Last Day In the United States

Tristan taking a selfie

Tristan taking a selfie

Tristan woke up at 5am, but grandma and great-grandma weren’t ready to get up yet, so they lay him between them and went back to sleep. I got out of bed at 7am when Kris got up and Caleb followed. Kris made eggs, canned biscuits, bacon, and potatoes in grease for breakfast with a bowl of fresh blueberries and strawberries, and a pot of coffee at 8am.

Tristan hanging out with Uncle Caleb

Tristan hanging out with Uncle Caleb

Tristan woke up again and Caleb and I took turns holding him. He is way cuter now than he was in his first picture. Caleb was holding Tristan when his head slammed into my leg. I picked him up and then hung out at the table while we talked for a while more before we had food to shove in our mouths. Eventually we got around to working on the large Majestic puzzle made up of irregularly shaped pieces making the process of putting pencils and erasers together even more fun and time-consuming.

Tristan finding his feet with Aunt Jess

Tristan finding his feet with Aunt Jess

I was waiting for everyone to take a shower, but Bubbie hadn’t moved in a while, so I chose to be next in line. She decided it was her turn while Caleb was in there and went in after him. I didn’t realize how dirty I was until I felt how clean I was after. I have two more biscuits and a bottle of Snapple peach tea. We work on the pencils and paperclips puzzle until 3:30 when we decide that should give us enough time to get back to Norfolk.  At a red light, these teenage girls pull up, and when they notice the old guy on the phone next to them with his window down they belt out the obscenities (to the song) an octave higher. 

Caleb's photo of his nephew and wife

Caleb’s photo of his nephew and wife

There’s a chance of rain and some light sprinkling, but most of the heavy stuff came earlier while we were eating breakfast. Caleb drives us all the way back to Virginia Beach by 6pm and while en route we find out that the return trip (within 24 hours) on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is now full price. I called Yellow Cab on the way there and the driver arrived 15 minutes after us. We were going to get a ride from an old friend, but he wanted us to get a ride from Kris’ house to his (half the distance to the airport) and I didn’t want to chance that he wouldn’t be able to complete the distance and make us call another cab.

Tristan getting changed

Tristan getting changed

The driver was quiet at first, but he perked right up and talked with us until we were parked in front of the glass doors of the AMC terminal. He wished us well and smiled more when he realised I tipped him, more than I usually would, but I was feeling generous to the guy that helped make one part of this long journey a little more happy and a lot less stressful even though the rate is $2.70/mile. We walked into the tiny airport, took off our shoes, showed our IDs, and I asked to take a picture of the ‘Not a Joking Matter’ sign in reference to bombs. One of the guards asked what the importance of a photo was and I told him I’d never seen that sign before (and I’m documenting a life changing event!).

Caleb looking at Tristan

Caleb looking at Tristan

At the check-in counter we are asked about our pet – you mean the one you said you wouldn’t take, but apparently still have room for, that one? Well then, put your bags on the scale and then yourself. We need to know how much this flight will weigh. I suppose they can only do this for military personnel and family who have waived their rights. I’m sure there would be an outrage if people started seeing scales and seamstress tape at the ticket and/or baggage counters.

Tristan eating orange and Kris and Vicki wearing orange too

Tristan eating orange and Kris and Vicki wearing orange too

We checked in and our flight was due to leave three hours earlier than originally scheduled. Luckily Caleb got a notice via email so we weren’t late. We headed upstairs at 7pm to the USO for mac-n-cheese and a poppy seed muffin and then found a seat with an outlet near gate 2. I took two books, Antebellum (rapper goes back in time and becomes a slave) and Operation Mincemeat (a spy story about WWII) because they seemed like the most interesting reads amongst all the romance and fiction.

Tristan and Vicki helping with the puzzle

Tristan and Vicki helping with the puzzle

I grabbed a book out of my bag that Caleb had finished reading and donated it to the USO book shelf. We sat there until Caleb’s phone charged and a smelly man sat down beside us causing us to get up and look around some more. We took the elevator to the third floor – an office space, and then back down to the first floor so we could walk back up to the second. Then I went into the bathroom to read all the signs they have posted about stress management, sexual harassment, and human trafficking.

Ocean City Bascule Bridge

driving west on Ocean City Bascule Bridge

We line up at 9:30 and talk with the other people circled around us – all active duty – some going to Italy, one to Diego Garcia, and the rest to Bahrain. We will also be making stops in Portugal and Greece with no sightseeing allowed. Families with children were boarded first, then in order of destination, and I watched other people’s dogs get loaded on the conveyor belt. I’m grateful that mine are in a nice cabin in a box somewhere instead of underneath the plane where it’s dark and cold.

a friendly tree in Kris' yard

a friendly tree in Kris’ yard

Dad called – our last call together in the States for a while. We are seated in row 34, seats A and C because there is no B. We are buckled up by 10pm, and taking selfies, among many Navy guys and the conversation starts flowing until a mother asks us to tone down the language. We get our safety briefing at 10:30 and get our crotches checked for shiny bits (seatbelt buckles) by the people in uniform with neck scarves and ties – ah, the topics of sailors, and those prior enlisted.

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese from the USO

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese from the USO

We take off 15 minutes later. For those that didn’t pass out as soon as we were off the ground they will be offered a warm, lemony scented, towel 25 minutes into the flight causing the cabin lights to come back on so that the stewardesses can pass out headphones and towels –  and just as I’m about to take a picture of a cloud full of lightning. The guy in the middle row next to us indulged me by posing for a photo.

a sign in the bathroom at the airport

a sign in the bathroom at the airport

Caleb asked earlier how I felt about going to a country where I don’t know anyone. My reply was that with him and the navy it would be easy, that and my ability to make friends. If I were literally going alone I would be nervous about finding a hotel and a rental car and walking the streets at night, but hopefully more prepared than I feel we are learning of changes last-minute and struggling with every detail. X-men is playing on the TVs with lots of static interruptions. We are due to land in Azores, Portugal at 7am (a four-hour time difference from Norfolk).

Norfolk at night

Norfolk at night

Dinner comes around – chicken or beef – neither, but I will take the box with carrot cake, Rubschlager biscuit, sliced potatoes, Tillamook cheddar cheese and Club crackers inside. It’s 11:45pm, the drink cart comes by and I get a cranberry juice and Caleb a ginger ale. I start to sing, ‘sippin’ on gin and juice’ and the stewardess adds in, ‘laid back’. We split our box of goodies and the box of chicken with rice and veggies that Caleb got. We might be eating the rest of this for breakfast unless we can get off the plane to buy something just for the sake of being in a foreign airport.

warm, lemony goodness

warm, lemony goodness

The plane is lively and people who were resting are now awake. I wonder if the food will put them back to sleep or revive them. Either way I will get back to reading about a great man and his journey while waiting for the cabin lights to go out so I can see the clouds and maybe a glimpse of the ocean. I fight dozing off in fear that I will miss something. I have such difficulty sleeping on trips, but with the time change and day and a half of travel to look forward to, closed eyes will be inevitable.

This entry was posted in Books, Family, Food, Military, People, Places, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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