Eileen Clare, so beautiful, so miraculous, nothing I write does her justice. I wrote the following story while I was on the plane to see her, and my compulsive orderliness warrants that I post this before I put my other reflections out there. Trying to capture every moment of my life with Eileen, I feel compelled to record every detail about her incredible arrival as if precious moments of joy can be savored again and again if only I capture them in words. I wasn’t present at Eileen’s birth in Seattle, but I felt an overpowering impulse to get there as soon as possible. In the midst of the chaos, I learned a great lesson.
Thurs, April 30, 2015 – 8:41pm Ding, ding. Son-in-law Bobby’s text: We’ve been admitted to the hospital – we’re in our room now. Katie and baby are doing great. Will keep you posted.
I shoot up straight from reading my book! My text: Oh my gosh! The baby is born?? Then I think straight. Text again: Love to you in labor.
Tim and I look at each other in disbelief. I then text about twenty people to say that Katie is in labor. I must confess that I think we now live in a strange world.
Fri, May 1, 2015 12:05am Bobby’s text: Everything is going fine. Katie and baby are both doing well. Still progressing – will update when I can. Love you all.
I try to stay awake. Faint ding, ding, ding.
1:47am Ring Ring. Crazy dreams. Half asleep. “Hello.” “Mom, mom, mom!” “What? What?” “Did you get the text?” “What? What?” “The baby! The baby is born!” “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” “Bobby texted and you didn’t respond, so I called!” “Oh my gosh, thank you, Brendan, for calling. Oh my gosh.”
I roll over to Tim. “The baby is born, Grandpa.” I scoot to his side and plant a long, dry old lady kiss. He murmurs, “I didn’t plan a marrying a Grandma.” I smile, roll back, and thank God. Thank You, thank You, praise You, thank You, praise, thank, praise.
I pick up my phone. 1:42am Bobby’s text: A baby is born. Mom and baby are healthy. We’re in love.
Brendan’s text reply: Best text I’ve ever received. Congrats all around.
3:16am Texted photo – Eileen Clare Immen 7 pounds, 10 ounces, 20″ long.
Crazy dreams. Bells going off. Ding, ding, ding. Text, text, text. More messages from Bethy, Brigid, and Brendan.
4:20am Angels’ harp sounds. My alarm.
5:00am “Tim, I have to check flights.” “I know you do, Nance.” “But the Hawks game invitation – Game one of round two. I said we’d both go. ” “The baby is more important.” “I knew you’d get it, Tim.”
Southwest.com – $455 each way. Expedia.com – 8 hours or more of travel. I figure we’ll be there over Memorial Day weekend in three weeks. We can Facetime, Skype, send photos. I won’t go. I drive to the 5:30am Masters’ swim at the Y.
“Congratulations!” Facebook. That’s how they know. I dive into the water to catch up with the others in my lane. Stacia stops, treads water, and gives me a hug in the deep end. I have never swam with tears in my eyes.
6:30am Locker room chatter. “Eileen Clare – 7’10” – the only time this little girl will want her weight revealed.” From the shower next to me, “Are you going out there?” “We have a flight booked for May 23rd. The flights today are $1000 round trip.” From Kathy in the shower across the room, “You will never have this chance again. You have to go.” Drying off, I say, “I can’t go today because I am having a new stove delivered.” Sherri looks at me, “What time? I’ll let them in.” Can people really be this nice?
6:50am Home. I crawl into bed with Kevin. “Did you get the text, Uncle Kevin?” “Yes, it’s awesome.” I kiss the back of his head and try to remember him weighing 8’3” eighteen years ago.
7:00am Cheapair.com. No flights work. Texts ding, ding, ding – pure love and joy. My phone is dying – little charge left.
7:10am Ring! “Hello.” “Nancy, it’s Therese. I don’t know why but there’s a bunch of empty seats on American today. It’s wierd. There’s a 10:40am to Seattle. Can you get to O’Hare?” “Yes!” Therese goes on to say the passes are a shot in the dark, and she doesn’t usually recommend them. D3 passengers are the lowest in the non-revenue rankings. “I can get to the airport!” Therese says she’ll see what she can do.
7:20am Plug in phone downstairs. Run upstairs to pack. Change clothes. Hurry! Phone rings! I race downstairs – topless – and charge into Kevin on the stairs. “Oops! Sorry, Kev! I think it’s Aunt Therese calling about a pass on American Airlines to Seattle.” He averts his eyes from my saggy grandma boobs. I grab the phone and it’s Tim’s Mom. “Mary, I can’t talk now. I have no clothes on!” I hear the disappointment in her voice, and I say, “I’ll call you back!” I kiss Kevin good-bye and say I hope I’m leaving for Seattle.
7:30am Therese calls. She put me on the non-rev list. I pack. Think, think! Contact lens, toiletries, running shoes, papers to grade, gradebook, baby gifts from friends, change of clothes, ipad, phone, charger! Go!
7:40am Out the door, on the road, pay tolls, call Tim and leave message, call Therese, Mom, Mary Scannell, and Maureen. Ding, ding, ding. Do not read texts. Put down the phone. I have to live to see the baby! Stop calling people. I’ll get pulled over and miss the flight!
9:35am Airport parking. Lot E for Eileen. Row D9. I am the delirious #9 in my family. Shuttle. Text, text. Shuttle announcement. Terminal 5. “Wait!” I yell. “That’s me!” The doors close. Oh my gosh. I missed my terminal. I am completely devastated. I’ve missed my terminal because I was texting. “It’s okay,” says the guy next to me, “It will go around and be here in 15 minutes.” My heart sinks. I missed it. I won’t make it through security. Another man asks, “What time is your flight?” Defeated, I reply, “10:40.” Confused, he asks, ‘An international flight?” “No, Seattle, on American.” He smiles, “That’s not Terminal 5. It’s Terminal 3.” Whoosh. Fighting tears of relief, I say, “I’m going to see my granddaughter. Want to see a picture?” I share the photo from my phone, and his wife wells up, “Is this your first grandchild?” “Yes.” The doors open, and I yell, “Thank you!””Enjoy! Congrats!” The people on the shuttle have witnessed a lunatic in action.
9:50am At the kiosk. The boarding pass won’t print. I have not flown non-rev in years and am not sure of the new processes. A kind woman takes my elbow and somehow steers me to a open spot at the American counter. The smiling agent prints my pass and points, “Go to that security line. It’s faster.” I say, “I’m racing to see my grandbaby!” She smiles.
9:55am Security – slow but steady.
10:05am Free! Bolt to the gate! The gate agent takes my pass, looks up, and says, “You have a seat.” Thank you! Thank you! I call Therese and leave a blobbery message of gratefulness. I call Tim and say, “I’m going to get on. I wish you were here.” “I know you do. I’m glad you’re going, Nancy.” “Love you, Tim.” “Love you, too, Grandma.”
This ends my airplane musings.
Eileen Clare’s newborn smell, rosebud lips, fluttering eyelids, curled fingers, her shallow breaths, faint squeaks, and complete sense of peace are among the most cherished images of my life.