THE FINAL BLOW
The more I think about
it, the more convinced I am that maybe there was a curse after all.
We suffered more problems than Odysseus trying to get home to
She suffered so much on the way home! She was so frustrated
she even said there must be some sort of dark cloud over her head.
I didn't dare tell her it might be my fault.
Throughout this trip, Marla was involved in a deeply frustrating
sub-plot. Her lovely daughter Marissa was pregnant. Marissa
was due to deliver sometime around Christmas.
Lucas would be Marla's first grandchild. Since Marla and Marissa are
about as close as a mother and daughter can possibly be, Marla was
intensely tuned into her daughter's experience. Unfortunately, right
from the start, the pregnancy had been fraught with one complication
Marissa and her baby had come through each scare intact, but we all
knew it was touch and go. There was no guarantee of a happy
ending. Consequently Marissa, her husband Glenn, and Marla
were always full of worry.
The latest crisis had hit in mid-November. Marissa experienced
serious contractions. She was ordered to stop work and begin bed
rest even though the baby wasn't due for another month.
We all took a deep breath. This wasn't going to be easy, was it?
There were no guarantees. The suspense was killing everyone.
Marla was faced with an agonizing decision. Marissa is Marla's
only child. Marla raised the girl practically singlehanded.
For many long years, it was Marla and Marissa against the world.
Consequently Mother and Daughter grew about as close as is humanly
Therefore, the most important thing in the world to Marla was to be
at her daughter's side for the delivery of her grandson Lucas.
It was clear to Marla that Marissa needed all the support her mother
could give her.
Now thanks to this new development, the baby was likely to be born
prematurely. There was a 50% chance Marissa would deliver
while we were on this trip in the Mediterranean. If Marissa
went into labor, there would no way for Marla to scramble back in
Marla had to decide whether to stay home or go to Egypt.
What drove Marla nuts was our trip had been planned over a year ago!
That's right. We had signed on for this gig back in late 2009. And
now on the very eve of her trip, Marla was faced with this agonizing
Finally Marla decided the right thing to do was to honor our
commitment. Trying to make the best of the situation, Marla
got overseas service on her cell phone. During the trip, Marla
called Marissa once a day at 5 pm Barcelona time/ 10 am Houston
For twelve days in a row, Marla got the same answer - "Lots of
signals, but he's still in there".
I guess it was the 13th or 14th day that Marla got the news that
Marissa was beginning to dilate. That meant the long-awaited
birth was on "any day now" status.
So we landed in Barcelona on Friday, December 17. Marla and I got
off the ship at 6:30 am. We were in the airport at 7 am for a 9:30
flight to Frankfurt, then a direct flight to Houston. If all went
well, we would be home at 6 pm Houston time. The race was on!!
The Lufthansa agent said the 9:30 flight had been delayed. Overnight
there had been a massive snowfall in Frankfurt and they were in the
process of clearing the runways. Just be patient, the woman said.
Marla was not at all willing to be patient. In fact, she was
frantic. By chance, Marla noticed a Continental airplane right
outside the window that was headed on a direct flight to Houston.
Continental and Lufthansa were Star Alliance partners. Marla begged
the ticket agent to please switch us to that plane. Please!
The ticket agent said no. Marla began to cry. Those tears were not
fake, that I promise. Again the agent refused. Just be patient. The
runways will be cleared and the plane to Frankfurt will be on its
way in time to catch the connecting flight to Houston.
"We will get you home in time!" she said. Famous last words.
We sat. We sat some more. Then we sat some more. Word came to us
that Europe had just suffered through the WORST SNOWSTORM IN 25
YEARS! Airports were shut down across the continent.
Nevertheless, that plane to Frankfurt would likely be taking off
soon. However, there was no way we would ever get there in time to
catch the connecting flight. Any chance of getting to Houston today
Marla was crushed. She weighed her options. Since the weather in
Barcelona was good, she decided to stay here. We would take a Delta
flight to Atlanta on Saturday morning and then on to Houston.
What a disappointment. We had been stuck waiting in lines at this
airport for nearly 12 hours and we were no closer to home than
before. As for Marissa, it was good news/bad news. The good news was
she was holding steady. The bad news was she had dilated more. This
was going to be a close call.
Marla was depressed out of her mind. Marla ripped herself to shreds
with guilt. Why hadn't she anticipated the possibility of December
bad weather when she had booked Frankfurt, Germany, in the first
place? And if only that awful Lufthansa woman had done what Marla
begged for at 7 am in the morning!!
Then Marla began to wonder why the Gods had deserted her. After all
the things she had suffered through on this trip, wasn't she due to
have some luck? It just wasn't fair. Marla was about to have a
breakdown with all her worry.
We spent the night at a nearby hotel in Barcelona. At 4 am Barcelona
time (9 pm in Houston), Marla got the call - Marissa had gone into
labor. Marla had lost the race.
