There were two other things that happened in Sanibel which were pretty amazing – things that were, as I had asked for, very specific to Mark and to our history, our relationship. They were both symbols/reminders of a family vacation we took to Prince Edward Island, and things that happened there. I’m not sure I can recreate it well enough to tell the story, so just trust me: they were cool. Meant only for me.
I got on the plane on Saturday (after crying my eyes out on the balcony of the condo, so deep is my gratitude for that time and place) and settled in next to another woman traveling alone. We both briefly smiled at each other, but had books out, ready to read; without apology, we buried our noses.
After about 45 minutes, I had to squeeze past her to get to the restroom. Upon my return, she gestured at my book and commented that she hoped I was enjoying mine more than she was hers, which was a book club pick. That was that: the conversation was off and running as we delved into book club dynamics, literature, and then ultimately who we were.
It wasn’t long before I discovered all 3 of her children had attended the same university I had. Then she eventually mentioned she went there, too. Small world. Not terribly unusual, though, for 2 people from Northern VA to have gone to that school, though.
The twists and turns of the conversation then began to occur faster and faster as our worlds started to converge. She had been a senior when I was a freshman. She was a little sister to the same fraternity – what??! Of course we knew some of the same people.
As we kept talking, she told of her children, and got to know my kids through my descriptions – even Mark, even his death – and commented that she went to ALL the football games and felt like she recognized Sarah from the marching band’s color guard. She went on to ask if I’d ever gone to any of the fraternity’s tailgate parties before the games and I replied that we only went to 2 games a season, but yes, we had just started going to the tailgates, in the last 2 years or so…in fact, we’d gone to one just the prior November, and I hadn’t known some of the older fraternity brothers who were there. But maybe she would?
I went to grab my phone, to show her the group picture on Facebook, taken at the tailgate. Oh, right – we’re on an airplane and I’m too cheap to pay for WiFi. Umm. I checked my phone’s photo gallery and was so surprised to find I did have the picture – I must have handed my phone to Steve so he could capture us all. I zoomed in on the faces in the photo and started showing her the men on the right. She took the phone and started pointing and naming. As she did, she slowly slid the photo to the right, revealing the people in the middle of the group.
“Uh-huh, there’s Sed, and Kris, and oh, ok, there you are…and…and…there’s…me. That’s ME standing next to you.”
We almost died.
As I closed my phone, Mark’s photo – my screen saver – popped up and I showed him to her. She paused.
“Oh my gosh. I met him. I remember meeting your son – at another tailgate, right? You brought him to a game. There was just something about him, that made him stick in my mind!”
We got off the plane, and headed out – me to the luggage carousels, she to her car. We kept talking, comparing notes and memories. I think we were talking about how great it was, that experience, to be a little sister to a really good group of guys, and she commented, “Yeah, I was super dedicated. They even made me Rose Queen!”
Strangers on a plane? Not today.