I've always considered communication as one of the strongest attributes of my marriage. J. and I talk about everything, good or bad. If something is bothering one of us, we talk about it right away before it becomes a problem between us.
That's why I was shocked when the Communication Breakdown of 2009 happened to us.
The Sunday that I got home from Blissdom, I called J. just before I boarded my last flight. We confirmed my pick up time at the airport to be 3:30 and he assured me that he'd leave home in plenty of time to accommodate traffic and be there when I landed.
My flight landed and I walked out of the terminal around 3:25. I went straight out to the curb to put my carry on bag in the car while I waited for my checked baggage.
You see, we have a travel ritual. When J. travels for work, we drop him at the curb at the airport and do our goodbye there. When he returns, we pick him up at the curb. This ritual was born out of necessity when we had two little toddlers who were prone to melting down when Daddy left. It cut out much of the hassle for a frazzled Mommy who already missed her husband.
Given this ritual, I was sure my lovely family would be waiting for me curbside.
Except they weren't.
No problem. I went back in to wait for my luggage. Once it came, I journeyed back out to the curb. Still no family. Still, not really a big deal. I'm sure they hit traffic.
After half an hour passed, I started to get a little mad. I walked back inside to make sure he wasn't in there and I'd somehow missed him.
Sitting back down on the bench outside, I remembered something that made my heart race and a lump form in my throat. On the flight, I'd read a story in Home Life magazine about a man who lost his wife and kids in an accident. That article in the forefront of my mind, I became convinced that something horrible must have happened.
As if on cue, a police car parked next to the curb in front of me.
This is it, I thought. The man who was sent to deliver the terrible news.
With tears in my eyes, I waited for him to walk over and change my life with a few words.
He got out of his car slowly. I tried to read his face for traces of sorrow. He walked over to a Cadillac and put a ticket on the windshield and then got back into his car and left.
I dialed home for the fourteenth time. No answer for the fourteenth time. We only have one cell phone and I had it with me so there was no way to actually call him.
After an hour, I walked back inside to see if there were any messages for me at the information desk. Immediately upon walking in, I saw Jillian and Keller half sitting, half laying on a bench a few feet in front of me. They were clearly bored from being there for so long. J. was staring down the corridor in search of his wife.
To make a long story even longer, we spent an entire hour just several yards from each other, each worried sick that something terrible had happened to the other.
I could tell you all of the emotions that ran through both of us as we stood there staring in disbelief at each other but I think you get it.
Moral of the story?
1. I'm sure two cell phones would be a good start.
2. Another good idea would be not to listen to a four year old who repeatedly reminds you that maybe Mommy's plane crashed and you should just go ahead home.
3. Don't read sad articles on an airplane when you are away from your family.
4. Make a clear plan when picking up your loved ones from the airport.
5. Learn to laugh when all of the above fail.