Marla bravely encouraged her daughter and wished her the best, but
broke into agonizing sobs when the call ended.
I tried to be the voice of reason. I reminded her that Glenn was
there to reassure Marissa. In addition, Glenn's parents had
immediately begun to drive in from Louisiana. Marissa would be just
fine and so would her little boy Lucas.
My words were of no consolation. Marla wanted to be there. Nothing
could possibly help wash her disappointment away. I watched
helplessly as Marla cried on and on. Bless her heart. First
the disappointment of losing Egypt. Now the disappointment of
missing the birth of her grandchild. She wasn't catching any
breaks at all. Marla didn't have a lot of being stoic about it
Eventually Marla was able to cry the pain out and regain her senses.
Yes, she was still disappointed, but now her focus was directed
towards the only thing that was really important - the safety of the
child and the mother.
Our second day of travel was not without drama either. For reasons
neither of us understand, we came perilously close to getting bumped
from our rescheduled flight to Atlanta.
We were supposed to take an 8:15 shuttle from the hotel back to the
airport to catch a 10:45 plane. That should have been plenty of
time, right? In addition, I had made a RESERVATION on that shuttle
the night before.
We got to our shuttle at 8:05. It was COMPLETELY FULL. We would have
to wait for the next shuttle. And when would that be? 9 am.
I had a fit. I said this was unacceptable. Taking a page from the
Mob back on my ship, I made it clear I was about to go into a
serious rage unless the hotel representatives did something.
They were responsible for giving away our shuttle. Seeing me
ready to turn into the Incredible Hulk, a lady called us a cab and
said the hotel would pay for it.
Nevertheless, we arrived 15 minutes later than we would have if we
had been on the shuttle. Those 15 minutes cost us dearly. Due to all
the problems in Europe, many people were flying standby. In fact, a
group of about 30 people from our own cruise trip had just arrived
at the airport. They got into our line ONE MINUTE before we did!!!
When we finally got to the ticket agent, she confirmed our booking,
but she was very vague. Not only did she refuse to issue us
confirmed seats, she informed me that the computer had "randomly"
selected me for an extra-special special security check. In
addition, Marla made a serious mistake by requesting we sit next to
one another. Considering how crowded the plane was, I believed this
would increase our chances of getting bumped.
When we got to the check-in area, we were immediately told to go
stand over to the side and wait. No promises were made. This didn't
look good. There were two groups - people assured of getting on the
plane and our group of "maybes". We all stared at each other. Some
of us would win and some of us would lose. Who would it be?
To our surprise, our names were the first called from the "Maybe"
group. Except there was one problem - First I had to pass my special
security check. Marla was not allowed to board either.
So a woman escorted me to a special station. I was surrounded by
three Spanish guards. I was x-rayed and also patted down. I passed.
Then the guard went through my laptop and my backpack slowly but
surely. I passed that too. Then they asked me questions. Why was I
in Spain? I showed them my cruise ship ID card. That ploy turned the
corner. They looked at each other and nodded. I suppose the profiles
have shown very few terrorists take cruises before deciding to
You all would have been proud of me. I never once asked a question.
I complied with everything they asked me to do quickly and with a
smile. I was Mr. Cooperation. I suppose it helped that I had nothing
to hide. That made everything a little easier.
So why was I selected? They said it was random, but I don't believe
them. I think it was my DVD player in my backpack and my laptop -
too many electronic devices. Maybe there was an alert out in that
Nevertheless, I passed. They walked me back to the plane and let us
board. It did not escape my attention that I was the final
person to board.
Our trip to Atlanta went smoothly. When we touched ground, Marla
immediately got on the phone. Seconds later, Marla got the good news
- the baby was born and everyone was happy!
For the first time in days, Marla began to smile again. Thank
Unfortunately, thanks to all the drama of deciding who got on the
plane and who didn't, the flight from Barcelona was delayed taking
off. When we landed, we discovered to our chagrin we had missed our
connecting flight in Atlanta by about 20 minutes. Marla went right
back into basket case mode. Her nerves were now officially shot. She
had no patience left.
We finally caught a break.
We met a marvelous ticket agent at Continental. Although we had just
missed the last Continental flight to Houston for Saturday, this
woman checked her computer and discovered we had one last chance.
She got on the phone and personally talked a friend of hers over at
Delta into giving us the last two seats on the plane to Houston!
That woman was our angel. Two hours later, we landed in
Marla was still reeling from the cruel twist of fate that caused her
to barely miss the much-awaited birth of her first grandchild.
At least the story had a happy ending. Once Marla was able to
finally hold Lucas, she was finally on the road to recovery.
With the baby in her arms, Marla let out a sigh of relief that could
be heard throughout the hospital.
After 17 days, we were finally home. What a long strange
trip it had been.