The morning moves along quickly. One task to another, mentally crossing off items until the last task stands on its own: the airport.
The drive there seems quiet even though cars in their morning rush whiz by us on the way to their day’s destination. It has been several years since I have had to be in the rush of Denver traffic and I have almost forgotten how quickly the cars move, weaving in and out of lanes to position themselves ahead of other drivers.
He’s quiet next to me, also mentally crossing off his own list. I know there will be “clean up” items to handle as soon as he leaves. Similar to when his sister left, the reality of what didn’t get done will set in and favors will be asked of me. I don’t mind, in fact to some degree I like that he still needs me to do for him. Although there is that message in the back of my mind, fearing I will enable him to leave a wake of unfinished tasks behind him for the rest of his life. I smile at the thought and quickly dismiss it, knowing as he continues to mature and live on his own his management will get better.
I am excited and sad in the same moment. I know his trip to Germany will be different than my hitchhiking tour of Europe, but it will be a great adventure for him. I silently pray his trip will be one of success for him. Even though success may mean his two month trip may turn into years away. He has worked hard for his dream, staying focused and working every extra hour he could for the money he would need. It seems like all his labor should be rewarded, but as we know, sometimes our rewards come in packages we don’t at first recognize.
The airport now is visible on the plains east of Denver, its mock peaks imitating those majestically rising to the west. The parking lot is a mess with construction detours and signs pointing where to go. We end up parking far from the terminal and have to haul all of his items across the parking lot through the maze designed to keep pedestrians safe. A careless driver interrupts our walk, backing up way too quickly, almost hitting two small children walking in front of us. Their mother, several feet away, had stopped to help another child. My son and I scream in unison “STOP”. The confused driver slams on the brakes and turns her head in our direction, cell phone attached to her ear. The mother quickly hustles up to the children, herding them away from the car and the danger. She turns to us mouthing thank you before moving them into the safety of the terminal. And so it is, a moment in time for everything.
My son finishes his check in and we walk towards Security. I feel the grief rise from my heart, stinging my eyes with tears ready to flow. Not now I tell myself. Later there will be more than enough time. We stand for several moments at the entrance of the security line exchanges goodbyes. I remind him to take care, stay out of trouble, be good. Cliché parting words. My send-off to Europe had a parade of friends and family at the gate, the worries of security still in the distant future. We all hugged and cried, acting like it would be the last time we would see each other. Still with communication back then, my family would not hear from me again for nearly two months. And even then it took a series of operators and over eight hours to get a call placed.
I know tomorrow I can pick up the phone and hear his voice. I can do Face Time or SKYPE and within minutes his image will flash in front of my face allowing me to assess is he healthy, happy. But his presence, his energy will not be in my life. He will not be near to see, to hug and my selfish side grieves for this.
We finish our good byes and he follows the flow through the security line, keeping visuals on me as he moves. Placing his items on the security belt, he points to the second floor location which overlooks Security, silently suggesting I move up there. I hurry to the escalator and climb each step as it progresses until I reach the bridge which crosses the terminal. Once there, I move to the side which overlooks the Security area and wait. He is out of my sight at first, blocked by a piece of equipment. Then he appears, smiling and excited he shouts up to me, “I love you, Mom!” He steps onto the escalator leading to the gates, it takes him down, out of my sight.
“I love you too,” comes from me in a hoarse whisper. Always have, always will.