We drove Mom to the airport on the weekend and she took a midnight flight home.
She snagged a nasty virus when she was here and you know how it is – when you're under the weather, there's no place you'd rather be than in your own bed. So I will miss her and I wish she had of stayed longer but if there's one thing I've learned over the years is there's no point trying to talk people into doing something they don't want to do.
It was freezing Saturday night. I mean really freezing. With windchill, the temperature was -44C (which is -47 F). It was so cold that my coat froze and crinkled the moment I stepped out of the Jeep.
Dave said his good-byes at the curb and waited in the vehicle while I went with Mom to get her boarding pass and check her luggage. Then I waited to make sure she got through security without getting arrested. (Little old ladies are the worst, I hear – they're the ones most likely to have balloons full of heroin up their bums.)
The line was quite long and I must have waited for 20 minutes or more. Every once in a while she'd turn around and I'd wave and she'd wave and I'd make some kind of stupid face, while other "waiters" around me did the same thing with their travelling loved ones.
All around me people were saying good-bye. Christmas vacation was over and there were a lot of students going back to school. A family next to me was having a hard time letting their daughter go, especially the father.
"I'm sorry I was grumpy," he said. "I'm so sorry."
I peeked to my left and saw his middle-aged and bespectacled face buried in her shoulder, tears pouring down his ruddy cheeks.
"It's OK, Dad, it's OK. I love you," she said, which made him cry harder.
"I love you, too," he sobbed. "I'm going to miss you so much."
My heart, already aching by my own mother's imminent departure, absolutely melted and my eyes welled up with snotiferous ugly tears. (Yeah that's a word.)
The airport is a vast cavern of opposite and deep emotion.
There's the arrivals gate, which you should go to if you need a pick-me-up. The tears shed here are made of distilled happiness as family, friends and lovers are reunited in arms flung open in joy. There are exceptions, of course – the tired business traveller, or the lonely singleton who hurries by the happy families with eyes fixed studiously on the floor. But, for the most part, especially during the holidays, the arrivals gate is the best place on earth to find actual happy people and be infected by the contagion of their brilliant smiles.
Then there's departures, where the same people, weeks later, are saying good-bye to the individuals they love the most. The people walking away from here are openly crying, or trying desperately to hold back their tears.
When my mom finally got through security, she waved one last time, then disappeared into the crowd.
I turned away and gave in to suffocating emotion.