American Express, along with Dad’s health insurance, assisted in the leasing of a Medevac Gulfstream jet on January 30, 2010, to take us from Bruckner Aviation at Teterboro Airport to LAX with a physician onboard. I packed up Jimmy’s clothes and any other possessions he had in FedEx Ground boxes.
At dawn, as the private ambulance rolled through the quiet streets of New York, Dad had three concerns. Q. Can we watch all the Knicks’ basketball games on TV? A. Yes, I bought the package. Q. Can you get the ingredients in California for your grandfather’s meatballs and sausages? A. Yes, I know two places. Q. Can we have spaghetti aglio e olio for dinner tonight? A. Yes, if I have to squeeze the virgin olives myself.
Good sign, I thought.
What happened next will be etched in my mind until the day I die. It was one of those rare moments in life when you know in your heart of hearts that the course of your life has been altered forever: Dad was loaded onto the jet with help from the ambulance attendants and doctor. The pilots were standing by the stairs. I stowed the medical cases and supervised my father’s positioning in the plane. I gave the onboard doc a copy of Dad’s discharge papers and a printout of his medications and dosages in alphabetical order. The doc let me sit next to Dad’s bed. While his vitals were measured, I went up to the cockpit.
“Do you gentlemen need anything from the back before we go wheels up?”
“We’re squared away. Thanks.”
“The thanks are all mine.”
I will never understand why exactly, but raw emotion began to overwhelm me at that instant. This is it, I thought.
We had worked so hard to get to where we were at that exact moment. I had not doubted for a second that our journey would be a difficult one. But I’d be damned if Dad wasn’t going to live out his life the way he deserved: free from pain and loneliness and bad hospital chow. Nevertheless, the momentousness of our journey began to sink in. Dad’s life was in my hands.
I headed back down the aisle, taking deep breaths to shake off the sudden impact of the moment. I settled in next to Dad and took his thin, bruised hand in mine.
“You OK, boss man?”
“Piece of cake. I just want to get there.”
I snapped my lap belt in place as the doors were secured and the jet engines quietly started to rumble. I looked over at Jimmy. He was already nodding off. I sent a quick text to Gianni.
It’s been a long morning…a long few months! A phone on the console next to Dad gently began to beep. “This is the pilot. Are you ready to taxi and lift off?”
“Yes, by all means, sir.”
I quietly replaced the phone so as not to wake Dad. I leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and just let the tears run down my face as the engine turbines spooled and the plane moved into position.