They called me after they'd already passed that road, and I tried to confirm that they were still on course. My mom kept saying "take" when she meant "pass" as I had given them a bunch of road names that they would pass to give them a sense that they were going in the right direction. She'd say, "We just took Poole Road."
"You took it?" I said. "You weren't supposed to take that, it says that you'll pass it."
"Yes, we passed it," she said.
When I heard enough that they were indeed still coming in the right direction, I said, "Okay call me back when you see the exit for Lake Wheeler Road," which would mean they were getting close to the Gorman Street exit they were supposed to take.
After a long enough time that they should have called me, I called them back. "Where are you now?"
"We're at US 64 at Knightdale," she said.
"Knightdale? You're not supposed to go to Knightdale."
I asked, "How did you get there?"
To which she replied, "We got off on US 1 and 64."
"Why'd you do that? It says that you'll pass that exit. The means you keep going on the road you're on."
She said, "Well we got off on that US 1." Later I found out that my dad got caught up in traffic and ended up in that "must turn" lane so they had to take the exit. Okay, wouldn't you think that if you had to get off on the wrong exit, you'd try and turn around and get back on to where you'd gotten off? I'm just asking...
"What's around you now?" I asked. "Tell me the next exit that you come up to while I stay on the line."
She told me I-540, and at that point I had no idea where they were. I did know that Knightdale was not good, however.
I told them to take the next exit, to pull into the nearest gas station, and to ask someone to talk to their son on the phone, so I could figure out where they were to go fetch them.
After too long without a return call, I called back. "You haven't reached a gas station yet?" I asked and I could hear a man talking in the background.
"Yes, the man's giving dad directions to get back."
I said, "Mom. We don't have time for you to get lost again. Please ask the man to come on the phone so I can talk to him."
I talked to this guy and he told me where he was, which I wasn't familiar with, and he asked me where I was. I said down near NC State off Western Blvd.
"Just take Hillsborough Street until it turns into New Bern Avenue."
At this point, the man lost his credibility, as Hillsborough Street does not turn into New Bern Avenue. It dead ends downtown into some crossroad in front of a government building. However I knew where New Bern Avenue was and I started downtown telling my parents to stay put until I got there.
On the way, it occurred to me that I would never make it all the way out to Knightdale and back to my house in time to get to the airport for our flight, so I called them back and asked them if they could have that man put them back on New Bern Avenue coming back into town. That way they'd at least be getting closer to me, as I drove toward them. I told them to call me back once the man put them back on New Bern Avenue, and I'd talk to them until we met up.
Once again, too much time went by as the guy had told me they were off New Bern Avenue. I expected them to call me back in two, three minutes the most. Five minutes, nothing. Seven minutes, nothing. Eight minutes, I called them.
"Where are you now? Are you back on New Bern Avenue?"
"I don't know," my mom said. "Well how did you get on the road you're on?" I asked.
"We turned right to get on it," she said, continuing, "We're at the Circle K, the Howard Johnson's with the yellow roof on it is across the street."
"What's the name of the street you're on?"
"I don't know."
It took all I had to say without totally exploding, "Mom, you guys cannot keep driving around. I'm trying to find you. Please go into the Circle K and give the phone to someone who works in there so I can ask them where you are. And wait there until I get there."
This super nice, African American lady got on the phone, and she told me they were on New Bern Avenue, up past Corporation Parkway. She was being very calming to me and calling me "sweetheart." She talked me there, which was about ten minutes away from where I was.
They followed me back to my house. I ran in and threw my bags into their car and drove us to the airport pronto. I parked in the garage instead of my usual parking in a remote lot to save a few bucks.
I dropped them off in the garage next to the elevators and said, "Wait here until I get back from parking."
Returning, we went down one flight in an elevator and then hit the walkway to Terminal One, which is way long, and in spite of there being two sections that are moving sidewalks, it was going to be too much for dad. I said, "Just keep walking slowly toward the terminal, and I'll come back with a wheelchair and take you the rest of the way. Just stop if you get tired."
I had a hell of a time getting a worker to let me take a wheelchair that was right next to her. She kept saying she'd call someone to push the person when he arrives. I said, "But he's walking in from the terminal and it's too far. I want to go get him with it. I don't mind pushing it myself."
She finally relented, I took the chair down one flight via another elevator, opened the door and looked down the long corridor and my parents were nowhere to be found. It's just a straight corridor. It's wide. There's nowhere to go except into the parking spot areas in the garage! I looked way back at the elevators we had originally come down to see if maybe they'd found it too cold and had gone into one of them. Nowhere to be found.
