Monday, September 17, 2012

The Long Goodbye

Our former neighbor Don posted this photo on Facebook a couple of weeks ago with a comment about Kate (that's her, second from the left) and how he expected her to be embarrassed by her hairdo. I wondered why we were all lined up like this and spent a few nostalgic moments checking out everyone's hair and clothes. It wasn't until the next day that Liz (that's her second from the right, although she could have been Eliza or Lillie or Ellie or Elizabeth or one of the other variations of her name that she used in her younger years) commented that this photo was taken the day Al (that's him towering above us all, third from the right) left for the Peace Corps. Coincidentally I found a photo a few days later that confirmed this.

Remember those pre-  9/11 days?  We could see a departing traveler until he went right around that corner at the end and into the plane. Al was leaving for Niger and on to his final destination, Chad. We would not see him for two years. My niece was recently serving in Swaziland and what with Skype and e-mail there were frequent opportunities to communicate with her family. This was, I think, 1989, and we would have no contact except for sporadic mail and the very occasional phone call—always at 3 a.m. 

So we had all been waiting miserably at the departure gate. There were wet eyes, there was snivelling. Soon most of us were crying. The flight was called and the crying became bawling. Al disappeared round the corner and a sympathetic woman was commiserating with the others. There was curiosity in her voice as she looked up at the flight details mounted over the desk. I should have told you that before leaving for Africa, Al would have a few days training stateside, so when the woman asked where he was going that could cause such abject misery to his family, they all chorused, "Baltimore."

Another family legend. 

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