folks

If you’re going to live in Germany you had better come prepared for certain inconveniences. Sally Hansen leg makeup? Not happening. Wendy’s drive thru? Get over the frosty. Hugs from your parents? A distant dream.

Thanks to one of my older sisters, my parents can sometimes fly free. She works for Delta and they have access to amazing family benefits. In all the years they’ve been coming to see us my folks have always managed to make their flight. I kind of count on planes magically producing seats for them.

Last week they were scheduled to jump the pond for a little R&R over here in Germany with the grandkids. I’ve been living off the anticipated high of their arrival; their presence is like a soothing balm in my life. They always bring love and peace and we absolutely adore them.

“Well,” My mother said last Wednesday morning, “We’re heading to New York ¬†tonight and it looks like it might be tight, but we should get out either tonight or tomorrow.” We have had this conversation dozens of times over the years, I wasn’t concerned.

Two hours later I sat in the ER waiting for news on Rex’s broken arm. My parents missed their flight that night, but we knew it was probably a blessing. They rebooked for Friday and somehow managed to find a room in New York City amid the traveling masses.

But when they missed their second flight I began to worry. Three days in airports is exhausting. We were delighted when she called a few hours later to say they were staying in Salt Lake while they tried to get out of Dallas or California.

Their die-hard dedication was surprising. My dad is on the fast track to 80 and my mother is a decade behind; you don’t usually see people their age camped out at airports for days on end.

By the time Tuesday morning hit I was on edge. They had been in transit for six days; how long can a person keep trying? Finally my phone rang.

“We’re in California,” Mom said. “We missed the flight so we’ll have to try again tomorrow. But don’t worry honey, there are 60 open seats. It’s practically a guarantee.”

I was waiting for the midnight call. Seven days of travel and the news couldn’t have been better. “We did it!” she said, “We’re on the plane and we will see you tomorrow! Pick us up in the morning, we love you!”

I was up at the crack of dawn, rushing to get kids ready before our big airport run, when my phone rang.

No, I thought. She can’t be calling me.

“We’re not coming.” The words sunk to the bottom of my heart like lead baggage.

Apparently, two hours into the flight the captain turned the plane around due mechanical problems. With over 300 people to reroute to Frankfurt, there was no way the airlines would have seats available for two standby grandparents any time soon.

The news was devastating. So many years and so many airline miracles, it was like God was saying, “Give it up already, you’re not supposed to go.”

The next day my girlfriend called. She knew about my folks’ situation and I poured out my heartbreak over the phone. After five blubbery minutes I remembered that there are other people in the world. “Enough about me,” I said, “What about you? What’s up? How’s your week been?”

There was a moment of quiet on the line before she spoke. “I got an email from my dad on Sunday,” she said. “He wrote to inform me that he and my mother will not be coming to see us and the kids while we live here in Germany. He says they’re too old and he doesn’t want to sit on a plane that long…”

For the rest of our conversation, all I could think about was the gigantic sacrifice my folks had made trying to get to us. Of all the things they have ever done for me in my life to show their love and support–and there have been many–I think this tops the list.

I might never know why the fates kept them away, but I will never doubt their love and dedication for myself and my family. We were blessed by their love, even if the hugging never made it into the equation.