Wednesday, March 16, 2011


The uproarious and shakey start to my short trip settles into a long layover in the Chicago airport. As snow melted locally and radioactive fears rise internationally, the three day jaunt has crept up like a surreal dream completely out of context from daily life.

So I was up late so late last night packing, organizing and remembering clothes not seen since summertime with one eye glued to videos of the disasters unfolding in Japan. Thinking maybe I should not sleep at all at two AM, setting the alarm for four, I slept right through it anyway, awakening in panic a half hour after my plane had flown directly overhead.

Not even turning on the light, I grabbed the bags, stuffed in peripherals and dashed for the car, leaving things behind. I went back for my dop kit and saw my camera, but left my phone charger inadvertently on the table by the bed. At the airport, I ran for the shuttle and discovered later the camera fell out along the way.

Fortunately, I could be rerouted still today and reunited with my camera in time to be the last one on the plane. All the way to Chicago (instead of Washington, DC) I chastised myself. Making the only flight scheduled in two years should be easily done, but always rising to the exception, I sure enough missed it. Doing better in the big picture, my bank account is at least not empty, but a $75 charge to reschedule impacts my confidence to rent a car.

From today, I can quickly look to the failures across my whole life and plummet into despair. It is especially frustrating to arrive late and relatively penniless compared to my first ex-wife who is there with the support of her next husband.

The purpose of the trip is to celebrate the opening performance of my daughter’s leading role in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”, playing Rosalind, the strongest and wisest woman I know in all of literature. Grown up on the other side of the country from me, my daughter has become one of the strongest women I know.

I missed most of the major events in her life after her sixth year. On another three night dash across the continent for her high school graduation, I slept so little and was so traumatized by the effort to leave my home and other family, I spent most of the time in such a blubbery mess, even she last week—the daughter who forgives me all—even she agreed I was pretty pathetic.

Having changed my life, I am thrilled to make her the priority for the next few days. The past cannot be rewritten, but the future likes open before us. Choices are in every moment to move forward or repeat patterns of footsteps we have made before. I could have been better prepared and ensured a good night’s sleep. I could have bounded up at the sound of the alarm. Always I can do better.

Still, I made the reservation, have a little more money in the bank and continued onto the airport even after missing the plane and sit now in the lounge in Chicago. A thousand people with thousands of stories surround me, talking together, phones up to their ears, fingers on their laptops. We all move towards our destinations tragic or triumphant with determination.

Overhead, the latest images from Japan remind us that life is precious and fragile. Tears of anxiety and relief look the same to us who do not need to know the language to understand that we are all just a moment away from such disasters. Even as we love, cherish and need our families so much (and never enough), it is comforting to be reminded that these very strangers surrounding me could instantly become family if that moment should actually occur.

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