Saying Goodbye To Those You Don’t Want to Leave – Part VI

May15th – 16th

Monday night/Tuesday morning Nat and I were both in and out of sleep. Being self-conscious of the time and wondering if we had set Jenny’s bedside clock alarm right, we were paranoid about being late. Young Nat was picking us up at 4:00 am to drive us to Newcastle Airport. Having literally thrown everything in our check-in luggage, we only had to pack our toiletries and we were off and running.

Young Nat, having travelled just as many miles as an astronaut in his career, could walk through this airport blind-folded. Once we arrived at the check-in gate, Young Nat pointed out a Newcastle United Football player, Jamaal Lascelles (former captain in 2016) walking by with his wife. I was in awe, having never seen a real life professional footballer. I may be a Cristiano Ronaldo fan, but I’m also a lover of Newcastle United and even Manchester United.  Getting back to business, Nat and I were soon informed that we would have to transfer to Gatwick Airport once we arrived at Heathrow. Dumbfounded, we had no idea. If we were told by our travel agent, we had long forgotten. Young Nat looked a bit worried for us, as he could no longer be of assistance, so we said our goodbyes as he watched us walking hand-in-hand off into the abyss!!

The flight to Heathrow was short and sweet, but then the bloody aggravation began. We had no idea where to go to catch our transfer and even with a 3 hour layover we managed to use that time completely by just getting to where we were to go. We had no idea that the small square piece of paper stapled to our ticket was actually the British Airways Transfer ticket we were to use for the bus. Oblivious to it all, we wandered around the airport asking anyone that would walk by where the transfer buses were to Gatwick. Very surprising to find out not too many people even knew there was an area where buses and taxies lined up to take you somewhere. Finally, an intelligent woman, along with following a few “Arrival Transfer” signs hanging above us, we found where the buses at least came through for pick-ups. We, however, just didn’t have a ticket (despite the fact it was in my purse all along)!!

So exhausted, frustrated and barely dangling by a thread, we both said “to hell with it” and purchased a National Express transfer ticket for 54.00 Pounds. Now getting really anxious, our bus finally arrived and we were whisked away to Gatwick for (what were the odds) another adventure.

We’re now walking through Gatwick Airport, for what seemed to be miles, to get to our gate, of which we did not know the number yet. It had not been posted on our tickets. We checked the Gate board and were informed the number would be posted around 11:00 am. Our flight was leaving by 1:00 pm. Waiting and waiting, constantly checking the board, no number was being posted even though it was now past 11:00. We had  no idea what was going on, when Nat asked someone and with luck he told us it had been posted, that we somehow missed it, and with the number in hand, we made a bee-line to get ready for boarding. My heart ached for Nat, worried about missing the plane, trying to slow down a pace to keep an eye on old miss cripple walking behind, he witheld his frustration. Finally arriving at the gate, no one was there. God almighty, please tell us we didn’t miss the plane!!!!!  No, thank God, we hadn’t. The attendant told us we had a half-hour at least. Then suddenly other passengers came literally running in, thinking the same thing we were. Having no idea what was going on, British Airways had somehow managed to confuse a plane full of passengers now in the departure lounge.

At last, finally, we were boarded and sitting in our seats. With no one beside us, we felt we would have a private time flying home. We were informed that several passengers were missing and with that a head count was now being taken. We soon found out – about an hour while sitting on the tarmac – that their flight from Florida had been delayed and we had to wait until they, too, were boarded. We were still lucky as none of the missing passengers were slated to sit in the empty seat beside us.

We were ecstatic to get into the air and looked forward to another boring flight only because we were so tired and knew this would not be the time to get any sleep at all. The meal was soon served (Chicken with Chirizo and soggy chips) which, naturally, I turned my nose up to. Nat tried some just to fill a small void. We then watched a little TV – very old American shows – but were soon put off so we gave up and tried to sit quietly in our seats. Somehow, someway we both fell asleep long enough that when I finally woke up, the rest of the passengers were licking away on Ice Cream Bars – big, fat ones covered in chocolate. Somehow it seemed right as nothing was going our way that day no matter how we tried.

At long last landing on Canadian soil, we had no choice but to gather up as much energy as we could to make that bloody long trek to the baggage claim, customs and  Niagara Airbus pick-up area. Another extremely long walk, winding in and out of the line control areas to get to customs area. Not having travelled in over 7-8 years, some changes had been made and unbeknownst to us, a lot had been computerized. Getting close to where we had to “check-in” on one of a dozen computer screens lined up along the wall with our passport, fill out the Landing Declaration and get a receipt, we soon became even more confused. I was able to follow the instructions, for the two of us, but not realizing that once I completed my turn, I was to have Nat follow, as we would end up with one receipt. Trying to figure things out, along came a snotty-nosed, arrogant and very angry attentant to help us. Not saying a thing but looking at Nat and repeatedly saying “Put it there!!”, “Put it there!!”, Put it there!!, “Put it there!!!”  pointing to the screen and tapping her little stubby fingers on the passport screen for Nat’s passport which had to be scanned. Nat was ready to deck her, but the poor man could hardly lift his arms. Don’t ask, but we managed to get through the whole process, as we began another long trek to the Airbus area where we crashed until our driver arrived.

