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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

January 13 – Feb 7, 2012 – Tragic News Back Home and an Unexpected Trip

The night after Karen left we received a strange text message from my brother who was on a cruise in the Pacific Ocean…"Ma has fallen and dislocated her hip. She'll have surgery today or tomorrow. We're at sea but get updates from Sam". It didn't' sound too bad – a dislocated hip must be painful but nothing to cause alarm, although we didn't know hip dislocation would require surgery. This stirred in us mild cause for alarm. We texted back asking for Sam's cell # so that we could get more first-hand information. Apparently, Ma fell while in her apartment and shattered her hipbone. Oh my God! She was presently in the urgent care facility of Fairfax Hospital, sedated while the doctor attempted to stabilize her in preparation for surgery. Now we prickled with fear, because at her age a broken hip can be very grave. Over the next two days it was agony not knowing what is going on with Ma, although we texted back and forth with Samantha and Kevin the news was sketchy and erratic. Finally we were told that Ma was stable and would be having surgery on Monday morning. We phoned her at the hospital but she was so out of it we doubt she even knew who was on the phone. Meanwhile, Pauline had invited us to their beach house at Boomerang. We sat on the fence about that and after hearing Ma's surgery was a success and that she was recovering nicely we agreed to ride with Janet up to Boomerang. Just a couple of hours before leaving, however, we received word that Ma was in distress. We began looking for flights to Virginia. Back and forth it went like this for two more days, when finally on the evening of January 18th we received word from Kevin that we might want to get there. She was asking for Frank. We immediately booked a flight to depart on Friday the 20th – it was Thursday in Virginia.

We had no place in Sydney to leave Destiny for nearly 3 weeks. I had just been to Costco with Pauline and filled the freezer to near capacity. We had also a fridge full of fresh foods. We needed Destiny to remain plugged in while we flew home.We had no place in Sydney to leave Destiny for nearly 3 weeks. The closest and most affordable berth would be in Newcastle, some 50-60 NM up the coast. On the 19th we sailed out of Sydney at daybreak, arriving Newcastle’s marina just before closing time. Thankfully, our flight to San Francisco out of Sydney wasn’t until 4 PM on the 20th. We arose in the dark Friday morning, walked to the train station that fortunately is only about 500 meters from our dock, and rode to Sydney’s Central. From there we took the airport express train, arriving just in time to check our bags and get to the departure gate.

Our travel days to Virginia were wrought with frustration and delays. We departed Sydney on time, but arrived Friday morning in SFO just as our connecting flight to Dulles was to begin boarding. We rushed off the plane but could not clear US Customs before the connection departed. We were left literally standing in the terminal with our bags. United would not let us recheck them through, rather pointed us in the direction of the DREADED Customer Service Desk queue, where we noted a growing crowd of already distraught travelers. We joined the line and during our wait heard continual announcements that one flight after another was being cancelled due to weather on the east coast. Time ticked away as we watched the departure board flash "cancelled" next to one flight after another. By the time we reached the desk we were told we could be placed on a wait list for tomorrow at 10:00 PM, however, we were the lowest of the low on that list not being premier/elite class members of United's mileage plus program, or Business or First Class travelers. The best they could do for us was to confirm us on a Sunday afternoon flight to Dulles. We asked what would we do in the meantime? The answer, very clearly articulated, was: Not United's problem. This is an act of God. We appealed on the basis that we had a family medical emergency, but those appeals fell on deaf ears. We continued our appeal at two other Customer Service locations until Frank managed to get the attention of a kind-hearted agent who gave us a hotel voucher and a meal discount voucher, put us on a (Saturday) dawn flight to San Diego, that connected to a 10:20 PM flight to Washington DC, putting us into Dulles at 5:46 AM on Sunday. It was the best that he could do for us. We took it.

We boarded a transport bus from the San Francisco airport to the hotel at 7 PM. It had been a long and upsetting day. Halfway there I received a simple text message from Mary: "Ma passed about 8 this morning". We were devastated.

The next couple of weeks were a bit of a blur. Karen managed to fly in from Denver, Jen from Houston. Most of the grandchildren made it. We did all the things that family do, and thanks to Ma had a beautiful reunion, overshadowed by the pain of not getting to her in time. Rest in Peace Ma. We love you and we miss you.

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