Tuesday May 17th 2016, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

Since when were there no direct flights? What happened to them? I had to take Salt Lake to Phoenix to home.

I’m very glad now I did.

As I sat in the first airport yesterday a man walked briskly up and asked if I minded if he sat next to me. There was a small gap between the two seats and of course, no problem, and his friend appeared a moment later and sat down on the other side of him. He too appeared to be the outgoing type.

Which is probably how the woman who sat down a few minutes later next to that guy suddenly burst into tears and sobbed out her story, all pretense of control in public dissolving away.

After a few minutes I leaned over to the man nearer to me and told him, “I’m hearing impaired. I can’t hear what she’s saying and I don’t want her to feel isolated.”

He said he couldn’t hear it all either but that there had been an accident in Moab and one of her loved ones was involved. “Bad one,” he added quietly, “I heard about it. One person died.”

We looked at each other, so sorry.

He decided I could be trusted with his story and that it was the place to tell it: his infant son had seemed to be fine…till suddenly at six months old he was in the hospital needing heart surgery. They had had all these wires and things attached to him and the sight of it was just so hard.

His baby boy reached his arms to his daddy, his whole body pleading fervently, Hold me Daddy. I need you.

And he wasn’t allowed to.

They wheeled his son away.

He had had to go down to the hospital’s garage to deal with the car (move it, feed the meter, I wasn’t sure, but the incongruity of the importance of it to those who manage such things was just blowing him away in those moments) and as he stepped into that garage it just washed over him that this was life. It was out of his control. All he could do was live it and do the best he knew how and it was enough.

“It’s in the hands of God,” I answered.

He held me in his eyes, affirming.

“My son’s fine now; you’d never know it. He likes to play basketball.” He laughed a little, the joy at the possibility measured against the memory’s pain.

I told him, “Two years ago, we got the call no parent wants,” and I described a little about my daughter’s being hit on the freeway. Physical therapy is a necessary and ongoing thing, still–but worth it.

“Two years?”

“Two years.”

He took that in.

I started digging around in my purse that at times like these just seems too big. Hmm. Maybe I did give it. But no, it was bugging me, so I looked again–and I found it. It had to be that one. For whatever reason out there it really had to.

I grabbed my cane and walked over to the woman who’d been crying. In my hand was a small very vivid pink knitted octopus with a tiny black hat (I have to wear a hat in the sun, lupus and all that) and that pink was very much the color of the shirt she was wearing. “This is silly, but,” I said in a quiet voice that affirmed that no it was not as I opened my hand and offered it to her.

She reached for my arms and I into hers and we held each other.

This which I have goes with that which you have. I see you.

As I sat back down in my own seat the young man to the other side of me, who up till then had seemed engrossed in his phone, touched my shoulder ever so gently. I turned to see him and he told me, Thank you.

Last call for flight # (whatever) to City (whatever).

We were at gate 14. The two men who’d started the conversations suddenly realized that this whole time they’d been in the wrong place and grabbed their bags and dashed across the aisle to gate 15 in time. Close!

You know they were where they were supposed to be when they were needed right where they were with us.

The airline pre boarded me and I sat on the second row where I wouldn’t slow too many people down.

The woman who’d gone through so much this past weekend went past a few minutes later, saw me, and made sure I saw her telling me, Thank you.

I wanted to thank her. She’d let me.

The young man who’d touched my shoulder, he came down the aisle a little after. I was ready for him. A small alligator, and bless him, his face lit up in gratitude that he would have the perfect memento of all of us strangers wanting to come together for her in those moments as he accepted his small finger puppet.

I had to enlist the help of the young woman sitting in the middle seat to get it to him and explained, “He was very kind.”

“Do you give those to everybody?” she asked, amused, having no idea as far as I know of the context of all that.

I considered a half second. “Pretty much!” and found her one.

She loved it.

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Someday I’ll tell you of the story of sitting and sobbing my heart out in the Denver airport and how a kind airline worker got me on a flight to my dying father so that he could see the quilt that everyone of his almost 200 living relatives had signed. But right now? I think I rather sit here and think of the power of a small octopus with a hat.

Comment by Afton 05.18.16 @ 12:26 pm

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