The geniuses at the airline screwed up. They overbooked my plane. A woman with chopsticks in her hair approached me.
“Sir?” she said in a the-principal-will-see-you
I congratulated her.
Thus, she offered to compensate me and my wife:
We could either (a) stay in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for four hours, or (b) ride home with a herd of USDA registered scrub cattle on the next Norfolk Southern livestock car.
“Can we at least get food vouchers?” I countered.
“How about bottled waters?” she said.
These people don’t even try.
I had a seat. The elderly man next to me had dandelion-fuzz for hair. He laughed at me. I suppose he knew what I’m too young to know. Life doesn’t give food vouchers.
He was talkative. He rolled up one of his shirtsleeves and showed me a medicated patch on his arm.
“It’s for motion-sickness,” he said. “I’m flying to Texas to see my kids.”
He gets nausea so bad he can’t ride in the backseat of a car without chanting Psalms. Because of this, he hasn’t boarded a plane since the sixties.
“I am deathly afraid of planes,” he explained. “I get sick anytime the floor moves.”
The first time he used serious medication for motion-sickness was on a cruise a few years ago. He went on the cruise for his wife.
Because for his entire marriage, he’d refused nautical activities—since nausea is its own kind of Purgatory.
The couple lived slow-paced lives. They hardly traveled. They raised two kids and led a quiet existence outside Atlanta.
Until her diagnosis.
It was bad. A mastectomy. Chemo. She wasted away. Treatment bought her little time. That’s when something in him changed.
“I decided, ‘Hell with it,’” he said. “The doc gimme this anti-puke patch and my wife and I spent a week on a Carnival cruise. I was sick as a dog, but I loved seeing her happy. I miss her every second.”
She died later that year. He tells me he would’ve taken a hundred more cruises if he could have.
“Time moves fast,” he said. “That’s what young people forget.”
As it happens, I forget. Often. He’s right, time is moving quicker than it used to. My whole life seems like it just started last Friday.
The pinewood cars we built as Boy Scouts. Good dogs who’ve gone on to Glory. People I’ve lost. Friends I’ve lost touch with. Where has it all gone.
I’ve changed, too. I’ve gotten slower. During childhood, I could march across the world in under two hours. Today, that’s not enough time to fix a sandwich.
The old man says, “Can I give you some advice?”
“Do all the things that really scare you. Make yourself do’em. It’s good for you.”
The intercom announced his flight.
“Wish me luck,” he said. “I’m so nervous.”
He walked to the gate and presented the hostess a boarding pass which he wore around his neck. He waved to me. I returned the favor.
Good luck, sir.
I’m grateful our flight was delayed.
Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - July 5, 2017 2:50 pm
Great story!! Yes, we don’t know when we are going to be called to our heavenly reward. We need to slow down, appreciate today, and stop rushing towards tomorrow. You are such a great storyteller — I have your book – Sean of the South.
mary lou birnbaum - July 5, 2017 3:09 pm
I felt like I knew exactly what he was saying. I lost a dear friend to cancer whose name was also Mary and I called her my bestie. I had bad knee’s and just hadn’t been going as much lately when she would call I would say not today. Then I would mope that I hadn’t said yes, because that was so our special time. She started not feeling well and ended up in the hospital with pnemonia and the second trip they discovered cancer, she never went back home. Instead she went to hospice and with 2 weeks of all of this she went home to be with the Lord. Then her family cremated and delayed memorial for several weeks. I so struggled. I so wished for more days of us just talking and visiting. Take what you can get when you can get it. Figure it out somehow. Time is precious. You can never get it back.
Mindy Mitchell - August 23, 2017 4:44 pm
Thank you for the reminder, Mary.
Max - July 5, 2017 3:24 pm
I always enjoy your posts. Today’s hit a deep nerve. On Monday, I was given the news that a tumor was found in my pancreas. Waiting on the biopsy and plan for it. Wrestling with all of the emotions, especially as I look at my wife of 44 years. She is my life and my one true love. I just want to wrap my arms around her and forget everything else. Praying for the strength to remain confident in my future with my Savior, either here or in Heaven.
