Driving my sister to the airport earlythis autumn morning I looked about me and took in the mists and the mellow fruitfulness. My younger sister is not young. Shortly we would embrace, say goodbye, we’d look forward to next time and we’d both know, ‘next time carries no guarantee’.
I recalled a trip I took to that airport with Mum. I described it to my sister: “This all happened before Mum suffered her strokes. She was not young but could still travel independently. My plane to the outback was due to depart at 10.00. Mum’s inter-city flight was scheduled an hour later. I dropped Mum off at her lounge in a shower of kisses and embraces, and raced to my own lounge. Over the Public Address I heard, ‘The flight to Woop Woop has been delayed. We expect to board passengers at 11.00 and to take off soon after. We regret the inconv…’ I raced back to Mum.
‘Hello darling. How lovely to see you!’ Mum’s face was lit by a smile of mild astonishment. Time’s exigencies always surprised Mum. I began to explain and she took my hand and began to stroke my volar forearm. She said, ‘Aren’t we lucky, darling.’
I felt lucky: here we were, quiet together among the hubbub, heads bent to each other, tasting our found time. A thought came to me: ‘Mum, we two have always been sitting in our Departure Lounges, waiting for our separate flights. We both know one day we’ll have to leave, we just don’t know when. And we can’t really know who’ll leave first.’
Mum nodded. Her walking fingers patrolled from my wrist to the inside of my elbow, back to the wrist then back again. Her touch was light. I thought of early memories of Mum’s touch, of the times when she bathed Dennis and me. We both spoke at once; ‘Your skin feels so soft and smooth.’
As our hour melted away we didn’t say much.
The Public Address commanded us to part. Knowing and accepting, we parted in gentler shower of kissing and holding. Knowing and accepting and feeling very lucky, we took our separate flights.”