Friday, February 24, 2012
It was Wednesday afternoon when Susan received a call from her brother telling her that earlier that day her father had been taken to the hospital in very serious condition. He had coded on the way to the hospital and was being kept alive on life support. We swung into action and got in touch with Von, our travel arranger, and Von did his usual magic and booked us on Air France leaving from Valencia and connecting in Paris for our flight to San Francisco. We spent the rest of the day getting things in order so that we could leave early Thursday morning.
We got up at 4:00 AM on Thursday and we showered and dressed. A cab was waiting for us outside our door to take us to the airport. We arrived at the airport in fifteen minutes because, surprise, surprise, there were no cars on the road. The flight from Valencia to Paris was on Air Europa and, thankfully for me, they sell the seats in the exit row for a 20 Euro premium. That guaranteed that at least on one leg of the trip I would have sufficient leg room. Our flight took off on time and at 9:15 we landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
Our flight for San Francisco was scheduled to leave at 10:40 and the only way to get to our departure gate was to hoof it for a good ten minutes. We had to go through security once again and we made it to our departure gate with ten minutes to spare. We were seated in Row 35 and as we made our way to the rear of the plane, for one brief second I thought we had ended up in the bulkhead seats, but it only looked that way because the plastic that covered the small light bulb was cracked and it only looked like the number 35. It was really 33. The only good news was the fact that yesterday’s plane was am Airbus 340 that has seats that are two inches wider than the seats on the 330. Additionally the armrest on the left side of the aisle seat can be raised to a completely vertical position. Of course there is no legroom and when the person in front of you puts their seat all the way back you feel like a large animal in an all too small cage.
The flight was your average long haul flight. Having flown Swiss Air to Spain the last five or six times, I would give Swiss much higher marks than Air France. Their pilots keep you more informed and their flight attendants are more personable. Swiss was an option for yesterday’s trip back to California, but it would have put us at our destination some three hours later and time was of the essence here. We landed ahead of schedule and we breezed through passport control and customs. We had asked Von to book a rental car for us and we took a shuttle van to Advantage Car Rental, which is about a fifteen minute ride from the airport. We were given an upgrade and because we had to wait a bit for our turn they also gave us a discount. We loaded the bags in the car and got on to the highway to continue our journey to Nevada City. We had already been up for seventeen hours and we were still a long way from our destination.
I had not been behind the wheel for close to four months and,to be honest, I really do not like to drive any more since traffic just drives me nuts. The traffic was bumper to bumper almost the entire journey. What should have taken two and a half hours, ended taking up close to four and a half hours. On the way, Susan spoke with her brothers and discovered that her father had expired at around 2:30 that afternoon. He had gone peacefully and there was no need to disconnect him from life support because it almost seemed that he had unconsciously made the decision to save his family the pain of making a decision.
It was a little after 7:00 when we pulled into the hospital parking lot. Susan’s brother, Robert, met us at the door and Susan went to her father’s room to say her last goodbyes. Robert volunteered to drive us in our rental car to Mary’s house where we will be staying for the next week. I had been up for twenty-four straight hours and I welcomed his offer. Susan’s brother David came by the house and he and Susan made a tentative list of things that needed to be done in the next few days. There will be a memorial service on Tuesday and all of the grandchildren will make their way to Nevada City to be with the family. I managed to stay awake until 9:30 and at that point it was abundantly clear that I needed to find a bed right away.