I anxiously sift through the sea of humanity coming in waves, peering for that one special face.
I was still trying to adjust to the new security procedures at Denver International Airport. It was easier when I could wait at the gate, passengers dribbling through the door, recognizing my loved ones before they saw me.
Nowadays I usually pick them up on the top floor, my car barely coming to a rolling stop, tossing suitcases in the rear and hustling my hapless visitor into the back seat before the officer points his finger, barking “Lady, move on.”
But today is special. Evan has spent a semester abroad. I’ve missed him and I can’t bear to idle in short term parking, trying to coordinate the NASCAR worthy pick up.
I pull in to the garage, make my way through the terminal and stand behind the rope in the lobby. The problem is that even knowing when his plane lands it’s impossible to calculate how long it will take him to get from his seat, out of the airplane, down the lengthy corridor, get in the train and finally come up the escalator. So many planes must be landing at the same time that when a train rumbles to the station far underground, hundreds of weary travelers pour upstairs.
I am positive that if I don’t see my son before he sees me he’ll think that I must not care enough.
I scan face after face as soon as I see the tops of their heads, trying to imagine how the Secret Service accomplishes this task of facial recognition as they protect our president.
After a mere 15 minutes the stress takes it’s toll on me and my eyes–and mind–wander. I become aware of an elderly man to my left, satchel in hand, clearly befuddled.
The years had not been kind to him. I don’t know if he’d been good looking in his youth, but he was homely now. His shoulders were stooped, his complexion bad and the inches he’d lost in height seemed to have lengthened his nose.
Understanding how overwhelming traveling can be, I was going to offer help. Suddenly his face broke into a wide grin, his eyes grew moist and he stood up tall. He was enveloped by a group of men his age wearing caps and vests that declared they were veterans of the same war, same squadron.
There was much back slapping and hugging. One of his friends picked up the satchel and he drifted away in the middle of a cloud of love and good humor.
I took stock of myself. Already I could tell that I was not aging particularly well, shrinking and gaining weight. Pretty soon I’d look like Mrs. Bilbo Baggins from the Hobbit.
My grandmother had suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s and my father dementia. They seemed lonely in the end. I yearn to grow old luxuriating in the company of people who care about me. In this world where there are so many of us I want to walk in to gatherings of friends and family and see their faces light up because I am there.
I worry Evan won’t recognize me. I touch my nose to see if it feels different.
Another mass of humanity rises up from the bowels of the building and I sense before I see that my beloved boy is home.
My cheeks grow warm and his face lights up when he sees me. I hold on to his neck and the world dissolves around us.