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Monday, August 25, 2014


Anyone who was in the vicinity of Heathrow airport, Wednesday
morning, would have heard that I have become the proud grandmother to a bouncing baby boy.  

I have been counting down the weeks, and was waiting for the call to say, 'get on a plane'.  Two weeks ago, I was taking my lunchtime 'dip', when Samantha's phone rang.  She ran over to the side of the pool, as it was her brother calling on the face-to-face 'app'.  It appeared that my daughter-in-law was having a few pains, and was on the phone to her midwife.  As I started to ramble, and ask incoherent questions, Richard suggested that perhaps he should be the one panicking, rather than me, but my anxiety levels had spiked because I was going to have to board an aeroplane within the next 24 hours.  I did not have the audacity to suggest that the birth would be quite simple in comparison as I was not sure how high the humour levels read at such a time!  My German neighbour was taking a midday break and was unavoidably eavesdropping. He wished me 'good luck', and said he would keep the rest of the 'gang' informed, should I not appear at the weekend.

The flight was booked within half an hour, and I made my way back to the office, unable to function, as I had not packed, nor got any or my usual 'going away' paraphernalia ready.  My concentration level did not improve throughout the evening, and I decided not to attempt to pack before the morning, as I was sure to forget those insignificant items, such as shoes and clothes.  At a quarter past midnight, however, I received a call from Richard to say that it was probably a false alarm, and that I should wait until my morning before making a final decision on whether to keep my reservation .  As I had a 24 hour window, I slept on the decision, as best as I could, and spoke to him around six thirty, when he confirmed that there had been no further developments.  The flight was cancelled.  

The weekend was very relaxing.  My neighbours had been informed of the emergency and they were quite surprised to see me at the pool. My German neighbour had relayed the story of my plight, and was pleased to see that my anxiety level had reduced drastically. By Sunday evening, I was back in 'normal mode', and watched the sun disappear behind the trees, before going back to the condo to spend the evening with Dana.  We had bid farewell to our Spanish neighbour, earlier in the day, and dwelt on the fact that his departure is always a sign that we are heading free-fall towards the fall.  

My daughter-in-law had advised me that she had an appointment at the hospital on Tuesday, and if the baby was still resisting leaving his comfortable home, they would give her a sweep. Unaccustomed as I am to modern day maternity speak, I used my modern day electronic encyclopaedia, and familiarised myself with the terms that I would possibly hear, and not understand, over the next couple of weeks.  I had asked the almost parents to keep me informed of the progress.  However, I did cover my bases, and packed my bags, to ensure that I would not meet my new grandchild in borrowed clothes, and slippers!

When my phone rang, at 9:15 am, on Tuesday, I was about to push the 'accept' button, and put the contraption to my ear, when Samantha appeared, hotfooted from the back of the office, and shouted that it was 'face-time'.  Richard was driving to the hospital.  The doctor had decided that a sweep was not the appropriate action at this time, and had decided to 'bring it on', immediately, and the baby had responded.  It was time to book a flight.  

After booking my trip, I had to call the airline, as there was not enough time for me to make my connection in Houston.  I relayed my predicament to the lady on the other end of the phone.  She appeared to be rather confused as to why there was such a small space of time between flights, and asked if I was sure that I booked on the United website, on the Internet.  I confirmed that I had, and she mumbled for a few moments, saying that it was not a 'legal connection', and made certain comments to suggest that I was not being honest about my booking method.  Finally, she saw that it was a 'legal connection', and then asked, 'Didn't you notice when you booked that the connection was so close'.  I remembered the words the midwife told me, all those years ago.  'Breathe, breathe'. I breathed, and I breathed, and when I felt I had control of the situation, I calmly (well fairly calmly) explained that I was about to become a grandma, and booked the first flight that was available. She became a little more sympathetic and advised me that if I did manage to get an earlier flight out of Austin, I may lose my seat on the flight from Houston to London, as she might have to change the booking and 'start again'.  I explained that I was about to become a grandma, and told her that I needed to be on the flight from Houston to London.  I was put on hold for a few minutes, and she returned to let me know that the Austin to Houston flight had been altered, but she would have to check to make sure that my seat for the longer flight was still reserved.  I explained that I was about to become a grandma, and needed to be on that flight!  I think she finally got the message, and came back after another few minutes, letting me know that all was well!

