“Mom, I’m hungry. When can we eat?” Sarah tugged on my sleeve.
I grunted a non-reply and tried to make up my mind. Eat something expensive in the airport or find a place to eat once we checked out the rental car and headed towards my brother-in-law’s home.
I looked at the menu posted in a restaurant window and sighed. The prices taunted my pocketbook like the aroma of the warm food teased my nostrils. With three of us to feed, hospital bills piling higher than my knees and unexpected expenses for this trip, there was no way I could spend the money for us to eat at an airport restaurant.
“Mom, I’m hungry, too,” Laura joined in.
“We can’t eat here. It’s too expensive,” I snapped. “We’ll just have to eat at Taco Bell once we get on the road.”
“Do you know where it is?” Sarah wanted to know.
“No, but I’ll find one.” The hard, unkind voice I heard startled me. Then it made me mad. I jerked my suitcase handle and demanded, “Grab your suitcases and let’s get a move on.” I practically sprinted down the terminal towards the rental car area, scarcely looking behind to make sure Laura and Sarah followed me.
And then I felt even worse. What kind of parent marches off and almost leaves their eight and nine-year-old kids behind? And that made me madder. I slowed my pace until they caught up and then admonished them for falling behind.
Cancer made me mad. Traveling on an empty stomach made me mad. Worrying about Pedro’s health and how to pay for everything made me mad. I glanced back to see if the girls still followed me. They did. Tearfully.
Not my brightest moment. This was supposed to be a joyous occasion—they hadn’t seen their daddy for a month. He’d been circling the drain but God had stepped in with a mighty miracle and he was on the mend.
For the first time in my life, I wished I could have a do-over as a parent. And then I realized that I could—after all, I WAS the parent.
“I’m sorry, girls,” I said. “I’m hungry and grumpy and not being very nice. Can we start over?”
They both nodded, shocked, I’m sure (this was the first time I can ever remember asking for a do-over). “All right!” I enthused (I sounded fake to my own ears, but hoped it would work). “We’ve made it to San Francisco and in less than two hours you’ll get to see Daddy!”
They smiled at me quizzically. I kept on, determined to do this horrible scene over.
All three of us raised our hands. “Ok, if we can all just hang in there for another half an hour, we should be able to find a Taco Bell.”
“Will it have a talking trash can?” Sarah wondered (the talking trash can is what made Taco Bell Sarah’s favorite restaurant).
“I don’t know, we can only hope. Right now we need to get our rental car and then we’ll be on our way.”
We finally found a restaurant, although I can’t remember if it was a Taco Bell, and we finally made it to my brother-in-law’s, where Pedro was staying between chemo treatments.
And our weekend? Priceless. I had discovered the mighty power of the do-over (it would come in handy many more times as the girls grew up 😉 ).