I am on a flight home from Minneapolis in the aisle seat just behind the bulkhead. Next to me in the middle seat is an elderly woman reading a John Grisham novel. In the window seat next to her, is a friend of mine from Phoenix, Larry Colbert, who happens to be blind. At Larry’s feet lies Banner, his seeing-eye dog. The Sunday New York Times is in my lap and I proceed to stick in my earplugs. This maneuver doesn’t invite a lot of casual conversation; plane trips are my fun-reading time.
The Captain approaches, accompanied by a maintenance man — it’s a bad sign. I take out the ear plugs, and the Captain asks me if they can look at the cover of the seat divider between us. It seems the cover was completely off and had been reported. From the conversation, it becomes clear that if the maintenance supervisor calls somebody in to fix it, it would take at least an hour. The part is not critical for flight; I piped in that my neighbor and I would find a way to tolerate the loose cover for the two-hour flight home. She smiled in agreement and they agreed it could be fixed in Phoenix where they had a longer layover.
I smiled at her and thanked her for her agreement; then added that if she needed a tray-table for her drink that I would be happy to hold it in my lap. Without a millisecond’s delay she said, “Thank you but I’d rather use it as a seat.” I giggled and said, “Maybe we don’t have to wait until the drinks come.” This was one of those rare trips when I kept my earplugs out for a long time and got to know someone. Like my wife, Gene was a surgical nurse. Married to a distinguished neurosurgeon for 63 years, she was widowed four years ago. I ask her what it was like to live alone after a lifetime together with someone. Gene said the hardest part was the nights, when she climbed into their queen-size bed; she could hear him, smell him, and feel his touch. His memory lingered everywhere; she couldn’t sleep, and after four months she bought two twin beds. I looked at her with raised eyebrows, and Gene said with a twinkle, “For my granddaughters who sometimes sleepover.”
At that moment, the flight attendant brought our drinks. Holding the teacup in one hand, and shakily squeezing a lemon with the other, it squirted out of my hand and landed in Gene’s lap. She looked at me and started laughing hysterically. “What’s so funny,” I asked? Gene said between gasps, “The dog is a licking my toes.”
She said, “This has been an unforgettable trip . . . one man in my lap, another licking my feet; I don’t think the girls are going to believe this at the dinner table tonight.”
I didn’t read much of the Sunday Times that day; I was inspired by Gene’s vibrant, quick and flirtatious smile. Filled with admiration, wonder and love, I can only hope that, even at 90, I can still rub my lamp and dream of Genie.
P.S. Only 4 weeks left until The Last Mask of the Authentic Healer workshop, the only time I will do it this year here in the States. For those of you interested in expanding your power to heal yourself and others, there is still space available.