Fam Staycation

My day started at 3:30 am….so just like normal. I slightly miscalculated my timeline, so it ended up being a mad dash to the airport, which is a little rough at that hour. Check-in went fast, but the line for security was crazy long. It looked like the queue for Justin Timberlake outside of the Caps Center, except no one looked happy to be there.

I patted myself on the back for calling and confirming my TSA number was indeed on my ticket before my flight. Not only was my security line super short, but I didn’t have to remove my shoes. That’s what prompted the phone call in the first place.

I flew cattle car, which is my nice way of saying, if the plane goes down, my section is the first one to fry, statistically speaking. I thought long and hard about upgrading (to anything other than what is called basic economy) because of my post-surgical state. In the end, I didn’t. Here’s how my thought process went:

(Now is a good time for a beer. Because it’s long, and a beer will make this story far more interesting.)

I really wanted a pair of pants that cost $220. My rule for spending disposable income is if it still seems like a good idea in three days, then I can buy it. Except this was A LOT of money for a pair of pants (for me), so I decided to extend the waiting period to seven days. Seven days later, I can tell you, I still wanted the pants. Yet, I wasn’t ready to part with the money, even then. I decided to wait seven more days. After two weeks, I. wanted. those. damn. pants.

But I just couldn’t do it.

So I settled. I bought a ‘similar’ pair (this is a stretch) for $50. That included the $8 for shipping (an anomaly these days, thanks Amazon!), but I reasoned that I had, in essence, really saved $170.

More patting myself on the back, for such shrewd business acumen, of course.

The new pants showed up, not in one or two days, but a week later. My dopamine was almost in hysterics by this time. I took a deep breath (chanted ‘ommm’) and tried to view this as a modern lesson in patience. I opened the package, and knew immediately (intuitively), these $42 pants weren’t going to work. They were terrible (aka worth $25). The icing on the cake??

I had to spend another $8 to send them back.

So that, in a nutshell, is why I didn’t bother looking into upgrading my seat on my flight. Nothing pisses me off more than spending money, even $16, for absolutely nothing. So, no-can-do on an upgrade as a result.

Makes perfect sense, right?

It’s…I’m… complicated.

(In case you haven’t figured that out by now).

Instead, I asked my doc to give me an extra week’s worth of pain meds, just in case the flight did a number on me.

It cost forty-eight cents.

DID THE CHEAP SEATS IN THE BACK HEAR THAT (aka cattle car)??

Forty-eight cents for a week’s worth of ‘light’ pain meds. You can hardly buy a Peppermint Patty for that.

(Another piece of the opioid-crisis puzzle solved?)

It actually all worked out fine. Having a window seat was key. I was good for the flight and I consider this serious progress. When the attendant wheeled the little snack cart down the aisle and handed me a Stroopwafel , it was like I got an instant upgrade.

(The flip side of complicated is easy to please.)

Hallmark Gemini, what can I say?

My mom was seriously worried about me lifting my bag off of “the rounder,” as she calls the baggage-claim belt. I had texted her early in the morning to say I would be fine. I had managed my bag that morning with no problem, so the plan was to meet both of my parents outside, at their car, for curbside pick-up. What happened when I arrived in Houston pretty much sums up our family dynamics.

I walked outside and saw my dad, waiting in his car. Behind the steering wheel.

First red flag.

I didn’t see my mom in the car, so assumed she didn’t come to the airport with him for whatever reason. Dad shook his head. “Noooo,” he said. “You’re mother went inside to find you and help you with your bag.”

Oh boy. Second red flag.

Here we go. 

So back inside I went to find her amongst all of “the rounders.” Ten minutes later, I see her, hands on hips, looking around like she’s trying to spot the elusive pangolin in the jungle of the airport. Flushed when she finally saw me, she said, “Well I don’t know how I could have missed you. You must have walked right past me.”

See what she did right there?

Then she continued, “I was looking for your bag.”

“Ummm, question. How do you know what my bag looks like??”

“Well, you have a duffel bag.”

“Ummm. How do you know that?” Thinking more about it, I added, “And no one else does?? There were 190 people on the plane, Mom.”

“No. No one else uses a duffel bag like you do. They all have suitcases.”

Wait. What?

How can I begin to argue this?

The answer is I can’t. My “bag” is not actually a duffel, but a ‘soft’ LL Bean suitcase, black, with wheels. It’s about the most generic bag you could purchase, meaning it looks like everyone else’s.

I would also like to add that I never received a thank-you note from LL Bean when I bought the bag. There was no “Oh thank God you bought our non-descript, generic, black, duffel bag, with wheels. No one else has! You’re the only one!”

That. Didn’t. Happen.

Finally, we were all in one place, the car, and we headed straight to breakfast, Dad driving. My mom implored I sit up front, but I politely declined. I haven’t been the best passenger since surgery. Besides telling every driver (Russ) to slow down, the seatbelt unfortunately sits right across my scar. Being the clever person I am, naturally I solve this by holding the belt away with my thumb for the duration of the car ride.

