On our way home from the 2nd trip to Tucson to both mourn and celebrate the life of our loving matriarch, I came across what felt to be a shield of collective protection by several strangers on our flights. Strangers whom, many of them, went out of their way to be sure that Monkey and I arrived home safely amidst flight delays and cancellations. I was moved to tears many times and as I have mentioned here before, it takes a lot for that to happen.
After several hours of sitting on a tarmac while waiting out a thunderstorm before the plane could take off, the woman sitting next to Monkey and I slowly shared bits and pieces of her story as she playfully smiled and humored Monkey. With this being my first flight with Monkey on my own, I can safely say that I don’t know how I could have handled the situation as well had it been any other person in that seat. As it turned out, this lovely woman was on her way to be with her son as he awaited an organ transplant. Feeling at all frustrated by travel delays quickly became a distant memory to me the more I listened.
Later, while waiting standby after missed connections – she to Denver, me to Portland – we sat in a cafe and talked more. I was so moved by this woman and all that she has done to raise awareness about Cystic Fibrosis and to be a strong and loving mother to her children despite the many struggles she and her family had seen.
She had recently turned to music as her outlet. I listened to some of the songs she had written. They were beautiful. Just as she was. I have thought of she and her son since that time and wondered how they are doing. Whether or not he got his transplant and if it took? I only got her first name and too much time has passed for me to remember the name of the foundation in Mexico she started up (it was in Spanish and I have a terrible name memory as it is). I keep hoping I will remember.
After saying goodbye the way strangers do when they know they were somehow fated to meet, with a look of gratitude in our eyes, I set off to find our standby gate.
Upon arrival to the gate, I quickly realized that the chances of Monkey and I getting on the flight were slim to none. We were sixth on the list and the flight was already fully booked. I called Josh to let him know that I would start looking for a hotel and nearby store to pick up more provisions. A man nearby came up to me after I got off the phone. He had overheard my conversation. His daughter-in-law had been stuck in an airport for two days with her twin boys when they were Monkey’s age and he wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I couldn’t even imagine! As I learned that day, there are several things that had never crossed my mind that pose a problem when running into any travel woes:
1) I didn’t have a car seat. It had already been routed for Portland. So even if I had gotten a hotel, I’d need to figure out a cab or service that could provide a car seat to get us to the hotel and back to the airport.
2) I had only packed enough baby food, diapers and wipes to get us home that evening (I was trying to go compact for ease of carrying Monkey around). The rest was packed in my checked bag. Mistake. I will always have at least a few days worth of these items in my carry-on. Although Monkey is eating food other than the purees now so it would not be as much of an issue.
He asked if there was anything he could get for us. I smiled and thanked him but said I would just see how this flight went and then figure it out afterward. It was touching that a stranger thought to care. Then, I proceeded to follow a fast crawling Monkey around the waiting area while he spent some of his 9-month-old energy.
As the last call for passengers took place on the intercom, I had already come to resolve that we would be finding a hotel for the night and trying it all again the next day. Then, I heard a woman’s voice, “Miss? Miss?”
I looked up to a mother with her three-year-old son standing next to her and a baby girl in a stroller who was close to Monkey’s age.
“Do you need anything? Do you need food? Do you need diapers?”
At a quick glance, I saw the man behind her and knew he had stopped her as she was boarding to let her know my situation. My eyes welled up a bit. She handed over a stack of diapers, several jars of food and a new bag of wipes. I couldn’t stop thanking her and the gentleman who had extended their kindness. I may have had a night of obstacles ahead of me, but I was feeling recharged now knowing I had gotten the support and reminders from all of these people that there is a lot of good amongst the more difficult moments too.
I started to pack up our items and got things together to head to the customer service desk to make a plan when I heard my name over the intercom. A group of people in the lobby started cheering. I was so confused. They called it once more. More cheering. I walked up to the counter and the flight attendant told me I was all clear to board.
“But, all these other people are still waiting on standby ahead of me.”
As I said those words, I glanced back at the others I knew were on standby in front of me. They all had big sympathetic smiles on their faces. One of whom was that selfless man who had already been so helpful. He had talked everyone into bumping me up the list in case there was only one seat available.
Okay, that was it, I lost it. Crying, smiling and waving at all of those kind faces, I was hurried down the runway to board the plane.
After sitting down, I looked at Monkey, kissed him on his head and told him that his great nana with with us today.