“Mother. Let me help you!”
“I’m not paralyzed.”
My daughter’s attempt to hide her irritation with a forced laugh failed miserably.
She had clipped the brakes of the wheelchair in place and took my elbow. “You could have broken your neck if you’d slipped.”
I cringed. There was no doubt, travelers on the other side of the terminal building must have heard her hollering. Little had changed in the fifty years since she was five. She wore her lack of compassion like a cloak, with unadulterated pride. It’s been worse since her Pa’s death. She blamed me for Harold’s devastating stroke. It mattered little that he refused to take his blood pressure and diabetes medication in the end. You were there, Mom. You could have made him take it.
Hah. In my underwear, I battled to topple the scale’s needle over a hundred pounds. Harold always coasted at two-forty. Nobody ever made that six-fiver do anything he’d put his mind on not to do. Sixty years of marriage taught me that.
I took the outstretched hand of the driver of the concierge cart as he helped me step up and take a seat in the front. He received the single piece of luggage from Marianne and placed it at the back.
My daughter teetered on her three-inch heels to the front to grasp my hands. “Mommy, are you sure you’ll manage?”
I pulled her closer for a hug and kissed her on the lips. I held her cheeks for a moment. Did I notice the remnants of concern in those wild eyes? I wanted to believe that. Mommy was her way of apologizing. I kissed her again. “Yes, Honey. I’ve done this before. I’ve only felt a little feeble lately.”
She had my hands again. “I would have loved to visit with you until it was time for you to board. But I’ll have to run if I want to be in time for Eugenie’s game.”
I waved her on. “Run along.” Then turned to the driver. “This kind gentleman will help me on the other side. I’ll be fine.”
The driver laughed his agreement. We both waved at Marianne to take her leave of us. Marianne had better hurry—Eugenie was the youngest granddaughter and her mother’s only child still at home; spoilt rotten. She had perfected the art of having her parents do her beck and call. She ate and drank volleyball—it was akin to a religion.
I clasped my hands in my lap and faced the driver. “Thank you, sir. We can go.”
“Certainly, Ma’am. By the way, I’m Alonso.”
“Hello, Alonso. I’m Hannah.”
It would be a two-hour flight to reach my oldest. It was no ordinary visit. Helene had phoned me the day after her mammogram report.
“The doctor is worried. She’s doing a lumpectomy with removal of lymph nodes.”
Helene’s protests in spite, I insisted on booking a flight. She had mentioned something about a frozen section. What if they had to remove my child’s one breast?
The entire way from the retirement village to the airport, my youngest who had grudgingly agreed to pick me up, had grilled me about not informing the airport authorities forty-eight hours in advance about my need for assistance.
“I phoned them yesterday, Sweetie.”
“Don’t sweetie, me, Mom. How will we find the Help Points?”
“We can ask security.”
“I doubt it. When did you anyway deteriorate like this?” Her critical eyes had traveled the entirety of my petite physique. “You are skin and bone. You can’t survive on Kraft dinner and green tea.” Her loud laugh had struck like a whip. “We should sell your condo and get you into the assisted living section where they can fatten you up.”
“I’m perfectly capable of looking after my—”
“Then why this little drama to arrange for the airport concierge services, Mom?”
I had shrugged her concerns off. “It’s a temporary thing. I’m not myself. I’m a ball of nerves because of your sister’s upcoming surgery.”
“Good heavens. It’s only a lumpectomy. Why you’re flying across the country is beyond me.”
“She can end up with a mastectomy!”
“Where’s your faith, Mom?”
I had wiped over my eyes, too tired to argue.
“Are you sure you don’t need a ‘fitness to fly’ certificate from your GP?”
“They assured me, only my passport and boarding pass.”
It was impossible to ignore the penetrating beep-beep of the concierge cart as Alonso expertly weaved his way through the throng of travelers and personnel.
“You have no mobility device, ma’am?”
I chuckled. “I’m not all that bad.”
The concern in his eyes was real. “You came in on a wheelchair. Shouldn’t I ask them for one when I drop you off?”
I touched his sleeve for a moment. “Won’t be necessary. I’m feeling much better already.”
I gave him the short version of my on-the-spur-of-the-moment cross-country visit.
“I’m sorry to hear about your daughter.”
“My firstborn. I have to be there.” I shuddered. “Rather than it was me.”
Alonso exhaled in a whistle. “What we won’t do for our kids. I have three boys—all with families. If anything would happen to one of them . . .”
We neared my gate in silence.
“Your daughter seemed upset with you.”
It was easier to laugh than cry. “A little.”
“She’s not close to her sister?”
I shouldn’t bother this kind man. “She blames me for her dad’s death. He had a stroke six months ago.”
Alonso slowed the cart down. “I’m sorry—”
“My husband neglected himself.”
Alonso ran around to take my hand.
I waved him away as I walked to the back with brisk strides and took my luggage. “Thank you, Alonso. You’ve been exceptionally kind.” I pointed at the concierge cart. “I’m perfectly fine. This is payback. I’m still a little mad at my youngest for blaming me. She doesn’t know, but I played tennis two days ago.”
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