Helen pulls up in her car and passes me with a quck, “Hello” like you say to a stranger. She doesn’t recognize me because I’m wearing a ball cap and sunglasses to cut down on the glare. And I shaved my beard off the night before. I didn’t bring the clippers I use to trim it, thinking I would only be in L.A. six days. It was looking a bit too Grizzly Adams and I might be put in the hospital in Oklahoma City. I wouldn’t want to tend to it then, so I used the last of the stored power in my shaver to cut it off.
I realize that not only will I be different when I go home, I’ll look different too. I look like I’m twelve when clean shaven, which is ironic because that’s how old I was the first time I became diabetic.
“Helen, it’s me,” I say. We laugh, pack my things in the car and head toward LAX.
“Thanks for taking me to the airport. That’s so nice of you,” I tell her.
She talks about how doing kind things is part of being human. It really is no big deal for her to do this for me, even though it takes an hour to get to the airport. She talks about the importance of giving and tells me she’ll tip the airport employee who assists me from the check-in counter to the gate.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that.”
“Generosity is never a mistake,” she says and backs it up with a story of a time when she gave a gernerous tip and it ended up making a big difference down the line because someone remembered it. I turn her words over in my head. “Generosity is never a mistake.” Five simple words that mean so much when they stand together. I hope I can carry that with me after I’m home, after I’ve dealt with gall stones and being diabetic again, after some semblance of order is back in my life.
We stop at a Taco Bell near the airport.
“Now I can say I took a beautiful actress to lunch,” I joke.
Helen waits with me until a guy appears to assist me. She presses some bills in his hand and I hug her good-bye. L.A. certainly has been surreal but in a mostly positive way. I’ve had guardian angels in the City of Angels. Maybe those Spanish missionaries hundreds of years ago were on to something when they named the place.
Chatting with the guy assisting me, I find his wife has a survival story of her own. It seems all I have to do is tell my story and I attract people of a like mind. I give him my card and tell him to have her e-mail her story to me. It feels good to be back in this mode, going from medical case back to Man With A Mission.
I get to sit on the first row of the plane next to a guy with an injured leg and on the other side of him is a woman holding a small dog that can sense the onset of a seizure. They are amazed at my story.
“You’re a miracle,” she tells me. I’ve heard this before but my recent health setback makes it harder to keep that in mind. But, like in LAX, it feels good to be back in that mode I was in at the conference, even if only for a couple of hours.
I’ve been so busy talking, I’m caught off guard when the wheels make contact with the runway. I’m back in the Ozarks. Part of me is relieved to be home. Part of me wants to stay in suspened animation because early in the morning my parents and I will head to Oklahoma City to find out what, if anything, can be done. I’m back from L.A. but the odyssey isn’t over yet.