I rushed around the house this morning, packing at the last minute, trying not to forget anything I needed for my trip to Toronto, trying to get to the airport on time, trying to calm down about, well, everything. In my haste, I dropped a stack of papers. They all landed perfectly in order, except one. My photo of me and Don Bowling slid across the floor. I picked it up and paused for a minute to think about Don.
Eight hours from now I’ll be making a big decision about what’s next in my life. I’m honestly not sure yet what the outcome will be, so you’ll have to wait for the details.
I sat down for a second and thought about what Don, my “adopted grandfather” (his words, my delight) would have told me to do. I remembered his stories, his many different paths, major changes, setbacks and adventures.
I thought he must be somewhere out there, finding a way to encourage me…telling me that I just have to remember to write, and to not let anything get in my way or distract me. I lost track of him over the years – we exchanged letters, Christmas and birthday cards for a couple of years but eventually they stopped. As soon as I got a moment to myself today, I looked him up. I learned that he passed away two months ago. April 11, 2016 was 7 years to the day after I sat with him on the square in Florence discussing life, love, and writing.
After I reluctantly left him in Florence, I bought a journal and started scribbling furiously. I vowed to adjust my attitude, take some action, and change my situation. It wasn’t in as dramatic a fashion I had pictured that day on the train, but I did change my situation. That spark of passion led me to Toronto, where my life did indeed get better.
Today I am back in Toronto, which feels like Home. Getting here was pretty special too.
I was settled into my seat, journal in hand, ready for the seven-hour flight to Toronto. I had a premium seat and the one next to me was empty, always nice. After everyone was settled and the flight attendants were closing bins and checking seatbelts, a little old lady made her way to the seat next to me, clearly flustered.
She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I’m very upset. They forgot me and I almost missed my flight.” The gate agents were supposed to bring her in a wheelchair but lost track of her because there were about 5 others on the flight. Her hands shook so much she couldn’t zip her purse so I gently took it from her, zipped it and placed it under the seat. I poured her some water and asked if she feels better now that she’s sitting down. She did. I got out a ginger cookie and saw her eyeing it. She asked where I got it, I gave it to her and she inhaled it. She asked if she could keep the other one for later.
She told me about her home renovation, paint colours, floor choices, her daughter that she likes and the daughter that she…well…doesn’t. I dug her headphones out of her purse and untangled them. I read her nine different movie descriptions and helped her choose one about a dress maker, then reset the system each time she accidentally pushed stop instead of the volume. She thinks marriage is overrated, and she loves Italy. I pulled her coat off for her, then put it back on. I helped her open the individually wrapped pieces of our meal, read the customs form to her, and learned about her grandsons who don’t visit and don’t even like surfing.
I had been reviewing my notes for tomorrow, rehearsing what I’m going to say. She said,
“You don’t need notes honey. You don’t need to explain anything. All you need to say is that you’ve decided what you want to do and you’re going to do it.” I laughed because it really is that simple.
She asked me earnestly, “what if they forget me again?” I told her it doesn’t matter because I can drive a wheelchair. I said I wouldn’t leave her until we saw her daughter, and she grabbed my hand and held on.
The gate agent didn’t forget her this time. He kept telling me he’d take her from here – confused as to why I wasn’t leaving. As promised, I stayed with her until we met her daughter to whom she said, “this is my friend Lauren. She stayed with me the whole time.”
Don and Noreen came into my life during times of uncertainty and fear. They gave me a few hours of their time, and some sweet and simple words of advice that left me feeling energised and confident about what to do next.
I don’t know yet what I’m going to do next. But it occurs to me that if I can learn to be as open and receptive when I’m feeling strong, as I am when I’m feeling scared, it could be anything.