The suitcase and gear bag rollers ran noisily along the airport floor as I worked past my frustration at the overcharging done by a popular [four-lettered] rental car company. I’ll deal with it later, I told myself softly, anxious to get home to my hubby and kiddos. I happened upon the elevator, and that’s when I encountered a rental car executive trying to talk to a silver-haired gentleman with a Southern twang. She offered him help, he declined emphatically. She reached out for his paperwork, he snatched it back in retreat.
How I became involved in this story is unclear. The executive turned to me and asked if I would escort this belligerent man to the other side of the airport! Being as agreeable as I am, I nodded yes. At which point he refused. I quickly rethought and said that he might have to help me get to the other side of the airport with all of this baggage. Cha ching! Bingo. Being a Southern gentleman, he quickly reached out for a suitcase and off we went.
I quickly wondered what I had gotten myself into, what I was dealing with. Dementia? Substance abuse? Uncontrolled anger? The answer came moments later when the gentleman stated that he hadn’t wanted to go on this +#$% trip anyway; it was too soon after losing his love of 51 years. No, not dementia, Heidi — GRIEF.
I listened intently. He dismissed me as young. Little did he know. I reached out, touched his shoulder and said, “I know that life.” And it was true. I went on to affirm that everyone judges you, how you cope, react, whether you move “on” too soon or too slowly. Regardless of intent, everyone puts a hand into your life’s pot. Sometimes that works great, other times not. He suddenly turned steel blue eyes on me and said “Yes, ma’am; that’s exactly it.”
Our journey lasted five minutes. He introduced himself at the end only as “Robbie.” Robbie from Atlanta, it was a pleasure to have been put together at the same frustrating moment, in front of the same elevator, at the same airport. I did not mean to offer you advice as you departed, just words from a person who is nearly five years ahead of you. Walk on, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other. Next thing you know, you will skip or whistle a spell here or there. You will no longer watch passersby, wondering how they can carry on when you cannot. You will share your life gifts with others — at un unpredictable time, place, and in ways that you never imagined yourself capable. At the end of the day, I believe that your way is the best way to grieve. Walk on, Robbie from Atlanta; walk on.