The morning moves quickly. One task to another, crossing off items until the last task: the airport.
The drive there seems quiet, even though cars, in their morning rush, whiz by us on the way to their destination. It has been several years since I have had to be in the rush of Denver traffic and I have forgotten how quickly the drivers move, weaving in and out of lanes to position themselves ahead of other cars.
He’s quiet next to me. I know there will be “clean-up” items to handle as soon as he leaves. Similar to when his sister left, the reality of what didn’t get done will set in and favors will be asked of me. I don’t mind; in fact, to some degree, I like that he still needs me to do for him.
I am excited and sad in the same moment. This will be a great adventure for him. I silently pray his trip will be one of success for him. Even though success may mean his two-month trip may turn into years away from home. He has worked hard for his dream and hopefully all his labor will be rewarded.
The airport is visible now on the plains east of Denver, its mock peaks imitating those majestically rising to the west. The parking lot is a mess with construction detours. We end up parking far from the terminal and have to haul his luggage across the parking lot through the maze designed to keep pedestrians safe. A careless driver interrupts our trek by backing up way too quickly, coming close to hitting two small children walking in front of us. Their mother, several feet away, was distracted helping another child. My son and I scream in unison, “STOP!” The confused driver slams on the brakes and turns her head in our direction, cell phone to her ear. The mother quickly hustles up to the children, herding them away from the car and the danger. She turns to us, mouthing “thank you” before moving them into the safety of the terminal.
My son finishes his check-in and we walk towards security. I feel the grief rise from my heart, stinging my eyes with tears ready to flow. “Not now,” I tell myself. Later there will be more than enough time. We stand for several moments at the entrance of the security line. I remind him to take care, stay out of trouble, be good; cliché parting words.
I know tomorrow I can pick up the phone and hear his voice. I can do FaceTime or Skype and within minutes his image will be there allowing me to assess whether he is healthy and happy. But his presence, his energy, will not be in my life. He will not be near to see, to hug, and my selfish side grieves for this.
We finish our goodbyes and he follows the flow through the security line, keeping visuals on me as he moves. He points to a location on the second floor which overlooks security, indicating I should move up there. I hurry to the escalator, quickly climbing until I reach the bridge which crosses the terminal. Moving to the side which overlooks security, I wait. He is out of my sight at first, blocked by a piece of equipment. Then he appears, smiling and excited, and he shouts up to me, “I love you, Mom!” He steps onto the escalator leading to the gates; it takes him down, out of my sight.
“I love you too,” comes from me in a hoarse whisper. “Always have, always will.”