Monday, September 13, 2010

Busting Out All Over

I knew something was up when I saw a van from an assisted living community pull up to the terminal. And the marching band clustered near baggage claim. And a guy in Revolutionary War getup talking to women in neon yellow t-shirts.
John’s flight was leaving in a bit, so I was already on the weepy side.  
The band of high school kids played a verse of “God Bless America,” and while I thought of the bumper sticker “God Bless All Nations—No Exceptions,” I also started crying. 
If you know me, you know that crying in public is something I do expertly, and airports are just asking for it. I’m good with restaurants too, especially ones that play upbeat music like calypso or bluegrass.
“God Bless America” is best performed by my grandmother Hazel. She records a new answering machine message every month and sings a few bars of a season-appropriate song in her quavering alto. “June is Busting Out All Over” for example. You can imagine the December options.
The song for this past July was “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” but I’m sure “God Bless America” is in her rotation.
Hazel dances once a week at the senior center. I’ve picked her up from a dance a few times when I’ve been in town. Toward the end of the evening, everone sings a song together. “God Bless America” is a popular one. I mutter the words I don’t know and hope Hazel doesn’t notice (Hazel is big into memorization, and can still recite poetry she learned in school. If you didn’t pay attention in the “who’s on it?” game, she had no compunction about withholding the Lincoln, Hamilton, or Jackson she was all set to give you).
Yesterday, a woman at the Spokane airport told me the fanfare was for Honor Flight, a program that provides veterans, especially from WWII, with a free trip to D.C. so they can tour the war memorials. Men with American flags created a walkway near the luggage carousels for the arriving vets.
John left for his flight. I stood in the airport for a while, hoping to see this returning group. Without planning it, I was dressed in a patriotic way Hazel was sure to approve of: blue shirt, jeans, and red and white polka dot shoes. I waited for over half an hour, and forgot about my parking meter (the County of Spokane did not), and then I went home.
Sundays are prone to homesickness. At a new church, I missed the choir back at St. Mark’s, their sterling voices and kindness. I missed John, and he'd only just left. I missed my grandpas, both of whom would have been eligible for this Honor Flight business. They’d have made great really old guys. I missed my grandmothers, one who’s gone, and one who lives across the country and who likes to dance and talk on the phone.
I’d better call her.

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