This post concludes my blog posts about our trip to Iowa. It’s a bit longer than I’d planned, and there may be parts where you are wondering what the point is to all the details, but there were so many little coincidences that the details help tie together. I should also warn you that some things I describe might be a bit graphic, if you are sensitive to that.
Well, we managed to squeeze in a haircut for Bracken (having just enough time to swing by before we needed to head to the airport in the afternoon), but I didn’t manage to remember to bring Bracken’s car seat on our trip. I had it written in my planner, underlined and with lots of !!!’s afterwards, but I didn’t happen to look in my planner that morning so my note to myself didn’t help me much. I thought I was doing a great job of remembering everything for our trip and then I realized my mistake after we were at the airport and Jeff had already driven away.
I had planned to bring our cell phone with me on our trip. It’s so convenient for letting family know when we’ve landed and are headed their way, and I thought I might post here and there on Instagram too. On the way to the airport, though, Jeff remembered that he needed the phone for the first day of market so that he could accept credit cards in our booth. Thank goodness he remembered that! So, I left the phone with him. I hadn’t planned on using pay phones, and I don’t like to carry a lot of heavy change around in my purse, so only found enough change for one phone call. (I joked that it felt like I was in prison, getting my single phone call.)
I called my mom and luckily she answered a phone number she didn’t recognize. I told her about forgetting the car seat and she told me not to worry about it, she would call my grandma and they would figure something out. Turns out Jeff had realized that I had forgotten the car seat on the drive back and then called my mom to tell her as soon as he got home, to which she replied “Don’t worry, it’s already been taken care of.” They looked into renting one (or borrowing one), but it was actually cheaper to buy one and my grandma thought it would be good to have one around anyway. She went out straightaway and bought one, bless her heart, and wouldn’t accept any money for it. (She spoiled us the whole time and even went to the grocery store to get things she knew we liked to eat, I can’t thank her enough for everything.)
The reason this story makes me laugh, though, is that my grandma dropped us off at my aunt and uncle’s house the day of my grandpa’s birthday celebration and I forgot the car seat again! My grandma doesn’t drive after dark and I knew we’d likely be there after dark, so asked my dad for a ride back. I had forgotten the car seat in my grandma’s car to transfer to my dad’s rental car, but luckily my aunt had an extra car seat for us to borrow. What would I have done without everyone’s help? They took such good care of us.
I didn’t come here today to write about the car seat story, though, I came to write about our eventful trip home. When booking tickets, I made sure Bracken and I were sitting next to each other for all of the flights, but when I got our actual tickets we weren’t seated next to each other for any of them. On one flight to Iowa someone switched with us and on another there were two different couples sitting next to each other who didn’t want to switch with us, but luckily there were some extra seats on the plane so we were able to sit together.
When we were headed back home, flying out of Des Moines, a kind lady working there switched our tickets so we would be seated together. I had thought she had switched our seats for both of our flights that day, but noticed when we were about to board our next flight in Denver that she had only switched them for the first flight, and we weren’t seated together on our final flight.
At the Denver airport, there were free phones available to make calls within the U.S. (how awesome is that?) and when I called my mom and told her we were at our gate and had a little time before boarding, she said something along the lines of “Pay attention because sometimes they change gates.” I had never had that happen before and my first thought was that she didn’t need to worry about it, but since she had never said that to me before while I was travelling and since she had a feeling to mention that to me, I knew I should listen. A mother’s intuition is a powerful thing!
Turns out our gate did get changed and it was a good thing my mom had mentioned it because I went and double-checked our gate, and the flight attendant said that there would be an announcement over the loud speaker if the gate changed. Well, there never was an announcement over the loud speaker and because I had specifically asked her to please come and tell me if our gate changed, she came over and told me when it did.
Before we knew about our gate changing, while we were sitting and waiting, I grabbed out my camera and was taking a picture of Bracken looking out the window at the airplane. A man walked in front of me while I was taking a picture and then said “Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you were taking a picture.” And I said with a smile “No worries, I’ve only taken about a bazillion pictures on my trip.” We spoke for a moment or two and then we quietly waited. A little while after, our gate changed and we all moved over to the new gate. That’s when I realized Bracken and I’s seats weren’t together (I had assumed they’d been changed earlier and didn’t think to check.)
I had a feeling to talk to an older guy in a red baseball cap and started chatting with him while we were in line waiting to board and he told me about getting stuck in a snowstorm in Wyoming. I told him “That’s the snowstorm my brother-in-law was stuck in, he was lucky to get out and be able to make it to my grandpa’s birthday.” I told him about needing to switch seats once I got on the plane. I had 21C and 23C. It just so happened he was in row 21, but he was on the other side of the aisle, so I figured I would wait and switch with someone on the plane, so Bracken and I could hopefully sit side by side.
Once on the plane, Bracken and I sat in row 23, waiting for someone to show up so I could ask them if they would like to switch for my seat in row 21 instead. I figured someone would be more likely to switch with me if they were getting a spot a bit closer to the front of the plane, rather than the back. But no one showed up. I heard the flight attendants say that there was one spot left on the plane, my spot- 21C. I told one of them that it was supposed to be my spot, but I had been waiting to switch so I could sit with my son. They told me to go ahead and stay in row 23, it was fine for us to stay there. (Later there ended up being one more empty seat, for the sake of accuracy in the story.)
