After spending all day traveling yesterday, I am happy to be home despite facing a mountain of unanswered mail and unpublished show reports. Although it is theoretically possible to stay connected while sitting in an airport and even on an airplane, the actual practice is much more difficult. I had spent the early morning in my Kalamazoo hotel room uploading photographs, a very humbling process. Of the over 1,200 photos I took, only a handful were good enough to fall into the category of “not bad for an amateur.”
I drove from Kalamazoo to Detroit to catch my flight, allowing myself extra time to navigate the huge Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. I managed to get to the airport more than three hours prior to my flight, which proved to be unnecessary as my flight was delayed almost four hours. While I was able to spend some time online, most of the time I was wandering around the airport looking for a Wi-Fi hot spot. I’m not sure who first pointed this out to me, but you often stumble across the most interesting stories when your plans go awry.
By nature, I’m that annoying stranger that strikes up a conversation with you while you are waiting in line. So when this little old lady arrived at my gate in a wheelchair, vigorously objecting to be carted through the airport like excess baggage, I had to talk with her. As Alice Roosevelt Longworth said, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.” Not that this lady was a complainer, she was just an independent nonagenarian, a type we in the dog world are quite familiar with. She had thought she was quite capable of walking the nearly half mile through the airport with her two pieces of carry on luggage. Her only complaint was she didn’t quite understand why she had to go through Detroit to get to Memphis, TN, from Virginia Beach, VA.
As we sat there for over six hours waiting on our delayed flight to come in from New York, she had to tell me about her family. She had recently lost her husband and was still living independently in the home she had moved into with her husband 39 years earlier. Her home is not far from where I live and is a large one with all the bedrooms upstairs. She knows she might have to move soon, but wanted to stay a bit longer in the home she shared so long with her native Memphian husband. She had been through her share of difficulties in her life. She had gone to college at Duke in her home state of North Carolina prior to World War II, a remarkable accomplishment for a woman in those days. She had met the love of her life there, but the war intervened, he enlisted, and she lost track of him.
She married a man who managed to stay stateside during the war and lived an idyllic existence in Virginia for almost 30 years, raising three children. She would lose her husband all too early, when he was just 61. A few months after his death, she was attending a family gathering in Savannah, GA, and her family was remarking how she had been the rare coed at Duke before the war. A guest at the party, playing the usual “Do you know” game, said she had a friend who went to Duke about the same time as my traveling companion. “Maybe you knew him?” she remarked. “He is still carrying a torch for his old college girlfriend and has never married.” To everyone’s astonishment, it turned to out to be her long lost love. She had long assumed he had been killed during the war. A few days later, the couple was reunited, and two months later they were married and on their way to Memphis and 39 years of happily ever after.
Next time you think that life has dealt you a crummy hand, remember that miracles do happen if you have faith and wait long enough. Now that’s some Memorial Day tale and that’s today’s Back Story.