TRAVELS WITH TIM – CERTAINLY NOT SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE
The long awaited and much anticipated reunion of two of the three Lynch boys took place on Friday at Gate D11 at the Miami airport. I flew from Tampa to meet Tim and accompany him the rest of the way to Seattle, a trip of eight hours duration. He was so excited that we were finally on our way, having navigated by wheelchair from the curbside check-in counter through security to the gate. I had “cashed in” enough American frequent flyer miles and moved early enough to secure two first class seats on the flights from Miami to O’Hare and then on to Seattle. Tim said that the Miami to Chicago flight was on the largest and quietest jet he had ever flown on and then with something approaching “gallows humor” said that the next time he would be so far forward in an airplane would likely be when his casket was in the forward hold beneath where he was sitting. American did a great job of having wheelchair assistance waiting for him with his name specifically on it for transferring from gate to gate in Chicago and from gate to baggage claim in Seattle. It was, however, precisely at baggage claim that I began to really appreciate the challenges facing people with disabilities. Delivered to baggage claim and receiving her “tip” for the service, we were abandoned by the wheelchair person. At first I did not think that would be a problem because arrival pick up was taking place just a few steps from the carrousel. Then, struck with fear, I noticed no cabs nor any signs for taxis anywhere. I approached the American Airlines agent in the baggage claim are and she said, “Oh, the taxi’s are on the third level of the parking garage.” She then said you need to walk to an elevator, walk across and bridge over the roadways, walk through the fourth level of the garage and then take an elevator to the third level where the taxis could be found. I knew it would be too much for Tim and I could not manage his luggage and mine as well. It took two people to accomplish the transfer from baggage claim to taxi: someone handling the bags and a second person pushing a wheelchair. But we did it. Then out of the garage and right smack into Seattle’s signature climate: rain!
Arriving at the hotel at 1000pm EDT, our sole goal in life was no longer heaven, but something to eat and then sleep. We attempted to “dine” at the Pike Pub and Brewery across from the hotel but the wait time was 45 to 60 minutes so it was back to the hotel. I had two “sliders” evoking our memory of White Castles in Columbus, Ohio and Skyline Chili parlors in Cincinnati. Tim loved the day, the attention he received on the plane from various flight attendants who were drawn to him by his sunny disposition, paying little attention to the sour puss next to him.
Conversation was mostly about trains and our youth. Tim has very clear memories of his trip to and from Seattle for his service in Vietnam in the army – the troop ship out of Fort Lewis and the return from there. I do not pursue and he has always volunteered very little about his time in the war zone. My brother Jim and I surmise that those memories are just too painful. Every one is suspicious that Tim’s COPD situation results from a combination of smoking and, we think, Agent Orange exposure which the Veterans Administration is finally acknowledging is a source of veteran disability after years of denial by there VA officialdom. He does have a hard time breathing and even experienced some stress on the plane where the cabin is pressurized to 8000 feet. But we made it.
At dinner we talked a lot about railroads and about our Dad. Perhaps the most poignant moment of this special Friday for me will be when Tim said, with a tear in his eye about our father, “I still miss him terribly. . . I love him. . . I talk to him daily.” Later today a ferry ride on Puget Sound to Bremerton will be followed by the start of our eastbound transcontinental rail journey at 440pm on AMTRAK’s Train No. 8, THE EMPIRE BUILDER.