I returned home to pick up my bags, around midday, and went swimming, as the anxiety level had hit 'red'.  It is usual for me to have a few weeks to come to terms with the fact that I have to get on a plane! After twenty minutes, I got out of the water, and made my way back to the condo, letting one of my neighbour's know that I was on my way back to England to become a gran!  Although my bags were mostly packed, there were still some last minute things that needed to be added, and I had to check that my passport was in date, and my electronics were ready for the off!  Fortunately, my passport still had another five and a half years left before it expired, so I would not have to check it again until I was on the way to the airport!   Due to the sudden (yet not completely unexpected) need to leave for Blighty, I was not as prepared as usual, and had not written a check list.  I had to rely upon memory as to what to put in my 'carry on' bag.  Purse, check; Money, check; Passport, check; Camera and phone, check.  Without a list, I could possibly (although not probably) leave some things behind!  

I checked-in with very little time to spare, and managed to get on the plane out of Austin, with very little effort.  The security agent was treated to the news that I was leaving to meet my first grandchild, who was, at this time, making his own journey, to a much bigger and louder enviornment!  We landed in Houston and I made my way to the lounge.  It suddenly occurred to me that I had not printed off a copy of my 'car hire' itinerary!  The lounge did not offer 'printing' facilities from a computer.  They could receive faxes, or I could copy a document, in my possession, but I could not print from my own laptop.  I followed the only path available.  I called Samantha.  She and Edward were in the craft store, but this was not a problem.  She was able to access my emails, on her phone, send the selected item to Edward, on his phone, and he was able to send me a fax, from his phone.  Amazing!  However, I needed to access the Internet to find where the email was located, and a password was needed.  Standing in an unoccupied part of the lounge, next to the fax and printer, I opened my case, and removed my laptop.  I placed it on the top of the counter and pressed the 'on' button. Finding it quite impossible to type, I decided to sit down on the floor (there were no chairs) and bring up the pages I needed to access.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten the password, so I left all my belongings on the floor, and walked to the desk, where a piece of paper displaying the secret code was sat, in a plastic frame. Attempting to memorise it was a mistake, and by the time I had taken the half a dozen steps back to my little pile of belongings, I had forgotten the simple phrase.  I returned to the desk and took the frame back to my office.  The paper that displayed the secret code did not seem to want to leave its home, and flew from the frame, drifting into the air.  I tried to recapture the flying sheet, but had to use too much force.  As I grabbed the sheet and pushed it back into the frame, the fax started to whirl, and the pages started to print. I put them into my case, and started to pack up the office. I replaced the frame on the top of the desk, and walked back to pack up the office.  As I left the area, a lounge attendant arrived at the desk. She stared for several minutes at the frame that contained a severely creased and torn piece of paper, showing a fairly illegible secret code, and scanned the area for the culprit.  I hid behind a beam, and when she took it away, presumably to find a replacement, I skipped into the crowded area of the room, and attempted to mingle, unnoticed.  

I left the lounge, after having a cup of tea, and calling Dana, made my way to the gate, and boarded the plane.  Seating myself in the correct place, eventually, I received a message from Richard, to let me know that the baby was expected to arrive very shortly.  I watched for another message, and finally at 9pm, had to turn off my phone as the doors to the aircraft had been closed.  

Sleep was not on the menu, and after a rather nice meal, I settled down to watch a film, and look out of the window at the darkness. It was a very long flight, and when the sunrise appeared on the horizon, I tried to doze for the remainder of the journey.  As soon as the wheels touched the ground, I turned on my English antique, and called Richard. 'Your call cannot be completed as you do not have enough credit', said the very unhelpful female voice.  'If you wish the person to call you back, press 2'.  I pressed 2, and pressed 2 again, and again, after attempting to call several times.  Taking a deep breath, I instructed the part of me that was acting erratically, to behave.  Obeying the command, the two sides of me became one, and called the number that is used for all occasions. Slowly, but surely, I managed to add some credit to my phone, and eventually I called my son.  'Hi mum, you okay', was the first sentence he uttered.  I replied in the affirmative, and he then asked, 'have you landed?'  Once again, I replied in the affirmative, and waited for the news.  'How was the flight?', was not what I expected to hear, and sternly, yet maternally, said his name in a way that he knew demanded the headlines!  'You have a grandson', he said, quietly.  After a couple of minutes of congratulating my little boy on becoming the father to a little boy, he asked, 'Are you crying?' Once again, I replied in the affirmative!  

