It didn’t happen on Father’s Day, but it defined a father’s love better than any other small moment in my life.
From a very young age our daughter, Kelsey had to endure a significant number of hospital stays. She was very brave about these hospital interludes and accepted them with a calm far beyond her years. However following that trying period in her life, she was left with one residual inconvenient trait. Every time someone left and said good-by to her, she would cry. It was quite emotional and baffling to her, but I think in a subconscious way she connected the experience of someone ‘leaving’ for any reason, back to those scary hospital times. She talked to me privately about it. I comforted her and reassured her she would eventually outgrow it.
During this time my husband had to go to Atlanta for business for a week. We decided to make it into a family mini vacation by flying to Atlanta with him and spending the weekend together. But when the weekend was over it meant that Kelsey and I had to fly back home for work and school leaving Dad in Atlanta.
The airport good-by was emotional, but Kelsey tried her best to maintain her composure. She didn’t want to cry in public. To help her through the transition her dad promised to wave from the terminal building when the plane left. However, once she and I were seated on the plane we couldn’t see him. Kelsey quickly figured out the plane would need to move forward for us to see him wave. But that plane wouldn’t budge. It was of those inexplicable Atlanta delays. Kelsey started to cry quietly. We sat on the plane for probably thirty minutes not moving forward an inch. Then finally and without explanation, the plane started to move slowly….backwards. Kelsey was never one to make scenes but her quiet crying escalated to sobs. She simply couldn’t choke back her emotions any longer. Over and over again she sobbed, “I want to wave to my dad.”
The atmosphere in that jet was already tense from the delay. We continued to sit in our new location as the day turned from light to darkness for another agonizing forty-five minutes. No one knew why. Kelsey continued to sob repeating her plea to wave to her dad again and again. She and I, of course, both knew he was long gone by now. This was in the days before cell phones so there was no way to call him. I tried to comfort her in every way I knew how. The already tense passengers struggled to politely endure the sound of this heart wrenching scene.
Finally, finally, the plane started to taxi forward. I dreaded when she wouldn’t see her dad at the window. As the concourse came into view it was totally lit, while we were in complete darkness. It was a sight I will never forget. There was only one person in the entire illuminated concourse and he was standing right at the window and waving at a dark plane.
That’s when I also started to cry quietly. Dad knew and understood the importance of that wave. When that solitary waving dad came into view the passengers on the plane broke into spontaneous applause. I like to think the ovation was in tribute to a dad’s love. I’m not certain that is the only reason they applauded, but it’s the reason I choose to remember.