I just got home from home. Translation: We just flew back to Vegas from
South Dakota. My Great Aunt Lillian passed away Sunday morning after
short battle with pneumonia. Don't be too sad for her - she was 91 and
still living at home alone on the farm she and my Great Uncle helped
build. But before I get into all that, I have a little story about a
confrontation I had with a flight attendant a couple hours ago...
We were in row 23 (of 30), which was one ahead of the exit row. I had
the aisle, my wife the middle seat, and my daughter the window. During
preflight instructions a flight attendant came back to address those in
the exit row. One of the people sitting there looked perhaps too young.
staring directly at the kid, and in a very annoyed, snotty, and totally unnecessary tone
"How old are you?"
long uncomfortable pause
"When did you start driving?"
"I got my permit in March"
long uncomfortable pause
"Have you read the emergency instructions?"
"You need to. Now."
she began her spiel about being in an exit row, in which at some point
she stared him down and said, "YOU MUST BE 15 YEARS OLD TO BE IN AN EXIT
ROW." Once she walked off, the kid decided he was going to grab her
and show her his ID to prove his age. When he did, she just said, "OK"
and walked off.
Sometime during this, my wife reminded me that
this attendant worked a previous flight we took with the same carrier
(Allegiant). I didn't recall, but Amber said that she was quite rude to
several people on that flight as well. That occurred more than a year
ago, and Amber still remembered it.
About 10 minutes after
takeoff, my daughter said very worriedly, "I just pooped in my pants."
We'd not yet been cleared to move about the cabin, but I decided that
this was enough of an emergency that it couldn't wait for anything. I
grabbed her and went back the 7 rows to the bathroom. As we were
returning, we had to step into an empty seat to wait for two attendants
to go by with the snack cart. The bitchy one stopped....
"Sir, it is NOT safe to be out of your seat"
"I understand that, but my 4-year-old needed to use the bathroom. There was no waiting."
"It is NOT safe to be out of your seat"
"The alternative would have been to let her shit her pants."
I said that pretty loud and in not that friendly of a tone. Then I turned to walk away. She grabbed my arm.
"Sir, it is my job to inform you that it is NOT safe to be our of your seat. Please don't argue with me."
this point I was pretty fucking heated. She was attempting to make an
example out of me or embarrass me or whatever. I am not sure if I looked
liked a rookie traveler or what the fuck her issue was, but I've flown a
lot over the last several years. And in that, I've seen 7-8 examples of
parents rushing with their kids to the bathroom during ascent or
descent. In no instance have I ever seen an attendant so much as say a
thing to them. When a kid has to go to the bathroom, they HAVE to go
NOW. If they don't do it in a bathroom, they are doing in their seat.
Those are the options. Period.
I don't know about you, but I don't want to spend 3 hours in close quarters next to a kid with pants full of shit:
1. shit stinks
2. kids cry and scream when sitting in their shit
Not my idea of a good flight. So I did what I had to do.
I understand it was her duty to say something, and that's fine. Had she
not been a cunt and informed my of my error, I would have said what I
did, explaining the situation, she would have nodded, and life would
have been great. Instead, I got treated as though I was riding a
unicycle while juggling flaming swords and a live rattlesnake.
I so badly wanted to tell this bitch to fuck off. I wanted to get in her
face. I wanted to spit on her. But I don't really wanna go to jail. So I
made some snotty remark about how I understood, called her a cunt under
my breath, and sat down (where I continued to call her names, much to
the bemusement of the people around us).
As we exited the plane, my wife heard her tell another attendant, "She is the one who was in the bathroom".
grew up on a farm that was 2 miles from my grandparents and 3 miles
from my Great Aunt Lillian and Uncle Tony. We all farmed together,
seeing each other daily throughout my childhood. Tony and Lillian got
married in their 40's and never had kids of their own, so they became
unofficial grandparents to my mom and her siblings. Once they grew up,
that treatment was deferred to their great-nieces and nephews. Uncle
Tony passed way almost a decade ago, leaving Lillian alone on the farm.
My parents, and to a lesser extent, because he has young children, my
Uncle Carl, took care of her. She got around well enough, able to cook
and clean and go to church on her own. But when it came to longer
drives, like the 35 miles to Aberdeen to see the doctor, she relied on
my parents. We have all been extremely close this past decade. Enough so
that we named our daughter "Ava Lillian" in her honor.
contracted pneumonia a couple weeks ago. My mom took her to the doc, who
gave her meds. It didn't really clear up, getting worse over the
weekend. A week ago Tuesday they ended up taking her to ER via
ambulance. Once in ICU, things looked like they'd be OK. But on Friday,
her condition worsened to the degree that it became clear she wouldn't
make it to the 4th. She passed away about 4:30am Sunday morning.
so far from home during all of this was very difficult for me. I waged
an internal battle, questioning my decision to be here. I really can't
explain how hard this was to deal with. I guess I kinda knew that I may
never see her again when I said goodbye. She was the only person who
caused me to openly weep as we hugged before I took off.
have for each of my other grandparents and my Uncle Tony, I eulogized
her. Considering how much I've grown in the 10 years since I last did
one, I think this was my best. It was not easy and took me around 4
hours in total to complete. I'm not sure anybody reading this cares, but
I feel compelled to post it, so heregoes...
Grandma Schwab and I put in a lot of hours together when I was younger - she was the go-to baby
sitter. One of my earliest memories is of us listening to a cassette of The Muppets in her '84 Tempo on
the way home from Aberdeen.
I was to be able to spend a lot of time in my teens with Grandpa Schwab and Uncle Tony, listening to
them argue in the shop about, well, everything.
When I reached adulthood, between my softball games and our visits to her house, I saw Grandma
Miller at least twice a week.
Then, much too quickly, they all passed. Somebody had to step in to fill their shoes.
It is not that Aunt Lillian was never there, but now she was there more. Or maybe she wasn't? Maybe it
was just that without John, Carol, Tony, and Helen, I noticed and appreciated her presence to a degree I
As a 10 year old, mowing her lawn for minutes at a time, working my way towards the first of a half
dozen water, candy, or ice cream breaks, I didn't necessarily appreciate what I had.
As a teenager, spoiled by being surrounded by everybody I knew and loved, I hadn't really learned the
lesson of how here today and gone tomorrow life really is.
But as a young adult, I started to get it. I needed her more and she came through.
Aunt Lillian became a regular at softball games. She started showing up at Easter and New Years day
dinners at my dad's sister Rita's house. Two or three times a year she took us all out to dinner, simply
for the joy of treating us.
It is not that she wasn't there before, but now, with Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle Tony gone, she
needed us nearly as much as we needed her. She relied on us for something as simple as getting her out
of the house, and we relied on her for more complex things, like being the last bastion of the old guard -
our link to the past.
Perhaps the most unique thing about Aunt Lillian is that she was never cross. Well, not never, but
certainly never in front of me. I quite literally have no memory of seeing her upset, frustrated, or
even mildly irritated. I've never heard her say a bad word about anybody. She was always in the most
amazing of spirits, even throughout her final days.
When I awoke on Sunday and learned that Aunt Lillian passed earlier that morning, the first thing I
did was call my mother. I asked, "What were her final words?" Mom told me that the last thing Aunt
Lillian had said to her was, "Well, this is a bummer." I don't know about the rest of you, but if I am in a
hospital bed for more than 10 seconds I skip right past "bummer" to words that are, you know, bit less
dignified. Yet there she was, fully aware of her mortality, of the gravity of the situation, and all she cared
to elicit was, "This is a bummer".
A bummer indeed.