Hot on the heal’s of the generous five days compassionate leave from work (superseded with work then telling me that my entire team is up for redundancy) I booked my flight as soon as I could and set off for the states. I boarded the flight with only thirty odd minutes left and headed for my seat. I got to my seat and some passenger had already put her hand luggage onto it like it was her right. She was gently turfed out and I got happy and comfortable.
Then this massive fat black guy walked past and I said ‘wow that’s two seats right there’…..
I am this growing person.
I reprimanded myself instantly and harshly. Peter, don’t be rude. Behave yourself, do not do that again.
The Boeing 747-400 can seat between 416 and 660 passengers depending on the seat configuration. As you know with my frequent flyer miles with ‘Lady Luck’ you know exactly where I’m going with this don’t you?
Not five minutes later ‘Two seats Jaba the Hut ‘came back down the aisle and innocently points to the tiny empty seat between me and the woman who was previously trying to get comfortable in my seat. I am known to be a facially expressive person, so unfortunately, I had no way to prevent the abject look of total horror on my face. I got up and out of my aisle seat to allow him to pass. He went in front ways as opposed to sliding in from the side like you would normally do. He then got himself comfortable as he flowed, no as he spilled up and out, evenly into each adjacent seat. One he had literally settled he asked for a seat belt extender.
I didn’t even know such a thing existed.
For the next seven and a half hours I sat there with his elbow and shoulder not touching mine – no that would be too easy. They overlapped and hugged one third of my chest like an attentive clingy girlfriend. He was sharing his fat blanket with me.
How the heck does that happen??
Then once fed and watered he slept very quickly and with brutal simplicity. Belly touching the seat in front, elbows and shoulders overlapping the adjacent human pillows, chin on neck. There was a whirling noise as his bottom lip dislocated from his jaw and his glasses slid perilously down his nose stopping on the very edge.
Then he began to snore, comprehensively.
I’m sure if I had fixed my face from twilight zone psychotic traveller he would have later described his sleep as succulent. No other word for it.
I tried to relax and accept my seven hour reality. I might have even hoped I could break the cycle and smile and engage with Mr Jaba two seats. In fact, if we were romantically attached his soft, generous, overlapping body combo would have been ideal for me to rest my weary head on and too dream succulent dreams.
I now found myself spilling out into the aisle and thus getting bumped and squashed by each and every passenger walking along the aisle and doubly squashed by the metal food carts as they passed forward and back. I look back and say that it was only because I didn’t want to embarrass him that I didn’t say something about moving.
Then it occurred to me that I was now a flipping urethra running through an enlarged prostate. I smiled momentarily, got hit by the cart making its way back down the aisle and decided my best course of action was to put my headphones on and make myself as small as possible. Sleep for me was not going to happen.
Hopefully, my horrified and vex face would not became set in stone.
Just before breakfast came, towards the end of the flight, Jaba decided to relieve himself. As the cart moved closer up the aisle, It occurred to me that if he didn’t get back to his seat soon he would miss his breakfast. Now forgive me but I was angry so I was happy if he missed his breakfast as I had endured so much. The cart came, served me and continued past me. I knew there was no way back for him. Yes, I was bad minded and smiled for only the second time during the flight.
He was actually gone an awful long time.
I thought maybe he was stuck in the toilet. That thought was quickly followed by the thought that maybe I have been sitting to a new terrorist liquid, human hybrid bomb. The breakfast I had tried to save until he returned was starting to look like a possible last meal so I tucked in, nervously. About fifteen minutes later he casually swayed or rolled back up the aisle, asked the woman on the other side if she would pass him his extender and he was off again.
They had given him another seat somewhere at the back of the plane. Thank you very much airline. Only seven hours late!
Eventually after waiting an hour in the border control line and then being flagged for a separate interview I was finally out. Trump really set out to extend the red carpet for me.
I saw pops the same day as I arrived, in fact it was the first stop.
He was not at deaths door as I had been led to believe. To be honest I can only be grateful for that. When I saw him last, about five years ago, he was this sprightly stubborn old man who was whinging about not having someone to clear the snow for him off his car park. Now he considerably more frail than when I saw him last and he is in constant pain. I asked his wife, Adella, how he was doing. She said that he had two doctor’s appointments on Monday and I said that I would be coming along. I asked what the different appointments were for, she said the first one was with the coronary doctor and the other was with his primary doctor.
