Driving to the Airport

“I discovered that in every end a new beginning lies hidden. It will find you if you look for it. Don’t lose heart!”  Jürgen Moltmann

On the way here I am thinking- is this how you felt? This awful, unnatural feeling of separation- as you drove to airports?

My father stands at the window as I drive away. I can only see his dark figure behind the blinds, but he looks like his father, my grandfather, used to look—nervously peering from behind the golden curtains of his living room when we’d pull up outside for a visit—a dinner on Sundays. I wave, but I realize the car window is darkened. He can’t see me. I try to lower the window, pushing and pulling numerous buttons to no avail. We pull away.

On the highway, I am monitoring the speed of my cab driver. Seventy. I am holding on to the handle of the door- white-knuckled. Until I imagine the dirt and grime there. I keep holding on.

In my attempt to explain my quiet sobbing as we drove away from my house, I tell the driver it’s my first plane ride without my daughter in her nine years of life. I also need to explain that my husband died while traveling so that’s why I’m kind of a mess. I don’t “need” to explain any of this, but I do because most of the time people mistake me for younger than I am and because most of the time I feel like an iceberg—like only the tip of me grazes the surface; no one sees the massive rock below—how wide and how deep and how sharp too, the edges are. Do all people feel this?

Sometimes when Audrey hurts herself accidentally, stubbing a toe or hitting her hand on a table—her body always growing, changing, long and lanky—she lets out a cry, and then immediately examines her wound, getting ready to come and show me the evidence. Look. You must soothe me. 

But usually, there’s nothing, maybe a hint of pink if she’s lucky. She’s taken to saying in a frustrated tone, “There’s nothing to show for it…but it really still hurts.” Nothing to show for it.

I feel this way often. Going through the motions of suburban mom drop-off, pick-up, ballet, small-talk, days, years—passing. But it really still hurts. 

I watch the driver’s chubby hands and large thumbs grip the wheel. He has whitish yellowish hair that’s a bit too long in the back, and a long beard- a grey cardigan makes him a cross between Mr. Belvedere and Jeffrey Dahmer.

“Are you a writer then?” he asks—because I’ve told him I’m going to a writing conference in California.  “Yeah, I’m a writer.” Silence.

We arrive early. I was hoping to beat the predicted snowfall since statistically I’m much more likely to die on the car ride to the airport than on the flight, and all I want to do is be the parent who arrives back home alive. “Looks like you almost got your wish,” he says. The first flakes are falling. On the plane I distract myself with theologian Jürgen Moltmann’s book “In the End- the Beginning.” He says that if we look for the new beginning, we’ll find it.

“There is a saying that every beginning is hard. But beginnings are particularly hard if we have to start all over again a second time…How can we begin if in one way or other we have come to the end? Where are the energies which can free us from the burdens of the past and give us new courage for the future? Where do new vistas open up? No one is perfect. Few people achieve a life without caesuras or disruption.”

I draw a heart next to the word “caesura” in my book because I love it. The plane is getting ready to take off. This is the scariest part for me. I don’t mind the coming down at all, but the lifting up off of the ground. Thousands of pounds defying gravity. The gracelessness of it. The dips that make me jolt and grab onto my seat arms, tears starting to fall down my face. The older woman next to me sees me making these terrified involuntary movements, takes off her headphones, and looks me in the eye. “There are two things you need to remember. One: Once you take off, it’s not in your control anymore. Two: God’s going to take care of you. My father was a pilot. He used to say, taking off is the easiest part because there’s so much space. The sky is big.”

The sky is big.

 

I wrote this a little over a month ago. 

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9 thoughts on “Driving to the Airport”

  1. Oh, this is so emotional, the leave taking. And I can relate to the fear of taking off. I feel the same way – landing seems natural while taking off defies all laws of gravity. Glad you made it there and back safely and hope the trip was fruitful.

  2. I can only imagine carrying that hurt while juggling life, and having to explain it to others…seems exhausting. That’s why I admire your courage to keep going even when fear could feel paralizing at times. And what a gift that woman’s words were!

  3. I’m a widow of two years operating alone the retail business we developed together over 28 years ago, I was just a kid back then, didn’t know a dam thing never considered for a second how my future could be blown to smithereens leaving a crater of black nothing that keeps pulling me in. I too have a big sky story to write at least I think I have the guts to write it. I am inspired by you. Thank you.

    1. Hi Lisa, Thanks for reading and writing. I’m sorry for your loss. Around that crater of black nothing, plant some flowers and live well. Small steps every day. You are doing this and you can do hard things.

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