This is a preview to the chapter Chapter Eight from the book PERSONAL BAGGAGE by Margaret McMillion.
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When they reached the airport, Faye parked in a spot for the handicapped and helped Penny escort Rev. and Mrs. Nichols from the car to the automatic door of the terminal. Penny and Faye pressed on into the terminal ahead of their father, who pushed his wife’s wheelchair. He moved at a turtle’s pace, shuffled to the end of a row of seats, and eased himself down beside Mrs. Nichols while the ticket agent explained to his daughters why the airplane in the loading area was so tiny.
“When the number of passengers is small, it is our policy to downsize the aircraft.”
Faye exchanged a despairing look with Penny, whose apprehension turned to alarm. Both Penny and Faye knew that it was too late to reschedule.
Faye, wearing tiny, rhinestone-encrusted glasses low on her nose, raised her hand to address the ticket agent. “Our brother scheduled this trip, and he specified that we needed handicap accommodations. They promised him there would not be any stairs!”
The long-faced ticket agent made a pained expression as two uniformed airline attendants arrived to push Mrs. Nichols’s wheelchair, and Penny took her father’s arm. He walked as though his connective tissues could barely hold his bones together.
Faye watched from the terminal window as the men lifted her mother up six steep steps into the aircraft, then she turned and hustled to her car. David needed her back at Westview to help load the U-Haul.
Once inside the plane, Penny and her parents were on their own. Unable to stand upright because of the low ceiling, they crept down the narrow aisle, across a long hump in the floor, then over a series of wrinkles in the carpet. Finally, they took their seats: three together across the rear of the plane. Penny positioned herself in the middle, buckled their seat belts, and explained to her mother again, “We are going to Roanoke on this airplane and spend tonight at David’s house.”
“My nerves are acting up,” her father said. “What would you do if I jumped out the window?”
Digging in her purse, Penny located her father’s bottle of Ativan. She placed a half-tablet under his tongue and encouraged him to relax and breathe deeply while the recorded instruction lecture told them how to use air vents that would not blow air. Rev. and Mrs. Nichols were comfortable with temperature in the high eighties, but Penny sweated. Her father complained about the loud engines while her mother held Penny’s hand and gazed out the window.
When they landed to change planes in Charlotte, Penny waited until the rest of the passengers had deplaned, then made her way over the wrinkles and the hump to the door and requested help. Attendants appeared with a chair, strapped Mrs. Nichols in, and carried her down to a waiting wheelchair.
Compared to the heat outside, the cool temperature of the terminal felt frigid against Penny’s damp clothing and she wrapped her mother’s legs with her sweater. During a forty-five-minute wait, both of her parents complained about the cold, then an announcement was made overhead. The flight for Roanoke would be delayed for three hours due to difficulty with pressure in the cabin. Penny phoned Charleston and informed Faye and David of the delay, but it was too late for them to alert Alice, who was already awaiting their arrival in the Roanoke airport.
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