Thursday, July 21, 2016

Blogging On A Plane

My breaths are purposely slow and controlled, but my poor heart is racing.

My head is glued to the headrest and my sweaty palms are clutching the seat belt. Stay calm. Breathe. Just breathe. Deep, deep breaths. In through your nose and out through your mouth. I hate flying. To me, take-off is the worst part. But it helps to observe the people around me and wonder what their lives must be like.

The nice, preppy dude sitting next to me in the striped polo buttoned all the way to the top lets me lean over him to take a picture of the view. The guy in front of me sports a touristy Hawaiian shirt and the blue rubber bracelet around his wrist says, “God Is Bigger.”

This is my new mantra as we ascend into the heavens.
The man across the aisle from me is wearing dark sunglasses and has a long, straggly beard. He is spewing curses at the flight attendants and is already asking them for alcohol before they even have time to shut the overhead compartments. He takes off his shades and his eyes look shifty and troubled. I wonder if I should be afraid of him, you know, because of the Islamic beard. And then, I am ashamed of myself. Just for that, I think I will join him. I’ll have whatever he’s having. His drink of choice? Southern Lemonade: Featuring Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and Minute Maid Lemonade- “Sure to cool you off during the warm summer months.” And only $8! Don’t mind if I do.

The woman sitting next to me is playing candy crush.

Her arms and face are freckled and her eyeliner is smudged. Her hair is chestnut, but her roots are gray. She speaks with a slow, southern draw and it is comforting. I ask where she is from. She says she’s on her way back to Alabama. No wonder she feels like home. I tell her I was born in Opelika and my dad used to play football for Auburn. But she is an Alabama fan. She says “Roll Tide”.

This won’t be the last time we disagree.

She reminds me that flying in a plane is much safer than driving in a car. She regurgitates that old statistic everyone knows about the odds being ever in my favor that I'll die in a car accident rather than in a plane crash. But, to no avail.

I'm still wishing I was driving in a car right about now.

This trip was her first time flying and she thinks the worst part is landing. She says the next time she gets on a plane, she’s flying first-class, damn the cost. And if it’s her time to go, she says she’s ready. But she’d really like to be able to see her grandbabies grow up. She has just come from the birth of her fourth grandchild. Brenden Michael. She flips through the photos on her phone. Her daughter smiling in a checkered hospital gown. The proud father disguised in scrubs, surgical cap, and mask. A wrinkled, crying, red-faced baby. I tell her how cute he is, but everyone knows newborns look like aliens.

We have reached our cruising altitude.

The plane and my heart rate are now much more steady. Maybe it’s the southern hospitality sitting next to me. Or perhaps it’s the Southern Lemonade with vodka. I start to consider the future, now that I think I might have one. In just a few short hours, I will be reunited with family that I haven’t seen in years. My mom and dad (and their spouses), my two older sisters, my brother-in-law, my little bro and his wife, and my nieces and nephews are all convening at the beach. I almost didn’t get to come, but at the eleventh hour I decided to leave my four kids at home with their dad, and now here I sit on a plane contemplating life and death on my way to a family reunion.

It’s funny what you think about when you are 30,000 feet above the ground.

You wonder what people would remember about you if you died. You wonder if your life has made a hillabeans of difference at all. Maybe you've spent too much time building up walls instead of tearing them down. Perhaps you've become so good at protecting yourself from being vulnerable that your heart has become a quarantined, untouchable invalid. You wonder if you’ve said I love you enough. If you’ve forgiven enough. And if people have forgiven you.

Those are the things that really matter, after all.

If you don’t hear from me again, it was a botched landing. We probably went down in flames and my ashes have been scattered to the four winds. Whatever happens, here's what I hope you will say about me when I’m gone: That I knew what mattered in this life. That I loved. That I forgave. That I asked to be forgiven. And if, by chance, I do manage to survive this whole ordeal unscathed, I’m thinking I’m gonna rejoice a little bit more with those who rejoice. I’m gonna weep a little bit more with those who weep. And I’m gonna give a little bit more to those who are in need. But for now, I have to put my tray table up and put my seat back in the upright and locked position.

Wish me luck.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you- I hate flying but love to travel. People watching is the best part!