Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

By Dr. Patricia Yarberry Allen

This weekend I sat in an airport in a terry bathrobe eating an entire box of Moonpies.

Ok, I’m ahead of myself. Let’s back up.

When I travel by air these days, I often feel like I am taking the journey imposed on the family of a dying woman in Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying”.  She got back her own from a dreadful family that had used her up by forcing a death bed commitment from them to take her body back to be buried with “her people”.  This journey involved wagons and mules and, of course, a corpse in a pine box that had to be transported up and down tracks and mountain paths through ravines and across creeks and rivers.

When my husband and I go home to Kentucky we fly into Nashville since there are more direct flights there than into the airport in Louisville.  The flight home was uneventful this weekend, and miraculously, we arrived on time.  After the easy two hour drive home –“ Hey, we just passed Crazy Charley’s that place we bought firecrackers and brought them across the Kentucky border illegally with the boys, remember that?” –  we crossed the Tennessee/Kentucky line and knew by topography that we were in the homestretch after we speed past the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green.

Our time at home was wonderful with everyone there but a brother and his family who could not make it from Texas.  Real food from family gardens, wonderful memories shared, a day on the lake with a brother and his girl and their flotilla of summer friends, marvelous time with mother who at 89 still knows exactly what she wants. And part of that is that she wants those of us who live away to come home now!

It gets harder to leave Kentucky each time because mother is now 89. The Husband reminds me of the joy of the weekend just shared and I re-adjust my emotional thermostat.  He also points out that the women in my mother’s family live long into their 90’s.  Aunt Lorena is 98; Aunt Buelah is 93. Aunt Nina is 91.

The trip back to New York began uneventfully.  It was a splendid sunny day for flying.  There were no clouds and no rumors of summer thunderstorms.  We arrived at the airport an hour before departure.  There were no glitches at check-in or through the now routine screening process. 

But we knew something was wrong when there was a mute gate agent at the counter 15 minutes before our expected departure.  There was an American Airlines plane at the gate; we could see it. But no luggage had been loaded.  And there were unusual vehicles around the plane.

The double talk began.  First something had to be checked but it would not be a problem.  Then 30 minutes after the plane should have departed, “some part of the plane has a malfunction” and there were no other flights direct or indirect for hours and hours.  The flight was not cancelled, just on hold for repairs. 

The temperature in the airport at our gate was truly below freezing and though I had a sweater, I was unprepared for hours in the cold.  I had had enough.  No food, no heat.  I went to the Nashville Airport memorabilia shop and bought a one size fits all maroon robe lined in terry cloth and a large box of MoonPies.

Now listen up. Moon Pies are largely unknown outside our region of the country and I had not eaten one for at least 30 years. But there I sat at Gate C2, wearing my new wooley robe, reading The Sunday New York Times and eating an entire box of Moon Pies. Honey, I was the living breathing definition of a woman who had nothing left to lose. Other travelers actually moved several seats away.

Two hours later American Airlines had replaced/repaired (no one was quite sure) some critical part and we finally left for New York. I gained 2000 calories and lost a day.  No wonder fewer people are flying.   

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