After calling Auntie Samantha, and Poppa Dana, I turned to the chap who occupied the seat to my right, and apologetically caught his attention.  I had to tell someone that I was a grandmother, and he was the nearest human within earshot.  However, the cabin pressure, along with the other components that cause the ears to block, caused me to speak a lot louder than I had anticipated, and a flurry of congratulatory remarks came from all directions. Thanking everyone profusely, I de-planed, and walked towards the immigration hall, and then on to customs.  Unfortunately, I was sent to the electronic passport checker, which just buzzed when I told it, 'I am a grandma'.  Every human with whom I made contact was made aware of my condition.  

The car hire centre was ten minutes away from the airport, and a shuttle arrived after I had called to complain that they had left an unaccompanied grandma with three cases at the bus stop for an hour.  It did give me time to sit and work out how to access the Internet on my new telephone, or at least log on to use the messaging app, and receive a couple of photographs of the most perfect little boy.  Eventually the bus arrived, and the driver helped me load my luggage.  He looked rather confused when I said I was the only person waiting, and I smiled, amused, and rather complimented when he asked if I had seen an 'older' lady!  

Despite Edward's magnificent efforts, the printed confirmation sheets were unnecessary.  All I needed was my passport, which was fortunately still current, and a driving license.  Once everything was scanned, the attendant congratulated me on my new arrival, and sent me to a very nice Peugeot.  I started the vehicle and left the facility, heading towards Hertfordshire.  Mum met me at the door, and after a quick shower, I took her in my shiny, blue, 208, to meet her great-grandson.  

'Visiting time is over', was a sentence that was very short lived. Being sleep deprived, over-emotional and just plain belligerent, I looked over the counter, told the receptionist that I had just come off a plane from Texas.  The receptionist took pity on me and said she would go and have a chat with Matron.  Several woman were walking around, awaiting imminent arrivals.  The receptionist returned and informed me that the matron had declined my exceptional request. The distressed sounds that are so common in the labour ward, the crying, wailing and moaning, were heard coming from the end of the long corridor.  'Come on now, it can't be that bad', said a rather sympathetic nurse.  'But this is my first grandchild, and I couldn't get here any earlier', I whimpered.  The scores on the bulletin board, later that day read, 'Grandma Tracie 1, Matron 0!'  Richard arrived a few minutes later, having gone home to shower and change his clothes, and brought mum round to meet the little boy.

After much deliberation, the beautiful, perfect, little bundle of joy was named. Richard and Steph had chosen to wait until the birth to find out whether they were to be blessed with a son or daughter, and had chosen a name for each. A friend of theirs had given birth a few weeks earlier and their baby was given the name that my son and daughter-in-law had chosen for a boy. However, my grandson (give me time...although the novelty may never wear off!) did not suit the name that was no longer a contender, and his parents threw around a few other options.  Several names were proposed, mostly with the letter 'J', and Grandma Janice, (Steph's mum) and myself were looking at each other, screwing up our noses at some suggestions, and suggesting some others that caused the baby to scream (coincidentally, I am sure!).  Most of the parents' suggestions began with the letter J, Suddenly, Richard looked at Steph and said, 'What about Oliver'.  Without batting an eyelid, she said, 'I like it'. 

Little Oliver came for lunch on Sunday, to his great grandma, and was introduced to his great aunt, Elise, and great uncle, David, and to his cousins, Emma and Richard.  He was cradled, cuddled and kissed with such affection, that he may want to return and have a repeat performance!  I have managed to get out and about a little bit this week, but the main news has forced everything else that has happened during my stay to be relegated to ............. another story.

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