June 30, 2009 Southwest Flight to BWI

Originally, the plan was to be on a 5:35 PM flight to BWI for a one day series of meeting with Obama administration people on health care reform. By the time my work was completed, the 6:05 was the next best option. Ticket changed and I gained a half hour to make the flight. Check in was easy, but security was ridiculously slow and tedious: one lane, one very long line, and some new trainees. It was becoming stressful as we were not sure we would make our flight. These were unfounded concerns, as the weather in Baltimore was a mess and we were going to be delayed. Once we got to the gate, we were told we would get and update at 7 pm. The potential passengers all scattered in the terminal with the expectation they would now have an hour to eat. That was particularly bad advice, because 20 minutes later; 6:25 we were called back for immediate boarding. Friday’s was providing Styrofoam for the passenger to take their yet to be served food onto the plane. We hustle onto the plane, and take our seats.

Sit down in the aisle seat of the exit row. A business man, about my age sits in the window seat. We exchange greetings, but both of us expect the middle seat to be filled. Ironically, it was not. Almost every other seat in the plane was full.

We spent time talking about his job and family situation. He works for a food service company that is based in Paris. “They know how to enjoy life and take care of their people.” He was on the road every week traveling around the Eastern Seaboard. He goes to Paris once a quarter. What was quickly apparent is that this guy really loves his work.
That is so rare now.

We talked about his 16 year old daughter and her life plans: college and beyond. My seat mate had gotten a divorce from his wife. He had been very generous so that he could have full custody which was his priority. Every daughter should know the unconditional love that this father had for his daughter. She was Dad’s life joy. He was also working hard to prepare himself for her departure to college and then her departure into adulthood. He knew it would be very difficult.

The conversation moved to books. He was an avid reader. In passing I mentioned “The Unforgiving Minute” by Craig Mullaney. He said that his father, a former Marine, had just read it and loved it. I shared that I had gone to the same high school, Hendricken that Craig had attended, years apart. I had just been at a book signing with Craig’s classmates. It was the most subtle of transitions, but the book lead to the real subject at hand: his father and their relationship: There was distant between them, although both were working on it bridging the void. It was hard as his father graduated from the Academy, done multiple tours in Vietnam, etc. “He is just not a warm in touch with his feelings kind of guy.” It was my chance to share: “You really want to clear the air and share what you feel. You never know what will happen. It is hard to work on the relationship when he is gone. If you have something to say, say it. I was fortunate, as I did not have any unfinished business with my father, when he passed. Most people are not so lucky.” When I stopped talking, he paused and said: “Thank you.”

You do not know how important or unimportant each life contact really may be. Make sure to engage them as you may be much better for the interaction. Often the person giving the advice is really the student. It was in this case: I can finally celebrate my father and my relationship with him, rather than wallow in death’s loss. It has taken over five years to get ‘here.’ It was my seat mate, in the window seat, who ‘showed’ me where I was.

It was ok that we were over an hour late in arriving. The time had been well spent. Both of us got off of the plane in a better ‘place.’