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Airport Love, Actually

March 12, 2011

March 11, 2011

By Maggie Dwyer — permalink

My son Dylan is a freshman at the University of Arizona in Tucson and is flying back to Texas to spend Spring break here. He has only returned home one other time this year, during the long holiday break between semesters. I think I saw him four times during that month, and am resigned to the fact that our drive in from the airport tomorrow may be the longest conversation we have until May, when I will drive him with his stuff back here for the summer.

I love this photo – a candid shot my mother took. I sometimes miss the days when they were little and their worlds revolved around us, but I am so thrilled to see that all of the reading and attention has contributed to the wonderful young man he is today.

I’m not surprised, or even dismayed, because I see him maturing as he should, becoming an independent and autonomous young man, and he doesn’t crave long visits with his parents. I have to choose the right moment to ask any question I really want an answer to, or to say something I think he needs to hear. And I have to resist the urge to give this wonderful young man a hug every time I see him. Without that restraint, it is my belief that over-eager parents end up pushing away their children. Holding them too tightly won’t keep them close – quite the opposite. His sister shares a house with other college students 45 miles north of here, and I see her only a couple of times a semester for the same reason. I am not aloof, far from it. They know I love them.

When he flew to Tucson in January, I had it planned. We pulled into an empty spot adjacent to the skycap lines at Dallas Love Field. I turned off the engine, hopped out to ostensibly help him with the door as he put on his pack then pulled his classical guitar in it’s very large case from behind the seat. As he turned, his hands full, I ignored the people standing next to us on the sidewalk and stepped in to give him a big hug and a kiss. He stood patiently, and I released him quickly, and told him to have a good flight.

I’d had an audience, and there were several knowing smiles as we watched this tall handsome college student walk alone into the airport. A woman in the line caught my eye, and I said “he’s 18. I have to choose the moment when I can get that kiss and hug these days.” Again, knowing smiles.

It was so different at the airport in Seattle 14 years ago, when my husband, not my son was the one flying. The four of us had managed three weeks together in a road trip from Texas to Seattle. He had only three weeks off and we wanted longer with the grandparents, so he left from Seattle to go to his work meeting. I’d make the drive home alone with the kids, stopping with friends and family along the way.

This photo appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after Dylan provided music at a UTA Library faculty reception.
Last year Dylan played classical guitar in the UTA Central Library atrium as a faculty reception was getting underway.

Good plan, but the hardest part was when we were at SeaTac airport, waiting at the gate (you could, back then) for the flight to be called. I was carrying then-four-year-old Dylan as we gave his Dad a kiss. As he realized that Dad was in fact leaving without him, my son lunged forward in my arms, stretching out and crying “Dad! Dad! Daaaaaaad!” at such a pitch and in such anguish that it was like someone had released teargas in that portion of the airport.

The brief tableau is frozen in my memory. The urgency of a child so distraught brought all eyes our way, and brought tears to those eyes. We managed to recover, I don’t remember what I said, but after a few minutes of sadness and sniffles, his seven-year-old sister and I had his full attention and we spent more time with grandma before heading south along the Pacific coast in another week of parks and beaches, of sleeping in guest rooms, motel rooms, and sleeping bags. I’m glad I have that memory of my son, as poignant as it is, because our airport visits these days are so restrained. But I know the passion is in there. Maybe one of these days I’ll be the one leaving on the plane and my son will be holding a child, sad to see grandma go.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 24, 2011 4:34 pm

    This is a wonderful post, Maggie. How do I know? I cried. Thank you steering me to it. And bless you and yours for the holidays and all of 2012.

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