Sadly, our Live Oak home is no longer underneath the SFO flight path. For decades I would lie in bed, trying to fall asleep, when I’d hear the approaching muted, far off roar of a jet, presumably from Shanghai or Bangkok, or maybe just from LA, & if I looked up
through our bedroom skylight at just the right moment I’d see the far away flickering lights of that flying boat of humanity for a few precious seconds, leaving me to imagine their thoughts (& dreams, if they’d managed to fall asleep) at that moment too, & where they’d come from & where they thought they were going. Sometimes I tried to stay awake just to see those planes pass by, high up, with their cargo of spoken &, for some, unspeakable stories.
But alas, sky lights pass above our skylight no more. The SFO flight path has been reconfigured eastward & earthward. The earthlings under the new flight path aren’t happy & legislators are demanding answers: Who made this decision? Why do the planes now fly over us? What’s the rationale for such significantly lower altitudes? Why are they so loud? (- see previous question.) Why do we have to shoulder this burden of 21st century civilization? Why not move the flight path over someone else? Jeez FAA, at least please shift it higher up, further away from these vociferous primates.
Why us? Why them?
Which can be similar to the questions we ask at funerals of someone younger than we think they ought to have been when death arrived. We still sense their physical presence & can be overwhelmed by deep feelings of love for the uniquely-wonderful human they were. During a recent funeral though, I wanted to ask my pew-mates: what else runs through your mind during these somber community gatherings? Be honest. Do you look forward to seeing co-workers who are two decades older (as are you too) but with whom you can’t really talk (no, not there) about what’s happened in your respective lives during those wisdom-building years? Do you wonder what people might say about you at a gathering like this, & wish they would instead just say it to you (or not) next week, or sometime when you could actually appreciate (or maybe even learn from) it? (- granted, this thought doesn’t technically apply to me, because the MediCare cohort is probably considered “old enough” for our inevitable fate…). & finally, do you rail at the apathetic gods about why these particular unfalteringly fantastic folks were the ones who died too young of a stroke at 50, cancer at 35, mental illness at 19? What do we mean by too young, anyway?
Why them? Why us?
One longs to hear a coherent story; one tries to conceptualize a rational flight path. Most of us value cause & effect, sequential steps, logical outcomes. Sometimes we understandably become obsessed with the irrationality of unexpectedly tragic, or even just unexpectedly annoying, changes in the path. Sometimes we just happen to be sleeping on the wrong plane.
In my experience, life is pretty much the luck of the draw (n.b., I didn’t say ‘crap shoot’ because this is a family blog & people might misunderstand the c word in this context). I suspect that’s one reason why I love playing Mah Jongg: the ancient Chinese who crafted the game clearly embraced the concept of luck. Occasionally the tiles present a sure winning path, but (more often) there just doesn’t seem to be a fair distribution of jokers, or the timing of their appearance isn’t at all helpful. Another game of luck is not knowing which of our own unique collection of genes will fire (or not) along life’s path, & although we know that environment (in the broadest sense: air, food, family, stress, hugs/day, etc.) interacts with heredity, science is just now beginning to learn more about these interactions.
So, I’m perseveringly adjusting to fewer late night flight dreams, & friends are sadly adjusting to daily life without cherished loved ones. Forgive me for coupling these incomparable losses in this random moment – just trying to make some sense of it all…