Sandra Simpson - August 23, 2017 3:19 pm
Max, I am praying for you.
Pat Moore - July 5, 2017 3:34 pm
Beautiful story. The last line is the clincher!!!
Esteban Rudman - July 5, 2017 3:39 pm
You know what they say about tempis fugitting. They say that life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. Sometimes “they” are right.
Janet Mary Lee - July 5, 2017 4:28 pm
Truly, take advantage of every day. You never know what life brings. It often brings the unexpected and unplanned. Life does go faster the older you get. Someone told me it is to prepare for the hereafter, where time does not exist, or exists with past, present, and future rolled into one. The important thing is to fix any regrets and be thankful. Like it or not, believe it or not, you WILL be somewhere. Choose wisely…
Karen - July 5, 2017 7:44 pm
Great story Sean, you never know why things happen the way they do but there is usually a reason. Wisdom and older people go together. He is right, enjoy the adventure as much as you can…life brings it to a hault when you enter your older years.
Peg Johnston - July 5, 2017 8:26 pm
Your blog brings me joy and tears—-I’m fine with both! Today’s really hit a chord with me. Almost 10 years ago, my husband died in my arms. I had recently retired after 31 years with ExcinMobil. Mike was going to be 60 in July—; he was dreading and obsessing about it. He died at 59 1/2!!! Everyday I push a little (sometimes a lot) outside my “comfort zone”. I have traveled all over the world —just returned from safari in Botswana; am currently in Norway—–I have been so blessed to have met some incredible people whom I have come to cherish on this journey—-like your buddy on getting on the plane, I too wear ” the patch” cuz I too suffer from motion sickness. Please, please don’t let fear ever rule your choices! Life is truly too short and too beautiful to waste even a moment! Thank you for the joy that you bring me on my journey,
Susan in Georgia - July 6, 2017 7:25 am
My Grandmama had a saying that I thought was crazy when I was young. She’d say, “Christmases just keep gettin’ closer and closer together the older I get.” Now that I’m in my seventh decade of life, I understand.
I also understand the old gentleman in your story, Sean, and I salute him for continuing to travel and meet life’s experiences head on. Thank you for introducing him to us in your story. No moss will grow beneath his feet!
Jack Quanstrum - July 6, 2017 11:01 pm
Sean you put another smile on face. As usual your writing captivated my undivided attention. You stories are like a form of meditation. I feel calm and enlightened afterwards. Keep the stories coming.
Dianne - August 23, 2017 10:42 am
Another great article. Look so forward to starting my day with you wonderful stories that bring laughter and tears but always joy.
Annette Bailey - August 23, 2017 11:45 am
Dear Sean….another good one. The first time I flew, I kept telling my husband and the stewardess that my right ear was hurting badly. My husband, being a pharmacist told me everyone’s ears popped…it was natural and the stewardess showed me ways to pop my ears. Coming back from Dallas, Texas to Atlanta, I was talking and laughing and all of a sudden, I had to grab the little “uh-oh” bag in front of me. When we got home,Mothe next day I and to go to the doctor with a severe earache. When I told him it hurt badly, he said, “Well no wonder….your eardrum burst!” It had bled but healed and before I fly next time, I need to take proper meds. I looked at my husband who grinned sheepishly. Good story of doing things we are afraid of and that time goes by so quickly…it really does. But there are still rides on roller coasters I’m terrified to ride so for the record, I’ll not ride just to keep others from my “uh-oh’s”….just in case. Thanks Sean…another heart felt story I’ll share!
Mike McDonald - August 23, 2017 12:05 pm
Andy Rooney said, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.”
Patricia Frederick - August 23, 2017 3:11 pm
My husband and I lived in or near the great Bankhead Forest all of our married lives. I was always afraid to go in the woods. Now, I go hiking with WildSouth. Life is too short to not see the beauty of nature.