The Shortest Longest Day

My father is a hero. He always has been, and I’ve known it since I was a little child, but his feats continue even now that I am fully grown with my own family.

Our flight was scheduled for a Thursday mid-afternoon departure. Jenny and I were already stressed out by packing, planning and even just the idea of heading to a foreign land for an extended trip. We didn’t even know where we would be living after the first week, for which we had booked a hotel. Added to that was an even more urgent stressor: I needed to bring some paperwork with me, which I didn’t have on Thursday morning. I had thought it would be all ready several days in advance, but it wasn’t. Luckily, my father made himself available all that day to take us to the airport.

We left early so I could stop in at work and pick everything up, but as the minutes passed, our flight time drew nearer and I didn’t have the paperwork in my hands, we decided to switch to our back-up plan: My father would take Jenny and the kids to the aiport with all of our luggage, and I would call a taxi and catch up when I could. I had booked travel through work and my reservation was fully refundable, but their fares were the cheapest we could find, and would have cost hundreds of dollars in change fees. Still, we were all sweating bullets, Jenny especially, because she did not want to fly across an ocean by herself with Roman and Elena as well as all the luggage.

Once the plan was in motion, I called the taxi and arranged the earliest possible pickup, knowing that if things worked out I would still make the plane. As I finished up the call to the dispatcher, the paperwork came in and I signed for it and headed out the door. There was one small problem–I didn’t have my cell phone, because it was in the car. When the taxi driver didn’t show up on time, I was able to find a landline and check in with Jenny, who explained the situation. The driver had gone to the wrong location, due to a missed communcation with the dispatcher. Jenny answered my phone when the driver called and had the presence of mind to direct him to where I was. The delay only cost us about ten minutes, but it was enough that I started to fear that I wouldn’t make the flight.

The taxi driver seemed pretty mellow. His company specializes in taking people to the local airports, so I was reassured when I explained the time pressure to him and he said that we should still be able to make it. Pretty soon the driver began taking calls from someone he eventually described as “a very concerned doctor,” who turned out to be my father calling every five minutes for status updates. Despite some traffic, we arrived at the terminal where my father was waiting just outside the terminal. He showed me in to the priority check-in, where the desk agent who had helped Jenny was waiting to check me in, then showed me to the of the security line. After sending Jenny a text message that I was on my way, he said goodbye.

I didn’t hear the rest of the story until long after takeoff. My father was not familiar with how to get to the airport, and was trying to listen to the GPS voice directions with Roman crying unconsolably in the back seat. In the middle of all that, Jenny expressed worry about navigating the aiport alone with all the luggage and the kids. My father offered to help any way he could, so instead of dropping them off he parked in the garage, unloaded all the luggage and began wrestling hundreds of pounds of our bags towards the terminal while Jenny dealt with the kids. Once they got inside, he stormed the check-in desk to inform the staff that his daughter-in-law required assistance, in return for which he was directed to a star agent in the priority lane (the same one who would later help me). The agent not only worked efficiently and kept everyone calm, but also managed to figure out a legal way to get all of our checked bags on the plane for free.

Security was the final hurdle, and Jenny still had two carry-ons, a stroller, and a car seat to take through. My father didn’t have a ticket, so he couldn’t help her directly. Instead, he found two friendly young women at the front of the security line and made a deal with them to help Jenny and the kids through security and to the gate. According to Jenny, the girls made her life much easier even though one of the bags had to undergo additional screening. They were good with Elena and Roman, who did their best to be cute all the while.

At the gate, no sooner had the helpers said goodbye so they could catch their own flight than a woman approached Jenny. A mother traveling alone, she could see that Jenny would still need help boarding, and offered to help her board. Jenny thanked her for the help but explained that she was expecting me. They were still chatting when I arrived, just minutes before the boarding began. We walked on the plane together as a family, something that had been in doubt all that day, thankful to be reunited, and ready for at least a few minutes of relaxation. Although our trip was far from over, we felt extremely fortunate at the successful resolution of the first stage.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The Shortest Longest Day

  1. DanaDad

    Jenny is the real hero in this saga: She carried as much as me, and was willing to step onto the plane and voyage across the sea by herself. I’m glad it worked out. Anticipating the second stage of the story.

  2. Heidi

    Wow–sounds like Amazing Race material to me.

  3. robert

    Good luck with your vacation.

    here’s a hint from airport security.

    Your father can get a Gate Pass to go in to the gate as well. he still has to go through security, but he can go in and help next time.

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