We were picked up for our last ride home on any kind of airplane, bus or vehicle, and arrived at our doorstep early evening. By way of coincidence we had a retired RCMPer drive us home. I was wearing an RCMP t-shirt I bought while in Regina so he asked me about. Nice man!!!

Walking in the door, Nat and I literally dropped our suitcases and went straight to bed. Only being 8:00 pm, we didn’t give a damn. Nat stayed up long enough to text Susan and Laura to let them know we were home and didn’t want to be disturbed until morning.

We have never felt such exhaustion in our whole lives. Our spirits had been broken. I felt like I had Fibomyalgia (like dear sister, Gail), bent over and walking as if I lost my cane and walker, my whole back wanted to cave in and drop to the floor for a thousand nights. We admitted we were becoming a bit old to travel like that any longer. Nat felt the same way only his legs are in better shape. Those large airports are beyond our capacity to walk through and any time differences in travel would take us twice as long now to get over.

After almost 12 hours of sleep, we awoke Wednesday morning still a tad tired. I got organized – throwing a whole suitcase of clothes in the laundry, getting our meds and toiletries back in order. Nat (believe it or not) went to his usual Wednesday golf league while I stayed home and got caught up with paperwork, bills, etc.

It was later that night, it dawned on Nat, he should have stayed home from his golf. He couldn’t keep his eyes open while eating pizza for supper nor for the entire evening. He finally realized it was going to take several more days for us to get back to where we were before we left. Life was now going too fast for us!!

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Saying Goodbye To Someone You Don’t Want to Leave – Part III

The flight to London Heathrow was so bloody long and boring, and naturally, the lower class schmucks in the back were packed in like sardines!! As we were boarding Nat and I noticed what section the upgrade (Premium) would be like. Nice!! Each individual sat in a little half-oval pod where you could physically lay back, put your feet up and watch telly as you whiled away the hours. Another lesson learned and never to be repeated.

Nat and I tried our best to relax and get comfy with the room we had. Soon after midnight we were served a meal – Chicken Marsala (chicken, marsala sauce, rice). Yuk for me, but Nat ate it. The dessert was even worse – some sort of layered bars, along with a pudding of some sort. I just know it didn’t wiggle when I pressed the top!! It ended up with me eating the dry bun with (not enough) butter. I suppose I was a bit taken aback being served a meal like that at midnight (EST). As I really wasn’t hungry, I tried to push that meal tray away from on that bloody little seat tray. Just a country bumpkin that doesn’t appreciate good (cough, cough) food when it’s put in front of you. Shame on me!!

With the meal trays finally taken away, Nat and I tried to get a little sleep. We both tried to place the small flat airplane pillows behind our heads every which way but inside out and upside down. Couldn’t get a good placement no matter how we tried. So, we just sat there staring into the abyss for quite some time. At one point I tried to hook up my iPad to the Airplane’s WIFI. Another bloody ruse. You have to subscribe to British Airways in order to get connected. I gave up, so I played a couple of games I had previously down-loaded from home which did not require an internet connection, but soon got bored. The plane kept bobbing and weaving with the air turbulence and my stylus would bob and weave at the same time thus making me hit the wrong icons. It was now becoming apparent this was really going to be a long ride.

At long last, began our descent into Heathrow. Once in the airport we followed the crowd trying to keep up as everyone headed for the baggage claim and customs. Another massive walk, including a ride via mini subway car to the other end of the airport. That’s how massive this airport is – one of the largest in the world. I was ready to drop from total exhaustion. My legs were aching from hip to toe, with both feet swelling up with each step I took. (Found out later your feet can swell from cabin pressure and high altitude).

Despite a 2 hour layover, it took us that long to get through the airport, customs, and find where we were to catch our flight to Newcastle. Geez, if it didn’t involve another bloody walk!! With help from others – we had long lost the crowd we were following by now – we soon found where we were to board for the transfer with no time to spare.  Finally now seated on the smaller BA plane  we were even more exhausted. The trip was around 45 minutes which wasn’t that bad.

Landing at Newcastle Airport, at last, we found the luggage pick-up area quickly enough, but we had to ask an attendant, “Which one was the flight from London?” To which he responded “There’s only 2”. Bloody smart ass!! Could he not see my body draped forward as if I were The Hunchback of Notre Dame, along with the bags under Nat’s eyes and frustrated look on this face?? He’s bad for British tourism.