Yeah, I know.

Let’s just leave it at that.

I noticed on our drive Dad now hugs either the curb or the line in the middle of the road. Sigh. I know what this means. I’ve done it myself, but for a much different reason (in early adulthood when I was a much bigger dumb ass then I am now. Yikes is all I have to say about that.).

My dad is rounding the corner to 84-years old. Normally, Mom does all of the driving when it involves the interstate, which going to the airport does.

Last year, my dad’s driver’s license was up for renewal, and I was pretty confident the DMV was going to put some restrictions on it, if they gave it to him at all. I held my breath until I heard everything went well and he passed.

Listen, I don’t want my dad to lose his license, and with it, his freedom, but a curfew might have been a good idea?? Some restrictions?

Any?

Just one?

Nope.

Last time I was home in Texas two months ago, I used my Dad’s car to head to my brother’s house and didn’t find out, until I got on the interstate, his hood was not actually latched. How long had he been driving around like that??

When Dad got out of the car at Denny’s, I noticed he had on a pair of his “happy socks.” I discovered “happy socks,” which is the brand name as well as an apt description, a couple of years ago. Subsequently, Dad has received a few pairs for different occasions.

Today, he had his “space” socks on. They are covered with stars and planets. I have to admit, they make me smile when I see him wearing them, and more importantly, they make him happy as his friends always compliment him on them.

Denny’s is Dad’s favorite place because he can get a big breakfast on the senior menu for six dollars. Surprise surprise, but I ordered eggs that contained Red 40 and Yellow 5 & 6 (aka fake cheese). We immediately sat down and Mom pointed out to our waitress a small section on the table that needed to be wiped down.

Crinkling her nose, she said, “It’s sticky.”

Dad looked at me resigned, and said, “That’s your mother for ya. Picky.”

I looked at Mom, smiling, and said, “Sticky is never good.”

She snapped back, indignant, her pitch rising, “I am not picky. The table needs to be wiped down, it’s sticky!”

Trying my hardest not to chuckle, I said, “Mom, I didn’t say picky. I said STICKY is never good…”

“Oh. I thought you were giving me a hard time and calling me picky.”

“Noooo. Just agreeing with you…”

That’s how breakfast started. Pretty standard stuff for the Simmons’.

Mom then brought up Alex, an old family friend from Italy. They’ve been emailing back and forth quite a bit. Over thirty years ago, Alex lived with us for his senior year of high school as part of a student exchange program, while my sister did the same in Australia. We have visited his family in Italy, they have visited us here in the U.S., and my parents are in contact with Alex on a regular basis.

Raising my eyebrows, I said to my mom, “Well those must be some interesting conversations.”

She got an impish look on her face because she knew exactly what I meant by this. Alex is a staunch Republican and my mother is…not.

“Well, yes, as a matter of fact they are,” she said.

“Oh, I bet!” I said, returning the smirk.

She politely criticized his political positions (because my mother is nothing if not extremely polite at all times) and tried to back up why he was so off base.

Then she added, reminiscing, “You know, I think Alex mellowed out [politically] when he lived here.”

I scratched my head, considering this. When Alex was 18 he was hard at work learning how to be a Yankee Doodle Dandy in the state of Texas.

First lesson shortly after arrival: Boxer shorts are actually underwear, not shorts you would wear outside. In public. He narrowly avoided that fate, but he was a good sport about it.

A couple of days before he shipped back home, Alex and his friend Cesar, from Peru, decided they’d like to take a memento back home with them to their respective countries to commemorate their year abroad. Unfortunately, they thought a license plate each was a good idea. The abridged version is the cops showed up because license plates are like mailboxes. Fucking with them (stealing them) is a felony. It was a 24-hour crapshoot, whether they were getting on a plane for home, or going to jail to get fingerprinted. Based on this incident, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that politics were not really a priority of Alex’s at this time.

I decided not to argue this point with my mom.

Dad likes to reminisce a lot these days and didn’t miss his opportunity this morning. I like hearing his stories, and you never know what might come out of his mouth, so there’s that too. Looking up towards the sky At Denny’s (haha), he said very nostalgically, “You know, I saw the world.  And I did it all on the “corporate titty! Can you believe that?” This made me laugh. He went on to sum up all of his good luck and fortune in his life. He said, “I was lucky because I was born with a good brain. I could have been born a complete dud instead!”

Well, you weren’t a dud, Dad. You made your own luck by working hard.

You did awesome.

Dad and I dropped Mom off, after breakfast, at the community college where she still tutors students in English (writing). (Side note: A lot of her students speak English as a second language. It would be an understatement to say my mother has played a big part in changing the trajectory of many people’s futures because of her contribution to their educational journey).

I moved into the passenger seat up front after she got out. The first thing I did was push my seat back. Just thinking ahead. If the airbags went off, I wasn’t going to get creamed, and end up with chemical burns all over my face (in addition to a broken thumb).

Seriously, I have enough going on already.

And so it begins.

The Fam Staycation of 2019.

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