07/10/2014 07:54 am ET Updated Sep 09, 2014

Why The Airport Brought Memories Of My Late Husband Rushing Back

I am sitting at JFK. It has been a very long day that started in South Carolina. It is very late at night. Flight home -- I made it while in the frugal mode -- is not direct. I am slowly learning that there are all sorts of triggers just lurking out of sight. Out of mind. Just waiting for me to step on them. Just waiting to jump out at me. Just waiting, waiting, waiting.....for me.

I did not think JFK would be different from any other airport I have traveled through in the recent months. Hey, look! They all have three letters: BOS, SFO, CLT, RIC, SBA, ETC. My famous battle cry, "How hard can it be?!?!" showed me just how hard it can be.

Waiting for the plane to arrive and passengers to deplane. Waiting for the plane to be cleaned and prepped. Waiting for the boarding to begin. The gate area is filled. An awful lot of people traveling. Couples, families, friends. And I am sitting alone, waiting.

And then it hits me. I am sitting at JFK. That means I am sitting in New York. We grew up in New York. We went to school in New York. We met in New York. I am flooded with memories and tears are streaming down my face.

The memories are of long ago. Images I have not thought of in years. Lying on the grass in Central Park waiting for that magic time of lining up for free tickets for Shakespeare in the Park. Or a concert with Dylan or Judy Collins or Joni Mitchell. Being young and in love. Walking side-by-side holding hands. And now feeling so bereft. And tears are streaming down my face.

And then, well I need an aside to explain this next occurrence. There is a movie with Annette Bening and Ed Harris called The Face of Love. It is about Nikki, a widow of five years who sees a man who looks exactly like her beloved husband. She stalks this man, meets him, and has an affair with him -- never telling him she loves him because of whom he looks like. I saw it with a friend, armed with bowls of popcorn and fresh boxes of Kleenex. Together we wept and laughed at the story.

Why this aside? These memories are of Robert when he was young and had a full rich reddish brown beard. And as I am sitting alone I see a couple standing off to the side. They are in their mid-twenties. And he has a full beard. And for one insane moment I wonder if I could walk up to him and just put my hand on his beard. Sigh. My cupped palm just barely caressing his beard. I recognize I am channeling Annette Bening/Nikki and let the desire stay where it is, in my mind and do not act on the impulse. Sigh.

The tears are continuing to stream down my face. I apparently have my bubble walls up as no one makes eye contact or says anything to me. And boarding begins. With my tear streaked face I walk down the aisle to my seat. This is a three-by-three seat plane and the overhead compartments look so high and out of reach. I look at my roll on and look up at the compartment and mutter to myself, "This is just not going to happen."

A man seated in front of me jumps up, grabs my bag and effortlessly tosses it into the overhead compartment and sits down. He does not say one word. And when we land? He again leaps up, and gets my bag down before he gets his and his family's. Moral? There are hidden advantages to having a tear streaked face?

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