Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

July 30, 2013

A matter of miles and time

Cathie Shaffer
The Independent

ASHLAND — All it takes to change one’s perspective is a couple of hours and a cruising altitude of 30,000 miles or so. I left Tri-State Airport last Thursday shortly before noon and by mid-afternoon I was climbing into my niece’s car at the Dallas, Texas airport.

As so often happens in our family, a series of circumstances led to me hearing my name paged as soon as I stepped off the plane. I forgot my cell phone so was traveling unencumbered by electronics. My niece wasn’t sure of my flight number, just the time I was coming in.

My plane was late. So was my niece. So while I’m on the plane worrying about her sitting at the airport with a three-year-old and a six-year-old wondering where in the world I was, she was in traffic worrying about making me wait at the airport. A series of phone calls to folks back here, who had no idea of my flight number either, and a consultation with her husband led to the page.

All was well. We managed to survive Dallas rush hour traffic and arrive at her house only slightly later than expected.

My purpose in visiting Texas was two-fold. I’d been invited to speak to a group of romance authors and it so happened that the meeting was less than an hour from my niece’s home. So my extended weekend became a mix of dressing up when I was with the authors and kicking back in ultra-casual style with the family.

It turns out that their subdivision community has a couple of pools for residents. So we spent a couple of hours splashing under the summer sun, which included indulging my great-nephew’s fascination with bugs. It’s been a long time since I studied a beetle up close or discussed a grasshopper brought in from the backyard and kept in a jar. But then again, it’s been a while since I hung with a six-year-old.

His younger sister is in the question stage. My favorite one was “Why do you have those fat ovals?”

She was referring to my saggy upper arms, nicknamed my bat wings by my daughter. An operation two years ago resulted in scars making a definite six-inch  line that runs upward on the inside of each arm from the elbow. She is quite correct; I do have fat ovals which I normally keep hidden from view.

I also, after losing eighty pounds, have some flabby legs which, again, I don’t show in public very often. But it’s hard to hide chunky legs in a swim suit and she was quick to notice.

“You have fat legs!” she declared, to my amusement and her mother’s chagrin. As her mom explained you can’t say things like that to people, I knew exactly what she was thinking: Why not if it’s the truth?

Before my visit to Dallas ended I’d watched a cut-out cardboard box become an airplane hangar, their fireplace hearth turned into a stage for a puppet show featuring Littlest Pet Shop creatures and discovered that some kids today really do eat — and like — broccoli.

I also drove a car that wasn’t mine on expressways I’d never been on before in extraordinarily fine style. My niece insisted that rather than rent a car, I should use hers when I drove to the edge of the city for the meeting where I was speaking. Sitting in my living room in Kentucky, it seemed like a great idea. Only during the ride home from the airport did I think about how many cars there are in the greater Dallas area.

Luckily, her car has a GPS system and it handles almost exactly like my mine. My niece’s husband gave me the easier route: A left out of their subdivision and a right about fifteen miles down the road. All I had to do was make sure I had the right exit and I was good.

As I said, I’d accidentally left my cell phone at home. So I bought one of those pay as you go phones and was able to call and say I’d arrived fine. I’m pretty sure what I heard in my niece’s voice was sheer relief. I think it stemmed not so much from my getting to the night-before dinner on time but knowing that she didn’t have to make a call to her insurance company.

The visit ended too soon, as visits with families usually do. At six a.m. we were leaving for the airport to ensure I didn’t miss my flight home. We did the wave goodbye thing and I walked into the airport for the check-in process which included my first airport security body scan. And, yeah, I passed.

I wasn’t at all surprised that my flight was delayed for an hour or that my arrival home was later than scheduled. Despite some turbulence and a snoring seatmate, it was a pleasant trip home.

When I walked off the plane, I had a cell phone that is perfect to take camping, to the races and other places where cell phone calamities are likely plus gifts from my niece’s children to my grandgirls: necklaces and foam door hangers they made themselves.

And trust me, those simple crafts were greeted with more enthusiasm than any t-shirts I might have brought them.