I got back in the elevator I'd come down in with the wheelchair and went back up. There they were at the top of the escalator, my dad sitting in a wheelchair with an airport person ready to push him.
Deep breaths. Deep breaths. It was at this point that I discovered in the rush of everything, I'd left my phone at home—either in my car after having chased them around town, or when I had run into my house to get my luggage to throw in their car and go. That's going to make things very, very inconvenient up there, as I was pretty much "telephone central" for the Lachapelle side of the family, and I had all their phone numbers stored in it. I was, in retrospect, overly distraught over this development.
Next up, security. My mom always sets off every possible alarm, as she's had three knee replacements (across only two knees, of course), so she is always pulled to the side to be searched.
Dad set off the alarm no less than five times, each time the security guard asking him if he had anything else on him, not of course meaning, "Please do only take one of them off at a time if you have several," which evidently was how my father was interpreting it. The fifth and final item to be removed was his huge, metal watch with all kinds of eagles, globes, anchors and other Marine Corps-related regalia on it. Gee, who knew that would set off the metal detectors?
When he finally took that off, the lady said, "You're gonna make it this time, and everyone is going to clap." The people in the long leg- and hip-shifting line that had built up behind us did indeed clap, but it was quite obvious it was under duress.
We had the nicest, nicest man pushing my dad and helping him get in and out of the chair for the security check. I pushed my mom in another chair, because although she can walk, it's at a glacial pace, and needless to say by this time and all that had transpired this morning we were not exactly carrying around loads of spare time with us.
When we got to the gate, they were of course loading, and we joined the end of the line. I know I was at the end of the line.
Our flight from Raleigh-Durham to Philadelphia was uneventful. I made the mistake of letting my dad go in front of my mom, bringing up the rear myself. I told the flight attendant behind me that he was "a little disoriented," so she'd radio the flight attendant in the back to come up and guide him to our seats, which unfortunately were pretty far back. The good news was that there was no way they were getting out of my sight on our way back to them.
We had an hour layover in Philly, but didn't have to change plans, so we stayed on board, while everyone else deplaned. I asked if I could run into the terminal to get us lunch, and I brought back three big ole Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches, which were killer.
On the Philly to Providence leg the temperature was ridiculously erratic from way too cold in there, to toasty, and back to way too cold. Dad had lots of comments about that. "Jesus Christopher. He got the air-conditioner on, or what?" being one of them.
In spite of the huge nor'easter that's on the way, the skies were blue today, and the landing into Providence beautiful.
I was annoyed to arrive at the Payless car rental place, which was advertised as being "In Terminal," only to find a red phone to pick up and have their shuttle take you to the actual office and lot, which was just outside the airport.
When I called them, annoyed, they agreed to send someone over in my car to pick us up and then drive back there to fill out the paperwork, to avoid having my parents to have to try and negotiate a shuttle bus.
We checked into the room at the Comfort Inn in Seekonk, and our rooms turned out to be adjoining rooms, so we opened the doors between them. For a while, anyway.
I checked in with Aunt Vivian (my dad's sister) and she was concerned about the service being canceled tomorrow, due to this terrible storm coming. Schools had already been canceled for tomorrow where she lived, which wasn't that far away.
I checked in with Karen, who was making the arrangements and she found out that both the funeral home and the church handling the service "don't cancel." Evidently God doesn't care if there's only one person in the church for a funeral mass.
Lisa (my Uncle Frank and Aunt Annette's daughter) came to our room, as she and her fiance was staying just down the hall from us, and we caught up a little before walking over to "Vinny T's of Boston" for dinner together, with Karen (Frank's daughter from a previous marriage to my aunt, but the closest sibling to my aunt) and her partner, Joe, joining us.
Dinner was nice. It was great to see Joe, who is such an angel of a man, and fighting cancer valiantly—such a warm-hearted man. Karen and Lisa had an envelope with them that they had put things in—pictures, cards, a little porcelain jewelry box for my mom that my aunt used to put her everyday jewelry in by the bed, and a little bronze-looking statuette that's a bell—that they'd come across going through my aunt's things. So thoughtful. And so appreciated.
We got back to the hotel (right next door, literally) at around 8:00 and we called it an early night. I know mom and dad were just shot after starting their day in Jacksonville at around 6:00 this morning. They pretty much went right to bed.
I was able to have a couple of nice chats with Robert via instant message, and a couple with Joe as well.
In the last chat with Joe, he reminded me that I could check my cell phone voice mail remotely, so I did that.
I had no messages, which surprised me, and ironically in order to find that out, I had to listen to three saved messages that I have on my phone—all three of which are from my aunt. Things that make you go, "Hmmmmm."