By Heather McKeown
You can say what you want about “the younger generation” and I’ll totally disagree. Why? Because I see so many young ones who are wonderful.
Well, at my age, most people are much younger than I, but I totally see more good than bad in these, the progeny of greater ages.
It was an Easter Day flight from JFK to West Palm Beach. Only half full, our plane looked like the half-toothed mouth of a bar fighter. Empty seats everywhere and people sparsely sitting in comfortable solitude.
A family of four, a totally quintessential example of the 1960’s nuclear grouping, came aboard in perfect order. A little girl pulling a tiny pink suitcase on wheels, followed by the handsome dad. Behind his sister, a straight and proper, well-dressed little boy followed with his little case tagging along behind. The mom, a nice-looking, understated woman in her mid-thirties, mildly pulled up the rear. I thought, “A calm grouping of comfortable people.”
The boarding finished and I made my final walk-through of the front section of the plane because counting the empty seats is part of the end game of pre-flight. This count, given to the pilots, allows for a final weight and balance part to the take off equation. Everyone was supposed to be sitting in their assigned seats but, when I arrived at the fifth row, the poised, aforementioned mother was getting no cooperation from the son.
“No, Alexander, you have to sit in our row. You can’t go up and just sit with someone else.”
“Mommy, I have to go and sit with grandpa. I can’t let him sit alone. He’s all by himself. I have to go to him.”
The mother looked at me and said, “He wants to sit in the front row and I’ve tried to tell him that he can’t.”
“Well, it would be alright with me, ma’am, if he wants to sit with his grandpa.”
She nodded to me and the little boy stepped out of her row and marched up the aisle to sit beside the elderly man who’d boarded first, barely able to walk from his wheelchair to the front row of seats.
I followed, gave the pilot his count and then saw the little boy buckle up and immediately take the hand of his new row mate.
“My mother says we always have to take care of the grandpas. I’m here to take care of you.” He looked over the lap of the ancient one and said, “Good, your seat belt is buckled.” Then, reaching to the seat back pocket in front of his little knees, he extricated the safety information card and began explaining every aspect of it to the old gent.
“This is how you get out of the plane if we crash. I’ll make sure you get out. We can slide down like this. See this picture? Then, if we crash close to a beach, we can float on this raft, right here, see?”
The student was paying full attention to the little man. I thought, “Boy, does he ever love his grandpa.”
Then I heard the man ask the boy, “What’s your name?”
“I’m Alexander and I’m going to take care of you, grandpa. See this?” He held up a cross at the end of a chain around his neck. “They put a guy on here and he died. They put him here, see? And he died on this thing. They killed him and then he woke up. I can’t remember his name. He was a guy…”
Now, the old man, said, “I just had Passover with my son’s family. I think you call the guy Jesus. Too bad about that. Don’t worry, He’ll be back someday.”
“Yeah. So, you just hold my hand if you get afraid, grandpa. Are you hungry or thirsty? They bring you food and stuff on planes, but I know where they keep it. I can get you something. Want something?”
“No, you’re enough. You’re enough.” Then the old man noticed I was watching this beautiful interaction and said to me. “Kids. Whadareyagonna do?” Then he took the little boy’s hand and that’s how they got to West Palm Beach. I’ve never seen anything so special on an Easter Sunday.
(Heather McKeown lives in Vermont and Murrells Inlet, She is the author of “Above and Beyond: Adventures in the Blue,” available at www.amazon.com)