Neither here nor there…

After approximately thirty minutes in a Paratransit minivan, we pulled up to the Southwest gate. My driver, Al, unloaded me and my luggage and rolled my bags to the skycap as I slowly followed while carefully observing my surroundings. The gate attendant let me know he would have someone take me through security all the way to the gate, where I would board the plane. A few minutes later, the gate attendant, Mike, introduced me to Susan, a coworker who would gladly take me wherever I needed. I instantly asked if she could take me swimming in Scrooge McDuck’s bank vault; laughing loudly, she said sorry, but no. As we weaved through the airport, the first place Susan stopped was the part of security checking for identification.

When I handed the gentleman with Bob on his name tag, my TSA-approved Veterans Administration ID, he accepted it cheerfully. However, when he scanned it through his machine, the red blinking light and loud buzzer quickly shouted access denied. Bob then asked for another form of identification, so I held up an expired state ID, but before I could explain, he swiped it from me and ran it through the machine. This time the device simply screamed, denied, so he tried both forms of identification before calling his supervisor. Finally, Bob handed his boss my VA ID card, and she stared at it for a few seconds and, quick as a hiccup, loudly said: Looks good. I instantly said thank you, I will take that as a compliment, as I smiled coquettishly. She laughed and said thank you for bringing some badly needed levity to my day.

Southwest Susan then took me to the security pat-down area, where she helped me remove my shoes and empty my pockets. I could not see the TSA agent’s name tag, but I think it said Mike or Mark, who would do the pat down. Before he did the screening, I began my explanation of every non-typical item connected to me and my chair. The list did not need to be so extensive, but I made sure that no one made mistakes and that they did not call security. In addition, I always make sure that when I interact with someone in public, I make a joke or two, signaling not to assume about people in wheelchairs. I do that because otherwise I get treated poorly, ignored, and shunned, while some assume mental challenges, all because I am in a wheelchair.

Susan and I continued to move through the airport as she pointed out places I needed to know. She identified the convenience store, explaining that I could get something from the magazine racks, snack packs, or Tic Tacs. Susan also shared that many things were available from the gift shop, whether Ohio State t-shirts, sweatshirts, ball caps, or wrist straps. Oddly, she pointed out every, and I mean every, bathroom along the way, reminding me that there was one closer to my gate. The busyness of the airport went in waves and depended on planes landing or taking off because people moved fast through the airport.

My wheels went from the hard surface airport floor, which turned into carpeting, making it harder and draining to roll on. Thankfully Susan told me this was my gate, and she went to talk with the gate attendant, Pam, sharing with her my details. She must not have said much to Pam because the gate attendant came over and spoke to me like I was five years old. I quickly spoke up and made a joke which made Pam smile but no laugh, telling me there was a challenge to make her laugh. Although I tried in the time I had, all I could get was a smile, a smirk, but not even a snicker at my silliness, which usually draws laughter. Since I have a short time here, I have to accept this as a loss as I could not make her laugh.

At five minutes till 10 a.m., I wanted to be sure that I went to the restroom before this flight that would last over two hours. I verified with Pam that per the ticket our load time was 11 a.m., meaning I had one hour to run to the facilities and grab snacks. She told me that boarding would start in 20 minutes, and I had time to take care of my two tasks. I had a jolt of panic run through my mind because it was implausible that in 20 minutes, I could take care of business. There is typically a wait for the accessible stall, as most love them, meaning my pre-flight business would become post-flight business. I sat quietly at the gate until they came to take me to my seat on the plane.

They rolled me carefully down the Jet Bridge as it was bumpy and steep as we waited for someone else to arrive. Finally, a guy from Southwest came and looked like a maintenance man in his overalls and was ready to help. Maintenance man Jim slowly backed me onto the plane, parking me next to the front seat, asking if I was okay. Jim grabbed under my knees, and a gentleman behind me grabbed under my armpits, and I quickly said, “do not worry, I am not glass.” Once they carefully placed me on the seat, I spoke loudly and said, “look at that, nothing but net. Thank you, guys.” 

They say that when things are going well, life will say to give it a second, which will change. Once they placed me in my seat, I moved very little, fearing waking the monster called chance. The first half of the flight day went off without a hitch, causing more fear and trepidation. I know that being scared of this possible mythical beast called chance seems silly to some. However, in my situation, I have faced this ugly creature many times, ruining my day. The vile possibilities raise the hair on the back of my neck.

