Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A man named Larry and Hebrews 13:2

I don't think I've met a passage of Hebrews that I didn't like. Funny, right?

This morning I had to be up at the hiney crack of dawn, drag two half-sleeping boys from their beds and drive nearly an hour and a half to the airport to put one brother on a plane and help another brother understand his tears and why he had to say goodbye right before a big holiday.

Modern life is complicated, Boo...that's about all I can tell your sweet self sometimes.

Because Boy Wonder was flying unaccompanied, Boo and I had to go through security all the way to the gate. And wait. Good lordy, did we wait.

 See, last time I tried to pick this child up from this same airport (Hobby, also known as the Airport that Time Forgot), I got stuck in a security line to Philadelphia and it was a MESS. So we were very, very early this morning on what is supposed to be the busiest travel day of the damn year.

We lucked out and got to Gate 48 with nearly two hours to spare. And unlike United who likes to board you the day before and make you sit for 17 hours in their tin can of death, Southwest is waaaay more relaxed and tend to shove everyone in about 10 minutes before takeoff. I love them.

In our 120 minutes of kill time, Boo alternated between downing a bag of skittles (my bad) and pressing his nose to the glass to watch planes coming and going. Boy Wonder tuned out the world and played Super Mario Brothers.

So there was me. And then there was Larry.

He asked me about my UTEP sweatshirt. His wife is earning her master's in special ed there, he said. He missed his wife these past two weeks. He'd spent them at MD Anderson Cancer Center for his one-year checkup since having his bone marrow transplant a year ago.

He got up and moved to the seat directly next to me and I am ashamed to say that, at first, I bristled.

I'm not big into random conversations when I'm not into random conversations.

Somedays you'd think I was running for Mayor of Katy. Other days, I'm pretty stuck in my own world and choose not to let others in. Days that I put my baby on a plane to spend the holidays elsewhere? I definitely stick to myself and wallow in the mud a bit.

He was 50 (he told me that eventually) and had a bunch of Harley Davidson clown/jester tattoos because he owned two bikes back in El Paso that he and his wife would ride before he got sick in 2010 and doctors gave him four months, tops, to live. He had gone through every imaginable treatment to slow down the lymphoma that was attacking his brain and nothing but radiation worked. But radiation was also killing him and his maverick doc in El Paso had already given him the highest dose legal for a human being and wasn't ethically allowed to give him one dose more. They referred him to two centers in Houston. One wouldn't treat him because they didn't understand his form of lymphoma (not to mention he was out of insurance by this point) and the other was MD Anderson and they flew him out immediately and agreed to treat him on a trial basis for free.

Larry went on and on for the next hour, despite my best attempts to read the newly purchased, 75th anniversary edition of the Hobbit I'd nabbed right next to the Doritos as the airport snack shop. I didn't talk much, a rarity, because Larry had so much to say.

Turns out, the Hobbit could wait. Larry needed to talk and he needed to talk to my kids. He had four of his own and as it turns out, he just wanted to see his 6 year old grow up enough that she had a clear memory of him. He's given six months to live at a time and just received his latest half-year expiration date. He took it in stride, he said, because he hadn't lost yet.

He had to get on the plane when Boy Wonder did because he needed help. His bones were sore from the round of tests the doctors did. He rode in a wheelchair next to my son as they walked down the long, flimsy hallway to the plane and at one point, I saw Boy Wonder lightly pat Larry on the back the way an old friend would and I realized that maybe God doesn't always put people in our lives when we need them...maybe he puts us in others' paths when they need us, too. And that's pretty amazing.

God bless, Larry. Keep fighting the good fight, friend.



  1. Beautiful story, and this is so, so true. It's not always about us.

  2. This made me teary eyed this morning while reading. Its amazing the people you meet in the most random of places. My dad talked to everyone and listened as well. He helped so many people wiothout knowing it, I hope to do the same..