We have just arrived after our flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to West Palm Beach. We have come to Florida to visit Bill’s brother on one coast and my family on the other. We arrive at the luggage carousel in varying states of consciousness: Bill is still slightly groggy from the restless nap he was able to take on the plane; I am in a Dramamine-induced haze, barely aware of my surroundings.
Yet I am cognizant of a conversation as a woman, about my age, and her elderly mother walk toward the carousel next to us. The mother says, “Did you see Dad?” The daughter responds, “No.” “He’s sitting over there,” the mother says as she motions to an area far behind where they are standing. Their voices then become masked by the sound of the carousel as it starts to move and bag after bag begins to travel the runway and each traveler searches for the one bag—most likely black—that is theirs.
What strikes me is that the daughter does not turn to look at her dad. She does not go to him. I hear a small whisper through the Dramamine. Soon it is a voice, then it is screaming. Go be with your dad, it yells and the sound of my own internal voice hurts my ears. Why are you standing here waiting for a stupid suitcase? Your dad will be gone someday. You will look back on this moment and regret what you did not do. This is ridiculous, of course. But the voices persist in my head, screaming out their sadness for this woman’s future. One day you will get a call. Your life will change in an instant. You will kiss the forehead of someone who is cold and gone, and you will drape yourself in black and smile through oceans of tears. DO NOT REGRET WHAT YOU DID NOT DO. THERE ARE NO DO-OVERS. I tell the voice to pipe down. I don’t even know this woman. Perhaps she and her dad have a strained relationship. Perhaps she knows that he likes to sit away from crowded luggage carousels. For all I know he is just tired, or perhaps he ran over his own foot with his carry-on.
Our luggage finally makes the final turn on the carousel’s runway. We collect them and walk away. I will never see this woman again, and my screaming voices become subdued echoes of my own pain, which of course is all they are anyway. But by picking up our luggage and walking toward the rental car area, we are beginning a trip towards our loved ones. The voices are silenced at last as we put our things into the car and begin driving.
And now we will visit. First Bill’s side, then my side. Two sides of our family, one on either side of this palm tree-lined peninsula. Both surround this paradise as they surround us, like warm sunshine and palm branches being draped gently and protectively over us. I think of the week to come and I feel excited and maybe even somewhat happy. This is new for me and I want to hang onto it, but then I wonder if it’s only the Dramamine. But then I think, who cares…right now we are going toward love on two coasts of paradise. And we will never have regrets.