My new home awaits while I inch closer and closer.

Gentlemen, start your engines.

Someone told me I am too honest and share things I should not because they are personal and embarrassing. However, not only do I believe in total honesty in life, but those reading my blogs with multiple sclerosis know that what I am saying is true. In addition, the anonymity of the internet means no one knows who I am except for my name because very few people I know read my blog. That said, the big bad Marine in me is terrified of flight day, like a schoolgirl watching a horror movie.

Let me be clear, I am not afraid to fly, as I have ridden in a big steel bird 30,000 feet in the sky many times. Side note; the first time in my life I ever rode in a plane was a pretty primitive propeller plane on my way to boot camp for the US Marine Corps. It was an exceptionally scary ride with a terrifying destination. However, I am afraid the MS symptoms I have dealt with in the past year could unexpectedly rear their ugly heads at any time of the day or flight. So I pondered my prolific problem, wondering how to help my fear and stress before they become an ulcer and ruin an otherwise positive move, so far anyway.

The stress of thinking about this trip all night made my time asleep in groups of minutes, not hours. My alarm went off at Zero Dark Thirty, or 3 a.m. to be precise, as I needed as much time as possible to get ready. This transition is a one thousand-mile move that started only a few months ago, and I am making the trip today. I knew my mom and stepdad would wake up early also for a family reunion and would leave shortly after me. That makes four bodies moving around, trying to duck and dodge each other in a relatively small house.

I had an aide named Carrie scheduled on the date of departure to come in to assist me in making this a smoother and proper preparation time. Carrie came in at 3:45 a.m., whispering a cheerful good morning while requesting directions on how she could help. I had a carry-on suitcase and a large suitcase for being checked into the belly of the plane. Most of her work upon arrival was to pack the suitcases with the things I could not until the last minute. The first hour was Carrie putting things where I requested them to go and her trying to make sure everything fit correctly.

My first task was to get breakfast out of the way, as I knew my parents would prepare in the kitchen for their gathering. It is essential to start the day with a substantial breakfast, so I was hoping for a two-egg omelet, bacon, and orange juice for this momentous day. However, in reality, I had a bowl of frosted Shredded Wheat with powdered milk and my vitamins and prescriptions. So far, things were moving smoothly, which scared me more because of the possibility of what would go wrong. My MS life had not been rainbows and butterflies until this point, and I was still fearful of any MS flare which would ruin this trip.

I can do the stuff Carrie is helping me with, but there is a need for speed, and I do not want to think about failure today. Her next task was to help me get dressed in the clothes I would wear to the airport, making sure everything was acceptable to the TSA. I have a key ring on my jean shorts zipper so I can hold it easily, and the last time I went through the TSA checkpoint, the guy grabbed it. He must have thought I was trying to smuggle something because he pulled on it like he had found a lost treasure. This time I would make sure I announced every little item and explain what they are before the start of the pat-down.

There was not much left to do after she helped me get dressed except assembling all the other last pieces. Search and rescue for a few lost last-minute items were essential but short-lived, as the house was pretty barren and packed for Florida. We both sat quietly in my bedroom, she on my bed and me on my chair as I tried to catch my breath, meditate, and relax. This morning seemed to run smoothly, which terrified me as it felt like the “calm before the storm,” which meant the storm would be at the airport. Fifteen minutes before the transport was supposed to arrive, Carrie left, leaving a conversation between my parents and me. 

As Carrie stepped out the door, she turned back and let us know the transport vehicle was here early. My heart began pounding at galloping thoroughbred speed, and at that point, my parents grabbed my luggage to walk me to my transportation. I opened the garage door, looked out at the van, and whispered, “Okay, Scott, there is no turning back now.” Right then, I felt like a little kid dragged to school for the first time, and the torturous trepidation sank in. Goodbye, Columbus, Ohio. I have lived within your borders for 46 years and will always have fond memories of my childhood.

Every journey starts with one step.

Gooood morning Vietnam.

Gooood morning Vietnam.  

The battle of my multiple sclerosis rages on at times viciously and ferociously. However as of late the war has taken an unexpected detour that has veered me away from my home leaving me with no way to write these blogs. I write this message using a notepad on my cell phone.

I have one blog I will post the minute I get back home and several others in the creation and contemplation stage. All of these are a continuation of the series about my move and all that transpired including my current circuitous journey 

I hope you are all willing to hold on for the next blogs as I continue to tell each stage of the process of moving.

Thank you, Scott