Not long after the plane took off, Bracken was so exhausted that he fell asleep on my arm. With my free arm, I read a magazine. I’m guessing an hour into our flight (we still had maybe an hour and a half to go) I heard gasps and people saying “A man just collapsed!” “He’s bleeding!” I looked to see a man lying in the middle of the aisle, not moving. (Bracken was in the window seat and I was in the aisle seat, so I had a full view of the aisle.) The flight attendants were panicking and all eyes were on the man. Over the intercom one of the flight attendants asked if any medical personnel were on board and if so, if they would please come forward. That’s something you see in the movies, but never expect to actually experience in real life. At first it looked like there was no one to help, but then a woman came forward. A doctor, but I swore she was an angel on earth.
She was able to turn the man over to discover where he was bleeding from, near his eyebrow. She set the flight attendants to work bringing her wet paper towels. She gently and soothingly washed the blood off his face, and as she did so she spoke to him quietly and he regained consciousness. She told him that he had fallen and hit his head and that there was some blood because head wounds always bleed more. She took a plane full of panicked people and regained calm. It was surreal the way she did it, really. I watched how lovingly she cared for the man and cleaned off his face, and I was in awe of how beautifully she handled the situation. Bracken was still asleep on my arm and I was immobile, but I knew the man was in good hands so it wouldn’t help for me to get up anyway. I sat watching with tears in my eyes, grateful for the woman who stepped forward to care for him.
She said he had low blood sugar and at one point was able to get him to sit up and drink some juice. When he sat up and I saw his face, I recognized him as the man who had accidentally walked in front of my camera at the airport, the one I had spoken with and sat near before our gates had changed. As he had been walking on the airplane back from the bathroom, he felt faint and went to sit in the seat 21C, but missed and fell forward and hit his head. Eventually the doctor was able to get the man up into a seat, into 21C. The doctor needed to sit near him to keep caring for him, so the man in the red baseball cap (who I had almost switched seats with) moved up to her seat in the airplane and let her have his. I was grateful that I hadn’t ended up switching seats with that man or anyone else in row 21, because we would have been in the way (and would have had to move) and instead we were in row 23 where Bracken was sleeping through the whole fiasco.
I’ve sometimes wondered how I would respond in different emergency situations. I’ve been in stressful situations, like the time our truck broke down on a busy road when I was driving alone with baby Bracken (and what looked like smoke bellowing out from under our hood made me fear it was going to blow up or something.) Our family was in an intense car accident once, and I kept my cool pretty well, but the scary part was over by that point. But those weren’t actual emergencies, they just felt intense. You just never know how you’ll react until you’re actually there. I admired how calm and collected that doctor was during the whole situation during that flight. I know it’s her job and all (and clearly she’s good at it), but it was more than that. It was her gift, her calling. Like she had been placed on that plane that day for that very purpose.
It’s hard for me to put into words. She had a certain grace about her. She used humor with the man to lighten the mood. Gentle humor that made him laugh, without expending a lot of energy from him, if that makes sense. The perfect balance. She kept him calm and comforted, in the midst of an experience that was startling, ungrounding, and just plain scary. She gave the flight attendants jobs, so they could be helping and contributing, because everyone around wanted to do something to make the situation better, but didn’t know what to do or have any direction until the woman showed up. I had what felt like a front row seat witnessing all the events before me: the flurry, the panic, and the calm.
Before the man collapsed, all eyes were on screens or books, everyone engaged in their own separate little worlds. When he fell, it seemed everyone’s eyes on the entire plane were on him. It woke everyone up, jolted us all from the auto pilot we were on, waiting for the flight to be over. I saw so much kindness shine out from people all around, helping in every way they could. When the plane landed, everyone was asked to stay in their seats while paramedics came and brought the man off the plane first. I’ve been on planes so many times when people were rushing to get off, grabbing their bags and hustling down the aisle. Everyone hurrying. This time was different, though. Quieter, slower. People looked at each other in the eyes, waited for others, and said “Go ahead. You go first. No, really.” What took place on the flight that day really brought everyone together.
I wish I had an update on that man to share with you. I don’t. The doctor asked everyone around if it had looked like he had had a seizure, but everyone agreed it didn’t look like that and looked like he had just passed out. He said he hadn’t slept or ate in too long. Since it wasn’t the first time he had passed out, though, the doctor insisted that he get thoroughly checked at the emergency room and expressed her hope that he would do so. I probably won’t see that man or that doctor again, yet I can still see their faces in my mind. That day and that plane ride is one that I will never forget.
The experience had such an impact on me and I’m not sure why I decided to write about it tonight, other than I just haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I’m amazed at how our lives can criss cross, amazed at little details that can change experiences so drastically, amazed at the impact people can have on one another. And the power to help each other when we are simply doing our thing, sharing our gifts with the world. That doctor was just doing what she naturally did, and when I spoke to her after the plane ride, she hadn’t considered what she had done to be a very big deal or anything that anyone else couldn’t have done, but to that man and to everyone else on the plane, it was a big deal. What struck me most of all was the love and tenderness that I saw shining out of her eyes when she cared for that man. And I wonder- what would the world be like if we all cared for one another with that much love?