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Love thy mother

October 03, 2008|By RACHEL NICHOLS, Mercersburg, Pa.

First let me state, I love my mother.

A family cruise in the Caribbean (in January 2008) seemed like an excellent way to spend some time with my sisters, their husbands and my widowed mother. However, as the reservation deadline approached, one by one, each sister found a different reason to back out of the trip. There was no way my husband and I could cancel; we'd already told Mom we were taking her on a cruise, which meant all of her friends were banking on it, too. "Oh well, it'll be fine," I told myself, in full denial.

On the cab ride to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport we ran into a traffic hold up; Dick Cheney's motorcade was passing. "My husband never took this route for this very reason," piped my sweet Mommy. The cabbie muttered something in a foreign tongue.

At the airport security check my husband and I pulled out passports and were being processed through quickly. Not quite so with Mom, though. The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) guard was glaring at Mom's document.

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I asked Mom what did she do with her passport. "Oh, it never came, but I have my driver's license," she replied innocently.

"Ma'am, this license is expired," growled the guard.

Mom raised her eyebrows and retorted, "Well, it's still me!"

She was escorted through the metal detector and treated to a hands-on search while hubby and I, laden with the carry-ons, shoes and coats watched with a mixture of horror and fits of giggling. Perhaps she looked like a terrorist. She certainly has terrorized me on occasion.

Mom had been experiencing a lot of pain in her knees at the time, so we wisely ordered a wheelchair escort when we arrived at Miami International Airport. We told her to stay put while we fetched the luggage and located the cruise ship shuttle bus. Silly us. We schlepped the bags back to where we'd left her only to see the attendant watching over an empty wheelchair.

"Where did she go?" I asked in a slight panic.

"Maybe she's looking for you," was the laconic reply.

We finally did locate her walking among all the shuttle buses looking for one from our cruise line. I yelled over the roar of bus engines, "Mom, Mom don't move. I'm coming to get you."

But of course, she made a beeline toward me, being narrowly missed by at least one moving bus and a couple of porters. "Mom, please don't walk off from us out here. I love you and don't want to be scraping you off the pavement. It would be a shame to miss the cruise."

At last we made it to our ship. We were greeted warmly by the staff and handed complimentary glasses of champagne. My husband thoughtfully snagged two extras for us, and we set off for Mom's stateroom on the fifth level of the ship.

She asked if our room was nearby, and we had to guiltily admit that we had a stateroom six decks up. We exchanged that "I hope she doesn't want to see our room" look, because we had booked ourselves a room with a small balcony.

We had been having hopeful thoughts of a little relaxation in our own stateroom before dinner when she looked around her room, wrinkled her nose a bit and said, "I'm not sure this is going to work. I need a night light, it looks like I could hit my head on this shelf and I think I'll be needing a wheelchair during the trip. I certainly hope I'll be able to sleep tonight."

At that point my hero appeared. "It will be my pleasure to take care of madame's needs," said cabin steward Raoul. He didn't know what he was getting into, so the mister and I practically took off at a run leaving Raoul to reap what he had sown.

When we arrived to pick dear Mother up for dinner, Raoul was there with a wheelchair, and he only looked slightly crazed about the eyes. Mother looked lovely, but was clearly heading into an anxiety attack. There was a lot of hand wringing and sighing (from her), but I was hopeful that we would have good company at our table that would perk her up. Just in case anyone wonders, it can be done, but maneuvering a wheelchair around a ship can be challenging.

We were seated in the grand dining room at a table for three, which looked like it had been squeezed in at the last minute. Yikes! Had they already gotten word that we were trouble? Conversation was strained as I worked mightily to garner excitement from my silent husband and nervous mother.

The waiter and his assistant, in true cruise ship style, were over-the-top chipper and very puzzled at our odd demeanor. During dinner Mother announced that she wanted me to book her a flight home at our first port of call the next day; she said she was getting very upset. I'm not unsympathetic to people with anxiety disorders, but wasn't this the same person who always forced my sisters and I to at least TRY new things before dismissing them? After a very long, tense dinner I went to beg the maitre d' to get us a table with other passengers for the duration of the trip. Another hero - he granted my plea.

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