She always looks good and never looks slack
And when she kisses, she kisses so sweet
She makes things stand that have no feet!
– Grandma’s Toast
It was the shakiest take-off I’ve ever experienced. It’s usually my
favorite part about flying but this time, my heart dropped as the plane
shook and loudly rattled its way up into the sky. And as I stared at
the seats in front of me, seams were frayed, the vinyl looked worn and
the tray was covered in pen doodling—the cabin had definitely seen
better days. So it was no surprise when I heard one of the flight
attendants tell one of the passengers, “This is the last run for this
plane. When we land in L.A., they’re going to retire it.”
For some reason, this knowledge comforted me. Actually, I suddenly
felt something like sympathy for the airplane. Here it had transported
hundreds, probably thousands, maybe even millions of people—couples on
their honeymoon, families on vacation, kids going to college—and now it
was just going to be dropped in the boneyard, left like just a pile of
metal scraps and unusable parts.
And I know it’s absurd but I began to cry.
I thought of what it would be like seeing my grandma in the
hospital—the sole focus of this trip back home. I started thinking
about all the years of past visits with her. How she helped me make
clothes for my Barbies. How every Christmas, she made me a new robe
with slippers to match. How there were always pies in the kitchen, no
matter what time of year. And how I could never possibly have enough to
eat of her cooking.
How she would endlessly ask me to sit down at the organ and play her
something. How she always had a few art projects in progress, though
she would never call it “art”—they were just things she was “throwing
together.” And she would always teach me a new card game, proudly
including me in gin rummy when we went to visit her many friends.
How when I got older, she took me thrift store shopping and helped
me find the coolest vintage wear from the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s without
ever making me feel weird. How she took me to fabric stores, had me
help her pick out patterns and taught me to sew. How she had dozens of
jewelry boxes filled with sparkly delights, which she would dip into
and offer me casually, every time I stopped by.
How she was always so elegant, sophisticated and appropriate—how she
never went out without her classic silvery white “updo” and makeup, her
clutch and pumps with matching accessories, which made it all the more
fun when she ordered her second Scotch on the rocks and would say,
“Well, you can’t fly on one wing!” How she had a toast for every
And I reflected on how she might be feeling now—possibly lonely,
afraid, confused. Most likely, knowing her, she will be simply trying
to find her place in an unfamiliar environment, struggling to exist
with the increasing pain of getting older, and yearning for the time
when she can just once again peacefully enjoy her days visiting with
friends and family, and telling racy jokes with that twinkle in her
So I was sitting in this plane about to be retired, and as it
cruised high above the clouds, I settled in with an almost subconscious
looming dread. But eventually I relaxed, becoming more comfortably
determined with the hope of a safe landing and the resignation of
accepting whatever fate nature—and time—bestows.
Samantha Campos would forgo world
dominance, astronomical wealth and greater cell phone reception in
Haiku, for just one more afternoon swilling Scotch with her grandmother. MTW