"Hello," said I to the man behind the Delta counter at ATL. "I'm traveling with a colleague and her flight is earlier than mine. So I wondered if this plane was full or if I might ride on it."
He asked if I were gold, silver or platinum (I am none of those) and asked if I'd be willing to part with $50 for the change. I happily agreed and was granted a seat in an exit row on an earlier flight than my itinerary reported.
So there I was not long afterward, clicking busily at my laptop between nibbles of complimentary cookie and sips of water. And I felt happy - on an earlier flight, in the air on a sunny day, heading somewhere new to do a job - and then I remembered. And the happiness drifted away as if blown by a tornado-force wind, flapping helplessly in the whirl before disappearing into the distance.
I know not what to do with this knowledge - the prognoses and treatments and needs that I can address now but won't be able to sustain. So I reminded myself that we live - in part, at least - to feel joy and be productive. And that it's good to escape into happiness as often as possible.
"Is your room giant?" I asked when I called Sibling after we'd settled in and I'd consulted with our local hosts. "Mine has 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and this huge living area. I think I could probably live here for a year or two."
So she joined me in my gigantic suite and we worked companionably, squinting at geographical borders and skimming through disease trends.
"Can you draw China?" I finally asked. "I can't figure out internal borders and it doesn't have enough ocean around it." She kindly complied.
I would have ordered what was on the prix fixe menu even without it being $25 for an nearly-too-delicious dinner. And when they were out of the standard dessert? Sibling and I got to select whatever we wanted from the beautifully stocked case.
We walked back through the southern evening and I was pleased that it was cooling down from the miserable humidity of the afternoon. I even welcomed the powerful storms that pelted us with rain as we scampered back from a colleague's room after preparing for our demonstrations today, me playing dog to Sibling's pony in this show.
I called my folks while we transferred data and checked software.
"Did Mom tell you my story?" Dad asked when it was his turn on the phone. I replied that she had not and he said that he'd been in the bathroom, looking in the mirror and heard a voice in his head. 'This is your dad,' the voice said. 'Don't give up.'
"Oh," I replied, rather surprised and quite moved. I'd not been close with my paternal grandfather - he wasn't the friendly/demonstrative type. But I found it terribly lovely that Heaven pushed a message through when Dad was feeling hopeless and sad and afraid. "That's really wonderful, Daddy," I said.
"I think I'm going to be around for a while," he said. "Because I'm not giving up."
"That makes me feel good," I told Mom when she got back on the phone.
"Me, too," she said.
Later, I crawled into both king-sized beds to see which I preferred, finally settling on one and burying myself in the blankets and pillows to relax. I finished my presentation, delivered my part of the day and accomplished some work besides.
Now I wait at the airport, souvenirs in tow, and prepared to fly north then drive south.
But I'm glad I came - it's been a very gracious and good trip.