The man sitting across the aisle seems like he could turn his head my way and be my husband. Not that I’ve fallen in love with the man across the aisle, but from this angle, with my reading glasses on so my distance vision is a little blurred, he looks like Robb.

airplane seats

It’s an interesting encounter, because I have spent a fair amount of energy being mad at Robb recently. I get mad at him for silly little things, and the little things that add up to become one great big chasm between two people.

I just went through security at the airport, and I took my time. I am not efficient, but I make up for it with a winsome and cheerful personality. Robb valued efficiency above all else, so I always annoyed him when we went through the security line at the airport. I was never quite ready to take my shoes off, put my shoes on, move forward or step back – whatever was the next dance move. I didn’t move quickly enough.

It was a fatal error to not check in online for the flight at our earliest opportunity. Especially because Southwest has no assigned seating, and of course we would want premiere choices in seating. (He was always on the aisle, I was always in the middle. Always.)

(Okay, not always. There were times when we flew with the boys, and he sat with them while I sat across the aisle with the strangers. Robb put in a movie for our children, they had the space and time they needed on their boys’ side of the plan, and I settled in with my good book.)

You know what I did today? I was so careless and irresponsible that I didn’t check in before I arrived at the airport. I left it all to chance and checked in at the ‘check-in counter.’ Which they have for people like me.

And when it was time to board the flight, I didn’t jump to attention and stand near the door, waiting to board immediately and as quickly as possible. I let other people in front of me. I finished my banana smoothie. I didn’t care if I was the last one on the plane; how bad could it be? I spent an entire marriage sitting in the middle seat, so it’s very familiar and homey to me.

I was such a rebel today. I went through the airport at my liesure, doing everything the way I wanted to, slowly and with a friendly spirit. And I made the flight on time, and I got a seat that is just fine, thank you.

So my spirit stirs with freedom, remembering those little quirks would grate on me. Hey, Robb? I broke all of your rules today, and nothing bad happened. Like, nothing bad at all.

But then I sit next to this man, who has Robb’s broad shoulders, his neck, and he wears his business suit the very same way Robb did. And I look at him, and I soften.

I imagine if he turned to me, if he were Robb, if I could talk to him. And I think about what that conversation would be like, how gentle and kind. And I remember that he loved me so fiercely, and he took care of me with great pride and intentionality. He wasn’t trying to stifle my spirit; it’s just that he felt like he was holding the reins of a wild mare sometimes. And somehow he needed to get us on the plane.

I look at this kind, gentle stranger whose lines look like Robb’s. And I forgive him. And that’s how it was when Robb was here.

I could be so spun up, so worn out with little misunderstandings that were causing serious miscommunications. But then I would catch a glimpse of him. He might have been working at his computer, his eyes carefully squinting at the screen.  He might have been putting gas in my car.  He might have been watching TV – he was perpetually smiling when he watched anything animated.  He might have been reading a recipe, one that he chose to adapt and claim as his very own.  Salsa.  Pancakes. Chili Rellenos. I would look at him, and I would see the soft lines of the smooth-faced boy I fell in love with.

And I would soften. And forgive him.

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