The Miracle of Return

Time to fly home. Twenty eight years of lifting off from LAX, 2 or 3 times each year, you would think it would be routine by now.

In one way, it has actually got better. Having printed my boarding pass at home, I find myself only third inline to check my bag – my one bag, which cost an extra $20 + tax. The pull handle on my suitcase has taken the opportunity to lock down, so that it has to be towed from a crouching posture, but I have help schlepping it, up and onto the scale and back to the X-ray machine.

“Next stop, there where the sun is shining on the green plants,” sings out the x-ray guy.

That, of course, is the farewell spot, a narrow gate, guarded by a familiar dragon who does the second of six boarding pass and ID checks. I make for the escalator with tears on my face. Once upon a time, my Children, farewellers could go with you through security and share a farewell coffee.

There is no line at security either and it is an exciting challenge to fill 3 plastic tubs, about the size of kitty litter pans while standing on one foot. I persist in wearing lace-up low boots. It seems like defiance: I will be darned if I’ll lower my fashion standard. As if. Finally, I have much of my clothing -the guard kindly lets me keep my cardigan on – and all my possessions, some of which, I value dearly, into the trays. The nice surprise is that I do not get “wanded”, patted down nor given a full-body scan. We must not be in an Orange alert. Or maybe my number didn’t come up. Septuagenarian women are, of course, notorious hotheads given to radicalism and acts of terror.

You get used to these absurd assumptions and things really aren’t worse than the good old days. In 1971, my 10 year-old daughter was “wanded” and patted down under the eagle eye of a soldier in camouflage holding a sub-machine gun at the ready. This was in peace-loving Switzerland.

And in those days, there always seemed to be a plane crash in the news. I used to invoke angels to get us off the ground and help us back down. Now I’m usually half asleep. Airlines seem to have learned how to build and fly planes that stay in the air until time and place dictate descent.

With notable exceptions!

It is true that I no longer have the luxury of complaining about the quality of my pre-ordered special meal. I can buy a reheated pepperoni pizza or a sub sandwich from the vending cart: credit cards only, please, but most of us buy our lunch and our water before we board the plane. Starbuck’s smoked turkey and cheddar on multigrain bread turns out to be edible, but not much more. I expected stuffing, cranberry jelly.

My individual entertainment screen is not working. My seat, I am told, should not have been sold. I can move into the middle seat instead. The window guy and I look at each other. We prefer to keep a civilized distance. I do tap its screen so that I can follow our journey on the map and see what towns we are passing over. The captain announces then that we are presently over the Grand Canyon.

And so, another return. There have been returns from weddings and divorces and new babies and new houses and plenty from just ordinary family life. This is a return from what I called in an earlier post a fortunate fall. (See, a return after great shock and fear and grief and then great joy and renewal of love. Rebirth. A chance to start again differently.

Yes, there are still miracles.


The Fortunate Fall: change the future in a blink

Aunt Mae could see the future. It wasn’t a big deal to her. She didn’t tell most people. Only a few family members like my sister and I knew. Some outsiders knew and she got letters with strange postmarks and stamps in her mailbox that sat beside the main road 2 miles from where her tiny home sat under the mountain. Once in a while a big expensive black car swayed and bumped up the narrow dirt track and neighbours wondered why. Chances are it was a politician, a leader in government, a big business man maybe. She had those contacts, but she never took money. She did take a bottle of brandy, just as a house gift and purely medicinal, of course. She told us, Georgia and me, that if we had the gift, we must never sell it.

Anyway, it- fortune telling- wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Sure she saw the mushroom cloud 2 years early and knew that nothing was going to stop that horror. She could live with it because she also lived with her Lord and her best buddy Jesus. When it came to individual fate, however, it was changeable. Sometimes she told what she saw in order to prevent it. Telling might galvanize the person into changing and changing it in the process.

So, yes, the future is changeable because human beings are. But sometimes change doesn’t happen until circumstances force it.

So she had seen this particular family crisis coming and cackled with glee. “It ain’t much.” But a woman of her faith could say that about the deluge, probably about the apocalypse, so I didn’t trust her. “You got to let your chicks out from under your wing. Let them out into the barnyard. They got to deal with that old fox theirselves.” And then I forgot. I put this “dire” warning out of my mind. Wouldn’t you? Besides she was very possibly just a batty backwoods hillbilly who’d made one too many trip to the brandy bottle and was stoned on Jesus.

Then last Thursday the event began to unfold. I booked passage. All our crises are transcontinental. Yes, there were enough airmiles. Yes, there was a direct flight. Yes, I could do 3 days planning and packing in an afternoon and leave in the early morning.

Of course I couldn’t sleep even after word came back that there was breath and life and a reasonable hope of complete recovery.

Sitting in a hospital room on the west coast, reading out loud to the patient from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, I remembered something else Mae had said. “You can change your future in the blink of an eye.” She meant one moment’s inattention, one sudden impulsive decision. She warned Georgia and me about that. That’s how people drive in front of buses. Reason, logic, all our careful rules and practices can fall away and we act suddenly and dangerously.

Now here’s the miracle. There is a whole support system that can catch us in our fall. And it always works even though in the process we leave the physical plane. We felt this last year when a family member passed away, long before her time, and seemed to open a door into a great love when she went.

Neither Georgia nor I were able to sustain faith in Mae’s God so we pretty much knock about without that security and yet more times than we can count, we have felt that unfailing support as we do now.

There was no logical reason why things should have turned out so well. Coincidences maybe. Lucky breaks perhaps.

It has turned out to be a fortunate fall.