Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Close Encounter with a Stranger

Fully loaded with Xanax, the Matron left the house at 6:45 am to hop on a plane to Chicago! Yes: two nights of sleep without waking up at 3 am when Merrick muscles his way into the parental bed (he knows the hour of least resistance) and then again at 5 am when the dogs demand breakfast.

Of course, part of the problem is that she caves in to both of these disruptions which is part of the problem. But self help and boundaries constitute another blog post.

So the Matron is groggily happy on the airplane. She has her magazine, work material and laptop. Fully loaded. The man sitting beside her is a youngster -- looked twenty-something --and they said hello and disappeared into their own worlds of reading.

He did comment when she took that second Xanax. But he was funny and nice.

As the plane descended and yours truly realized she was probably going to live, she made a comment of relief to her fellow passenger and a joke about sleeping without children. Then, because he made eye contact and laughed, she asked if he had any?

Fellow Passenger: "My two year old daughter just died three months ago. This is my first week back at work."

Friends, what can you say to this? The Matron instantly started to well up.

Fellow Passenger: "Do you want to see a picture?"

He fumbled through his wallet and retrieved an image of a beaming, beautiful toddler with a big bunch of curls and a radiant smile.

Matron: "Oh, I'm so so sorry!! Was this a sudden illness?"

No. It turns out she had a genetic disorder and died at the Mayo Clinic after the bone marrow transplant didn't gel.

But the fellow passenger started to cry, just a little bit. He talked about his wife and how she's devastated and about their four year old, who keeps asking when his sister is coming home. By this time, the Matron is also a bona fide puddle and gave up all pretense of not crying.

Not sure what to do, she hugged him. And they both cried a little bit more. She'll always remember that very young man facing tremendous adversity and his willingness to be honest, open and vulnerable even with a complete stranger. May we all find someone in the crowd who will care for us.


12 comments:

*m* said...

This is just heartbreaking. And certainly puts my day in perspective.

haphazardmusings said...

Wow, what a day you've had. It's great that he had a kind, receptive ear. No doubt you in some way helped him to come to terms with this.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

And now another hug for you, Matron. And . . . sending positive energy to that father with the extra room in his bed for the rest of his life.

And, most of all, thank you for sharing this, and your heart, as always. You just put homework, dinner, bath, and all of the evening activities into perspective for me -- for the rest of my life.

kcinnova said...

Tears welling up just reading this. I'm glad that he had you as a seat-mate.

JCK said...

Thank you for sharing this intimate, heart-breaking story. I know you helped him in that moment.

trash said...

I have tears in my eyes now and have to face the school run with blurry vision. I shall blame the rain.

I hope that young man and his family find some peace.

Jen on the Edge said...

So tragic. Oh, I wish I could give that poor family some hugs. Sending you some too.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oof. He lucked out to have you next to him on that trip.

SUEB0B said...

I had one of those encounters...I wrote this about being on the way back from watching my sister die:
On the plane back from Chicago, I got such a funny blessing. There was a lady in the window seat who didn't speak English. Me in the aisle seat, no one in between. I was worried about how I was going to keep from crying for 4 hours. Before we took off, the window lady made a phone call and started crying. I gave her some tissue. I started crying. We smiled weakly at each other. I put the tissue package of the seat between us and we cried whenever we needed to throughout the flight. Row 31, the row of unspoken misery where it is ok to cry. It was such a relief to have that freedom.

Airplanes are funny places

Jessie said...

How lucky for him it was that he was next to you. A little human kindness and putting it out there perhaps helped him a little.

cndymkr / jean said...

Matron you were there in that seat for a reason. It was meant to be.

Amy said...

Thank you for listening to him, thank you for crying with him.