I’m Screaming on a Jet Plane

**Editors note: This post was written in April 2015 and somehow got lost in the hustle and bustle of life…**

I hate flying.

I never used to feel this way. I used to look forward to a good plane ride with the same anxious anticipation that came along with the trip itself. The rush of take-off, the lurch in my stomach as the wheels lifted off the runway – but now, now as the rain pelts the outside of my plane and tiny air pockets toss our Airbus every so slightly, almost imperceptibly- now, I hate it.

I am returning from a weekend at the beach with over 20 of my female relatives. I am over-fed, sunburned and happy, after two days spent lounging and laughing with my lady kin. But something about the vivacity and liveliness of this weekend makes flying in this iron eagle seem that much more morbid; the juxtaposition of life and death thrown in my face like a packet of unwanted honey roasted peanuts.

This contrast only worsened when the woman next to me (let’s call her Lola) strikes up a conversation that slowly morphs from an inquiry about the time, to a full-on discussion about living with her mother, who is concurrently living with Alzheimer’s Disease. (Ironically, I just purchased and began reading a copy of Still Alice in the airport.)

I’m not one for idle chit chat and I do my very best to avoid inviting it with strangers, especially when in a confined space, but for some reason, on this rainy evening, I felt compelled to indulge her in this dialogue. We exchanged pleasantries, chatted about our respective careers and expounded on the real estate market in Nashville. But somewhere around 22,000 feet, our conversation turned to Lola’s recently-widowed friend, whom she was returning from visiting in Naples. We began to speak of the fragility of the time we have with the people we love, the cyclical nature of our relationship with our parents and how end of life care can be both a burden and a blessing. Not exactly the mindless banter I signed up for, but our conversation served as a reminder of how complicated, beautiful, gut-wrenching and absolutely precious our relationships with family can be.

A reminder that was quickly reinforced once I had both feet on solid ground.

After the initial high of my reunion with Him and the boys subsided, we began to notice that the littlest Bandas was not feeling well. Without boring you with all the details, suffice it to say, we spent the better part of the next few days shuttling two children back and forth to the pediatrician, the pharmacy and back again – ’round and ’round. Each event that unfolded, reminding me what a gigantic bummer my life was, while simultaneously reinforcing the beauty of parenthood. (I recently listened to an episode of The Moth Podcast that perfectly summed up this paradox.)

In case you were concerned, the littlest Bandas seems to be on the mend and my husband was able to use his superior faith and intellect to pull me out of my doomsday scenario tailspin. But as I reflect back on this week straight out of Hades, it occurs to me that whether you are caring for an aging parent with Alzheimer’s or a sick toddler, the feeling of being completely responsible for the life of another human being is, at times, too much to bear – that is, unless we take it all in for what it is.

It’s complicated, beautiful, gut-wrenching and absolutely precious.

2 Comments

  1. I was part of your glorious weekend and was privileged to bunk in with your super wonderful grandmother, Mim, and her friend/aide, Stella. I remember feeling torn, reflecting on how much I had loved being a young mother, as many of you are, and thinking about how precious my time with the older ladies was in the Mansion, and wondering how many more opportunities I would have to spend with them. Life is fleeting, lovely, and painful. I am so grateful for that gathering of special females and all the moments we shared in pairs, groups, and en masse.

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