Where the heck did that spring from? That was the first time ever that word had been used.
“Oh he has coronary heart disease”, Adella explained casually and then carried on with what she was doing. You know it was put out there like someone asking you if you wanted butter on that toast. I froze and shot her a look and bit my bottom lip. I didn’t even have words. This is what has been happening all along where I had been misinformed and drip fed information. When I eventually left them I was still silently fuming.
We got to the first surgery and he went through a number of checks including an electrocardiogram or EKG. Once we were in the office the doctor explained what pops heart condition meant and that we still needed more tests. He expressed his concern at seeing how much pain pops is in and how slowly he was moving due to his hip. He also commented on how his leg muscles have been wasting away due to his inactivity. At the moment pops left hip is bone grinding on bone. Pops admitted that he was scared of the procedure as he had heard negative things about it. That’s why he had never done it before. The main thing the doctor emphasised however is that nothing else can happen before we know that his heart is strong enough for the operation or the main heart valve is fixed, if it needs to be.
It was clear by the time we got to the other surgery that pops really need’s to use his wheelchair as he moves with great difficulty and in pain. We had arrived early at his primary doctor’s surgery and there were a few more additional questions and tests that he had to do. I introduced myself to the nurse and asked he if it would be possible to speak to the primary doctor before pops and his wife came in. She said she would ask.
Dr Guerrero has been pops primary doctor for over ten years now. He is the definitive person to talk to regarding pops health. He was warm and engaging. I started off with telling him about my prostate cancer and that I have heard so many conflicting stories about whether pops had prostate cancer and if so what treatment he had. Earlier this week pops wife said she thought that he had the seeds in his prostate and not surgery. Of course another first for me and now three different versions in total.
Dr G looked through the screen and started at the beginning of the notes.
He said pops never had prostate cancer.
He had an enlarged prostate and cancer of the urethra.
He has bladder cancer, stage four.
Dr G knew nothing about liver cancer and said he would ask Adella where she got that information from.
Kidney function was at 9% which is stage four boarding stage five (stage five is dialysis)
He has congestive heart failure.
He needs a hip replacement.
He said he could not give any indication as to how long pops had.
“He is definitely sick, with multiple illnesses and only God knows. He could outlive us both”
Once pops came into the room with Adella he asked her about where she had got the liver cancer from. Once she explained what she had been told Dr G called the particular specialist to get an answer. Luckily the doctor called him back while we were still in the office.
He does have stage four liver cancer but it is stable.
Then a day later myself and my sister went back over to see pops. He was sleeping so we talked to Adella. She had got a call from Dr G. Pops kidney function had now fallen again and he now needs dialysis three times a week for six hours each day.
That got me really worried. That would be a lot for a younger person yet alone an eighty six year old.
Thanksgiving day came and it was just the three of us as with me flying out the same day, we had to have it early downstairs. the other members of the family were upstairs as they were eating later. My sister scolded me like a child when I dared to suggest that salad is not a starter and I could go without. Better and quieter to comply. My sister said a prayer and we enjoyed our first ever Thanksgiving together. It was really lovely and touching.
When it came to going to the airport we left pops in a comfy chair, a glass of rum in his hands (yes you heard correctly) and an active domino game in front of him.
At that moment looking at him smiling, the world was a happy place. I kissed him on the forehead and said I would see him soon.
We had an easy drive to JFK airport and inside it was one of the quietest airports I had ever seen.. Eventually I said my goodbyes and off I went. I went through security without a hitch and bordered the plane.
I had been allocated an aisle seat again. I didn’t get too comfortable because I had the real fear Jabba could board any minute. At the very least there were still two people to come and sit in the other seats that were empty.
I waited and I waited. Then a curious thing happened.
They closed the aeroplane door.
I had the entire row to myself. I asked one of the stewardesses if anyone else would be boarding the plane and he said no and that there are at least eighty empty seats on our flight tonight.
Row to myself.
I had suddenly been upgraded to a poor mans business class. I moved to the middle seat and spread out my stuff into the other chairs, just in case anyone got any ideas. As a failsafe, I also stopped smiling and shot a stern glare to the woman across the aisle who dared to look my poor mans business class way.
I have had a hard week.
I was fed and I was watered and then I slept like a skinny Jaba.