A Bittersweet Moment on Flt. 615

photo: Jim Ferri

By Jim Ferri

I boarded JetBlue’s flight 615 from New York to Jacksonville, FL a few days ago. It wasn’t the flight I expected.

Awaiting departure, I had just sat down on the aisle in Row 5 across from my wife when a young man boarded with his seven-year old daughter. He stopped at my row and asked her if she wanted the window seat. She said she wanted the middle.

Seated between us, I couldn’t help but overhear him assuring her that this flight was going to be much better than their previous. “It’s a longer flight and we’ll fly higher so it’ll be smoother,” he told her. Still though, she seemed nervous.

After a few minutes I decided to help distract her to get her mind off things. I whipped out the new camera I had received for Christmas and showed it to her. “Look at this,” I said as I showed her the screen on the back of it. Then I turned it around and took a photo of her.

I showed it to her, she smiled and her eyes opened wide. “Here,” I said, “you take one of me” and I put the camera in her little hands. “Look there and press this button.”

She stared at the screen for a moment, took the shot and then turned it around to show me. I was surprised that my head hadn’t been cut off.

Over the next hour we talked a little more and she told me she was upset by missing the snow that was supposed to come to Rochester tomorrow. I then saw she had a pink cast on her forearm, signed by Mommy and Daddy and a lot of other people. I confided I had several casts when I was growing up (truthfully, most after I became an adult) and that her cast was special because of all the signatures on it. “The doctor will let you keep it when it’s taken off if you ask for it,” I told her. Maybe I planted a seed.

After she started watching cartoons on the video channel, from the snippets of conversation I had with her father I learned he worked in oil drilling and traveled to China every now and then. Obviously, he was either separated or divorced from her mother who lived in Jacksonville and was bringing his little girl back home after Christmas visitation.

After a while they both fell asleep, she cuddled up next to his arm where she remained until we landed.

Later on in Jacksonville, after we claimed our bags, we were walking to the terminal exit when I saw her standing with her mother and another man. She was crying and I heard her mother ask if she wanted to go upstairs and watch him go. I turned and looked to the escalator and saw a father slowly being moved upwards and away from his little girl.

I felt so sad since it brought back memories from long ago, memories resurrected several times a year back then, but now left buried for so long. He was putting on the strong face, I knew, waving and blowing kisses to his crying little girl who he loved so much.

I understood that after being with her mother for a few hours the emotions of the moment would dissipate for her. She’d be distracted by familiar surroundings but for him it wouldn’t be so easy.

As soon as his little girl was out of sight he’d want to cry but he’d have no one to turn to, no familiar surroundings to assuage his pain.

Whether he cried or not, I don’t know. But I know when he boarded he left a piece of his heart in Jacksonville. As so many of us do when separated from the ones we love.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim Watkins January 11, 2012 at 9:50 am

This was a hard read that churned up some painful emotions.

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Donna Manz January 11, 2012 at 11:26 am

I cried …. the break-up of a family, whether through military assignments or divorce – does, in fact, make children very sad. I wish this little girl and her parents well.

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Lisa January 11, 2012 at 11:28 am

Well, I wasn’t going to cry until Sunday when my daughter heads back to college…so much for that.

What a sweet face – and how kind of you to try to help her feel at ease during the flight. Saying goodbye is never easy.

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Gregory Leddy January 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm

A very poignant story. It churned up memories for me, as well. After my parents divorced and my mother re-married, my father would fly down to visit his children in Mexico City as often as he could. Back then, as we would say good-bye at the end of each visit, all I could think of was that I would see him again soon and would then get on with my new, now normal life, in our step-father´s home. As the years have gone by I often put myself in my father´s shoes and realize how much pain he was in and admire the facade of strength and stoicism he showed us… he was a man of great honor and integrity, a gentleman, a loving father.

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Donna Manz January 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Gregory, that was a tear-jerker, as well! How lucky you and your dad were to have such a lifetime bond!

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Rein January 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm

This is my brother, Ray, and my adorable niece, Emma. He’s an amazing man, and an even more amazing father.

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Jim Ferri January 11, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Ray was certainly a doting father on that flight. And what a nice thing for a sister to say.

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Judith January 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm

That was a heartwrenching story and beautifully written.
The photo seemed to capture the essence of them both so well and it is lovely to hear this confirmed above by Rein.

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Libby January 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm

What a moving story. Touched my heart

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Kat Schneider Fotheringham January 12, 2012 at 7:43 am

Can you please pre-warn me on these tear jerkers? This was so well-written; absolutely loved it.

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Ray H January 12, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Jim,
I appreciate your heartfelt comments and your amazingly accurate portrayal of just how hard that flight was.
The things you said about this trip echo completely how each visit goes. Always amazing to see each other; and always incredibly painful to end. I consoled her in the airport this year for half an hour. I rode the escalator up and watched as she walked away, crying to myself the entire time. This is what I do. It is who I am. I am dad. and that is a sentence of months of life-long pain, filled with brief bursts of immeasurable joy in between. Again, I want to thank you for capturing what you did; and for helping how you did. Our last moments together were that much better because of you. Thank you, sincerely.

Ray

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Jim Ferri January 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm

You’re welcome Ray. Say hi to Emma for all of us.

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cynthia January 13, 2012 at 11:48 am

THAT REALLY WAS A BEAUTIFUL STORY AND VERY WELL WRITTEN. IT’S ESPECIALLY NICE THAT RAY GOT TO READ IT AND EMMA WILL, TOO. YOU’RE A GOOD GUY!

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Sheila January 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Lovely piece written by a lovely man (as my Irish relatives would say). Great job Jim. And thanks to Ray and Emma for being willing to let you, and us, into their world. I’m so glad you shared this with them.

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Kay M. January 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Okay, it is NOT NICE to make a Southern girl cry while sitting at her desk at work. OH MY GOSH, this was WONDERFUL, Jim!!!

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Lenora February 9, 2012 at 1:35 am

Love it!

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Jacklen July 10, 2012 at 10:43 pm

My brother is an amazing father, and as you’ve described, his love for his daughter is so very evident to those around him. And her love for him is just as strong.
As much as losing Emma (to her mother moving with her to Florida) hurt the rest of us, it pales in comparison to what Ray feels as her dad. There’s nothing that can take that pain away.

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