I’m sitting in the Philadelphia airport. Exhausted. I’ve been working for a week straight. Just coming out of the excitement of a project launch in Austin. Now flying to Atlanta for another series of meetings.
At the gate I’m staring at a woman eating yogurt. Some of that thick Greek stuff. People call it something else, but I’m sure it’s just yogurt. It might be healthier. I’m not sure. She is stirring it and then taking big gulping bites. Swishing from cheek to cheek. Anyway, I’m listening to this song and balling. Just big clown tears. Watching this woman eat exotic yogurt and I’m sobbing.
What is so funny about sadness is how it can rush in. I’m not overtly stressed. Just thinking about being in an airport when my Father was dying. It’s been almost a year. I knew then that once I got on the flight I would never see him alive again. Only I didn’t really know that. At the time he was in a medical coma, but we truly didn’t know how sick he was. Still I feared it.
Everything had happened so quickly. He had been under the weather and felt a pain. Walked into the hospital on a Friday and was dead a few days later. My Mother called that morning and I was on a plane almost immediately. In a haze. I landed for a layover and I just felt that if I got on that connecting flight my Father wouldn’t survive. I knew on a logical level it wasn’t true, but to step across that threshold and onto the flight was truly the most heart wrenching moment in my life. Now here I am again. Waiting to board a plane. Staring at the doorway and trying to piece together the last year of my life.
Grief on this level is really hard to explain. I am sure people are right when they say that it comes in stages, but what they don’t tell you is that in many ways those stages hit all at once. Grief lingers and hangs over you. It creates a beige cloud of denial, acceptance, anger, and sadness.
As that fog lifts I get these flashes of memories and they dart in and out of focus: talking to my Dad about my first girlfriend, working on some science fair project, watching some wildly inappropriate movie like Terminator or A Fish Called Wanda. Under all that pain is such a bittersweet nostalgia and it feels impossible not to succumb to it. To wash myself in it.
Up until this point I’ve been pretty blocked. Walking in a daze. Unable to really sit with or talk about what happened. Now at the least poignant moment I’m flush with it. Listening to this song about love reborn. An indie pop counter-point to all this tragedy, but it’s enough and I’m a mess.
Locked in the handicapped stall of the airport bathroom. I’m really hit with the thing I haven’t been able to articulate or tell anyone. This notion of my Father being afraid or alone and my feeling helpless to save him from some forgone medical conclusion. All I could think is that if I never leave Philadelphia he’ll somehow be ok. It was a child’s wish, but I felt it just the same.
The song ends as boarding starts. The woman in front of me finishes up her yogurt and tosses the container in the trash as we huddle towards the plane’s entrance. The herd us in by zones and I ignore the first few times my row is called. Trying to hold on to that idea that I can somehow control destiny. I stare at that familiar doorway, shove my headphones in my pocket and breathe in deeply.
What else can you do but step forward?
Jukebox The Ghost: Girl