We got down there safely, spent Saturday doing family stuff with my brother-in-law and his wife and son. The memorial service came and went, and despite some hiccups in its commission, the service was an emotional experience. After the service, we went out for dinner as a family. In spite of some hiccups there (and that day must have had an epidemic of the hiccups), it was fun to be together, and to decompress as a family after something so emotionally heavy.
Sunday came, and it was time for me to leave. I hadn't flown out of Fort Lauderdale in more than a decade, and a lot of memories came back from way back then. We got there about a couple hours before my flight was to leave, and that gave us plenty of time to stand around outside, watch airplanes, and spend time together. We don't get to that much, and when we're together, it reminds me how much I enjoy being with them. In particular, I never have enough time with my sister-in-law. We play very well together; we get the same references, and have the same sick sense of humor. There's a lot of affection that runs both ways, and saying "see you later" to her is especially difficult.
It was hard to bid them all farewell. It wasn't helped by the fact that the airport's piped-in background music isn't exactly appropriate, or very happy (really, a synth-jazz version of "It Must Have Been Love?" You may as well have this song being piped in). I'm surprised I was able to hold it together as well as I did, for my heart was heavy. As much as I don't like South Florida, as happy as I was to be fleeing Fort Lauderdale, it's still a place I know, a place I once had roots, and in spite of my best efforts it's still a place that provokes emotions. Especially the emotions that come when you bid adieu to people you love.
I'm not the kind of person who really buys souvenirs. Besides, the souvenirs I have of my time in Florida are deeply personal: little things from the place I worked, or a matchbook from our favorite pizza joint, stuff like that. But when I stopped in the airport newsstand for a bottle of soda (all the better to drown my feelings, of course), I also bought a souvenir magnet. It's tacky, it's cheap, but at the moment that little magnet answered the little call from within my heart not to forget that I once lived there, and it'll always be with me.
Soon enough, our big Boeing twinjet eased up to the gate. Not long after, we were winging our way to Atlanta. As we climbed out over the Atlantic and turned back northwest, I looked out my window at this place I once called home, its familiar scenes and landmarks thousands of feet below. They seemed out of yesterday, and out of another lifetime. Soon they faded behind us. My wistful reverie slowly receded as the anonymous expanse of central Florida crept beneath us. Home lay a few hundred miles ahead. There was work to do tomorrow. It was time to look forward.