Apr 16, 2010
Going Back Home: The Marathon
The Feller, looking a little shellshocked upon his arrival in Saipan, after a marathon of travel.
The metaphor first occured to me during our initial descent into Honolulu. We'd been in the air for almost eight hours, and traveling for more than twelve hours.
"Okay, we're just over half way there and it seems like so much more distance to cover," I mused to myself, and instantly noticed the familiarity of that sentiment. I'd felt this way before, I realized--right around the 14th mile of the San Franscisco Marathon last summer. So much distance covered. So much more to go.
Our flight back home to Saipan (and back home to Ohio) had much in common with a grueling marathon. It was an exercise in mind over matter, in not dwelling on how far the finish line was. It was about enduring in the face of overwhelming exhaustion and physical exertion. One big difference was that on this long-haul journey, we were more likely to get dirty looks, than cheers of encouragment. Of course we'd made this trip over twenty times already, four of which included the Feller. When we left Saipan last summer the flight was relatively easy, but in the intervening nine months the Feller learned to walk (and run), learned to talk (and voice his opinions) and this added up to a much more demanding trip this time around.
In truth, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. We didn't have to deal with hours of nonstop screaming, ear issues, or anything like that. He did have momements where he wanted to walk, and I chased him up and down the aisles until the flight attendants told us to sit down. And there was the one time that Babs rushed off to the bathroom, and he flipped out for a bit, screaming for "Mock" (what he calls his mother. I'm "Dack" for "Dad") relentlessly until she returned. That episode earned us some glowering scowls from some of the passengers around us. In general, most of the passengers who were unfortunate enough to be in our vicinity were patient and gracious. They ignored his vigourous kicking of their seats, the slamming up and down of the meal trays, his attempts to lean over the seats and grab at their hair.
For someone who has almost been obsessive about not being a bother to others (I don't even like to ask my meal to changed if they get something wrong at restuarant), having a son on the cusp of the Terrible Twos is a character-building experience.
A few things helped us endure. On the second long leg of our trip, the flight wasn't full and we were able to spread out to three seats instead of two. Also there was no one sitting in front of us, so the Feller was able to kick the seatback as much as he liked. The second leg of the flight from Honolulu to Guam was much easier for all of us. Another blessing was having our friend Carol's kids traveling with us. "Little Sister" and "Luke" were more than happy to take our son for awhile several times during the flgiht, giving us precious time to rest and recuperate.
Twenty-five hours after we took off, we finally landed on Saipan. All three of us were wiped out. Our son was rather discombobulated by the enthusiastic welcome from all his Saipan friends--though they'd known him most of his life, he couldn't remember any of them. Still, just as in the marathon, the finish line was worth it. One extra special treat was being able to surprise "J" with a belated 16th birthday gift--her best friend "Little Sister" who hadn't told anyone that she was coming. It was such a joy to see those two so excited to see eachother, as it was to witness the reunion of "Luke" and his best friend. That alone made the travail of our journey worth it.
Though even then I couldn't help thinking one disheartening thought: "Man, in a week we're going to have to do this all over again."