Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Baggage Claim

He leaned against the square pillar and rubbed his eyes. “This is ridiculous,” he mumbled, a little bit louder than he had intended. He watched as the remaining passengers started to file toward the Customer Service booth off to the side of the carousel. “Never fails.”

Instead of adding himself as one more frantic and frustrated customer to the already zealous crowd he decided to check the other carousels to see if it was misplaced.

He walked down the wide corridor – which was far too busy for 3:47 AM – and yawned as he watched the other sleepy passengers as they shoved past each other to check the tags on the generic black fabric suitcase before it started its slow journey around the room.

When he reached the last conveyer – which was empty and surrounded by tired, grumpy people - he stretched his arms and stopped to get a drink from the water fountain. He watched the agitated businessmen and the sleeping 2-year-old twins and the confused Korean tourists as they all waited for the lights to flash and the alarm to sound in order to announce the coming of their luggage. He shook his head. He knew it was only a matter of time before they had to add themselves to the ever-growing line in front of the little old lady at the Customer Service booth.

A young woman and her son were trying to guess which bags belonged to which passengers. “Who do you think has that big green one?” or “There’s one with a purple ribbon on it. Who do you see that you think likes purple the most?”

He was impressed with how well the game held the little boy’s attention. “I wish that would entertain me.” He looked across the faces of the people hovering in a clump around the luggage chute and tried to decipher which one he thought liked purple the most. He sighed, realizing that not only did he have no clue, but he really was completely uninterested. All he wanted was his own bag.

“I just want to go home” he thought. “Could this have happened at a worst time?”

He switched his backpack to his other shoulder and turned back toward Carousel 4, hoping maybe, just maybe, it had come out later than all the rest. He could see from a distance that his hopes would be fruitless, so begrudgingly he headed toward the long line of disgruntled customers.

“Welcome home, Son.”

He hadn’t even stopped walking before his eyes started to get blurry. He turned to see his father’s strong eyes, still as piercing as ever but also brimming with tears. “It’s good to have you back.”

He lowered his backpack to his feet and shook his father’s sturdy hand, then they gave each other a hard hug, a strong hug, an I-can’t-believe-I-get-to-see-you-again hug.

“You ready?”

Everything in him wanted to just get in the car and drive off and worry about the bag tomorrow, but he knew once he was home it would be a horridly long drive back to the airport to come and claim it.

“Do you mind waiting? They lost my bag.”
“Oh, did you have more than just the one?”

He looked down to see that on the ground about five feet away was his brown hard shell thrift store suitcase with a bumper sticker collage covering one side of it.

You had it?”
“I was waitin’ for you and I saw it come out, so I grabbed it.”
“How’d you know it was mine?”
“Son. I was with you when you got it.” He smiled a gentle smile. “Although you have added quite a few things to it since then. I don’t even know what most of these mean.”

He reshouldered his backpack and leaned over to pick up his suitcase, but his dad’s hand reached it first.

“I’ve got it, Son. The car’s this way.”
“Dad, I can carry it. A wheel’s broken so it doesn’t roll.”

He’d seen that look in his dad’s eyes before and he knew it wouldn’t accomplish much to argue with him (especially as tired as he was), so he decided to negotiate.

“Here, why don’t you carry my backpack?”
“Sure, yeah, I can do that.”

He stiffly stooped down to set the suitcase back on the floor and then threaded his arms through the straps of the backpack while his son held it up for him. “Doesn’t this thing fall off o’ you? How do I tighten these things?” and he started tugging at the plastic buckles. His son showed him how to pull the straps tighter so that his gray-haired old man looked more like a kindergartner on the first day of school. His father reached down and again picked up the suitcase.

“Dad!” He quickly grabbed the handle of his suitcase to pull it from his father’s hands.
“Son,” the older man whispered back. He paused and looked into his father’s eyes which were again getting misty. “Son, I just wanted you to come back safe. You’re here, and I just want to get you home.”

The sincerity that he saw in his father’s demeanor made him wrestle with himself, and in the end he conceded. He willed himself to pry open his fingers that were wrapped tightly around the broken black handle. Unable to think of anything to say, he awkwardly whispered back, “Thank you.”
His father grinned and patted his son on the back. “Now, let’s getcha home.”

Me: “How did you know which one was mine?”
My Father: “I was there when you got it…but you really made it your own, didn’t you?”

Me: “It’s too heavy for you.”
My Father: “You sure did pack it full, but I want to carry it for you.”

Me: “Why don’t you just carry the little one, I’ll take care of the big one?”
My Father: “Why don’t you just let me love you this way?”

Me: “You don’t have to.”
My Father: “I’m so glad you’re here. Let’s getcha home.”

Praise be to the LORD, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.
~Psalm 68:19