Watching Them Walk Away

Counting weeks, then days, till I embark on an adventure to teach English in Rwanda for Peace Corps, I’ve already said good-bye to my sons. They are back at their respective schools and, though we touch base most every day, I don’t know when exactly I’ll see them again. Only yesterday when they toddled away, I grabbed their hands and picked them up. Today they walk into the world as bold, broad-shouldered men I watch disappear—one to an airport gate, the other through a tree-lined parking lot.

A few weeks ago, my parents watched me disappear into an airport, a scene they’ve been watching for more than 30 years. All of us tearful and soggy with things we forgot to say. This time our good-bye followed a week at the NC beach with the whole family. It was joyful and peaceful, but made saying good-bye no easier. I was still a month from departing for Africa, so I asked Mom if I should try to see them again before leaving. Excited as anyone for this opportunity, she kissed me and said let’s not go through the hard part again.

But there was a welcome distraction to our Raleigh farewell. Dad still insists on carrying my bags into the terminal and, as Mom and I followed him inside, we noticed he was pointing toward someone and smiling—Rev. William Barber.  Shameless groupies that we are, we approached Rev. Barber and his handlers and thanked him for his hard work. He spoke to us graciously, and even kissed Mom’s hand.

Then we rode the escalator to the security lines for that awful last hug. I’d over-packed and avoided looking back at Mom and Dad until I finished struggling with sneakers and laptop. Once reorganized, I gazed beyond belts, scanners, and travelers to give them a frantic final wave. Holding back tears, I noticed another hand waving—that of Rev. Barber. I could read in his sweet but tired eyes the flicker of a thought: “Please don’t let that woman be on my flight.”

From across the room, I hoped my parents could see me beaming. They wouldn’t know why I seemed to be laughing. They’d just be happy for me, thinking I was so excited to walk boldly into the world.

And, truly, I am.


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