There is where I have to explain to some Canadians that don’t understand the naming system in Scotland. Jenny had 5 children – Yvonne, Robert, Michael, Sharon, Nat. Having said that some of them named their children after one of the parents – eg. Yvonne has a daughter, Yvonne, and a son, Terry (named after his father, Terry); and Robert has a son named Robert. Michael, Sharon and Nat bucked the system!! So when I mention one of the children of Jenny, I’ll refer to them as “Big” – no insulted intended as they’re all in good shape. Then when I refer to one of the children of the same name, I’ll refer to them as “Young”. Trust me, this will make it so much easier to understand.

Having arrived and picked up our baggage, we were out the doors to be greeted by Nat’s beautiful wife, Natalie. It had now been 2 days without a good meal and any sleep. Natalie was however a wonderful sight for very tired eyes. She drove us straight to the hospital (it was now somewhere around 3:00 PM UK – 5 hours ahead of Canada). Poor Natalie had to put up with two old fogies who were dragging their asses and trying to keep up as best we could. Naturally, loving husband was doing so much better, but I put my best efforts into it. In my defence, it was another long walk, including a flight up, to get to Jenny’s room.

As we walked into Jenny’s ward quite a few of the family were there – Sharon, her husband, Alan, Nat’s nephew, Nat, Natalie, Sharmaine, etc. With other patients in the same room it was difficult for Jenny’s family to gather around, but we found a seat alongside Jenny’s bed which was nice. (The family had a request in for a private room, later that day).

We were taken aback somewhat as we had not seen her in over 7-8 years. She was so doped up on morphine and pain killers, she was totally confused and mumbling about going home, along with other hallucinations she was having. Her cancer had spread from her lungs to her liver, she now also had half a lung collapse, along with a chest infection which was being treated with one of the best antibiotics in the UK. Her entire body was black and blue from needle jabs, morphine drips and side effects. She looked like she had been kicked around in an alley. I began to get choked up. I could feel the tears coming as I leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. We were told she had been more lucid earlier on, including one time mumbling to Sharon – “You’ve got your work cut out for you” – meaning clearing out her house once she passed. Clever Jenny, she knew exactly what was happening. She had previously expressed to her brother Nat that she was ready to go a few months back, so we both knew exactly what she was thinking. She, too, was just playing the waiting game.

After an hour or so, Natalie drove us back to Jenny’s home so we could get unpacked and settled in the best we could. As we arrived Sharon’s daughter, Sharmaine, pulled up with her son, Jayden, in her arms. That adorable little blond haired boy had asked her mom if he could meet us. Still in his school uniform, he gave a small grin as I expressed my love of his dancing videos his mom had posted on Instagram. He was so full of energy and cute as a button. I told him I looked forward to seeing more. With that they were off and running.

Natalie said she would pick us up again around 7:00 pm to go back to hospital. Despite our complete exhaustion, we managed to lay our suitcases in Jenny’s spare room, open them up and then headed downstairs to make ourselves a snack while we sat in front of the TV too tired to turn it on or even talk.

Later that evening when back at the hospital, another shift of family members had arrived, including Nat and Natalie’s youngest boy, Matthew. My God how he had grown and looking just like his dad. I love this young man for his good looks, his intelligence, kindness, selflessness and photography which he is now studying. (With a wonderful chance to go to Los Angeles for a month on a special course!!) I follow him and his sister, Grace, on Instagram with each child completely posting on polar opposites of the world. They both make me laugh and smile at their antics.

Jenny had now been moved to a private room and was sleeping from still being doped up. Her breathing was hard and once her Doctor came in she took Nat, Michael, and my Nat into the hallway where they could discuss in private Jenny’s future treatment. She was going to be taken off the antibiotic (it was no longer working) and she’ll then be reassessed after that. I’m so glad we were there so my Nat could be included in the discussion and understand exactly what was going on with his only Sister.

My heart broke when I saw Michael’s wife, Susan. She was really broken up and since Nat and I both adore her, it was difficult to see her hurting. She’s beautiful (stunning, actually), funny and has two fabulous boys, Jason and Bradley. These are the two boys who presented us with a crystal clock with their names inscribed on the back, while on one of our past trips and while still in grade school. I cherish that clock today as it sits proudly on our living room shelf beside a picture of their Gran and Uncle Nat. Shock had now set in as soon as I saw Jason, so grown up, very tasteful beard along his jaw and still as sweet and loving as when I first met him. Always smiling, always helpful. For some reason I feel very connected to him, with his dry sense of humour (like his Dad’s) and his love of cars and trailers. His younger brother, Bradley, is still a very shy young man and stayed home but we were hoping we would see him later on.

Natalie drove us home and we were able to get settled in for a short evening. We were both in bed by 9:00 pm, which is highly unusual for dear hubby who only sleeps about 5 hours and usually waits until midnight to retire. Apparently Natalie, along with Sharon and Lisia, stocked Jenny’s house for us with some essentials – milk, bread, etc. and made up Jenny’s bed with fresh linens and towels. We were overwhelmed by their kindness and forethought. Now we would at least have something to munch on whenever we awoke from our long, long awaited sleep.

….and yet, still to be continued …