I’ve always found airports to be fun and exciting places. So many people coming and going. So many lives, so many people, so many stories…

I found myself there this past Sunday, again. So many times have I driven that road. So many times to pick up friends or family. So many hello’s accompanied by hugs and sometimes tears and smiles from ear to ear. And so many good-byes. Good-bye hugs are different and so are the tears. The smiles are tight, more for encouragement and reassurance.

This time it was to say good-bye.

Another visit from a friend, over. Just like that. Done.

It’s hard letting go. It’s hard staying behind. It’s hard watching them walk down that ramp that will take them through security, to a plane, far away. It’s hard just standing there.

As I was just standing there, watching, waiting for… nothing, I felt a rush move passed me.

And then they were standing in front of me. On the edge of the carpet next to the sign that reads something like, “No one is allowed to enter except for the person you will have to say good-bye to…”

My mind began to process what my eyes were taking in.

Two men. No. One man and one boy. No, that’s not right either. The boy is taller than a boy, but right now he looks very much like a boy. And the man looks very much like… a father… A father saying goodbye to his son.

Hmm, I wonder if that’s his son.

And then I heard it.

“I love ya, son. Be careful. You’re gonna hafta run to yer gate, so ya better hurry,” he said in that deep southern drawl that I love so much. But the son was still standing there. His arm around his dad’s neck, tight. His cheek smashed up against the bigger one. Eye squinted, shut.

And then the boy-jaw clenched tight, revealing the effort it took to be a man. His chin refusing to quiver, he let go and took a step back. Neither of them saying anything. I’m sure it had already been said.

The son replaced the ball cap that had been knocked off due to the fierce hug the minute before. He grabbed his carry-on that had been forgotten on the floor and reluctantly began his walk down the ramp.

His dad called out last minute instructions that he’d probably already given. The son turned and gave him a salute.

I couldn’t help but stay a few minutes longer. I was totally caught up in the moment of their good-bye and my eyes were a bit wet.

Every few minutes that passed while the son stood in line, he turned around to make sure his dad was still there and sent a wave to the top of the ramp. The father, now leaning against the wall would quickly stand erect, raising his hand to the ceiling as if to say, “I’m still here son and I’ll always be!”

I found myself surprised at their open affection. This boy-man wasn’t ashamed to show his love for his father or the apprehension he must have been feeling to be leaving him.

What lay ahead for this young man? Is he headed off to college? A new job? A new city? A new life?

Sometimes good-byes are so final, even when they’re not.

When my parents said good-bye to me while dropping me off at college, it was a lot like the scene above, only a thousand times the tears. But it wasn’t like they wouldn’t ever see me again. I would most likely be home the next weekend for a visit. But it was so final. That life was ending and a new one was beginning. It was sad, but exciting and we cried.

I stayed until the son made it through security. I stayed until he had gathered all of his things and put his ball cap back on, again. I stayed until the dad had given his last minute instructions, this time over the phone because the son was too far to hear his voice. I stayed as the son, heeding his dad’s advice, ran down the terminal to his gate. I stayed until the son was no longer in sight and the dad quietly walked away, down the escalator, alone.

I stayed and I cried.

Thankfully it wasn’t my ugly cry. I was discreet. Besides, other people were crying, saying good-bye. So I didn’t look totally out of place. Only, there really was no reason why I should be crying. It wasn’t my son leaving. It wasn’t Deacon or Levi heading off to college. It wasn’t me calling after them with one more mother reminder…

I think I was crying because I know it will be. One day. Soon.

One day I will say good-bye, even though it wont be a forever good-bye. It will just be a good-bye to the life we know now. Little things and messes and toys all over the floor, whines and fuzzy heads and simple problems easily fixed with a hug or a kiss. It will be a saying hello to a new life we aren’t quite sure about yet. But we will be and we know we will be and it will be good.

But I’ll still cry.

I better start carrying a box of Kleenex with me, cause I think that good-bye could come as early as tomorrow… at least that’s what they tell me anyway.

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