along with you. Thanks for the journey!