Leavin’ on a jet plane

Contrails over the Continental Divide

When I was much, much younger, I’d hike in and around Rocky Mountain National Park, imagining I was an early trapper or Indian scout making my way quietly along the trail. I could hear the sandy crunch beneath my feet, the nearby stream, the wind in the pines, the birds overhead. I was alone in the wilderness, the only human to have passed this way in many moons. But then I’d look up and see modern jet contrails in the sky, and my bubble burst.

Today I curse those contrails for another reason. One week ago, one of them took my grandson west to San Diego to begin basic training as a Marine. We’ve a very busy airport here in Denver and many, if not most, of its departing flights head west. They are already quite high when they pass over my house, but I can still hear them. Mostly it’s in the mornings, but his plane departed in the afternoon. I know because I was watching his marker on GPS. It sat at the airport, gray and unmoving, for several hours, then abruptly appeared in San Diego. Shortly after that, it disappeared completely, as though he’d suddenly vanished from the face of the earth.

Only a few weeks ago, it seems, we were playing video games together, although that was actually pre-Covid. But even during the lockdown I could always see his marker on Google maps, along with those of his mom, dad, and sister. Odd how reassuring it is just seeing dots on a map. And how disturbing it is when one of them disappears.

Someday one of those contrails will bring him home again. He probably won’t play video games with his grandma anymore. Or stay very long. And his dot will likely not appear on my map again. But he’s not gone forever.

It just seems that way.

A single outbound flight heads west over my neighborhood

6 thoughts on “Leavin’ on a jet plane

    1. Thank you. Yes, I’m so very proud of him and yet … this is hard. And then I think, if it’s this hard for me, what must it be for his parents and sister? He was with them every day. Kids grow up and leave home all the time. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier.

  1. Such a sensitive commentary on what many of us experience — loved young ones whose lives take them afar from us when they reach adulthood. “…he’s not gone forever. It just seems that way.”

    1. It was easier when my son left. He first went to a local college, coming home often. Then the distances and absences gradually became longer. This time it was so abrupt. And contact will be so limited.

  2. Like marriage, a new job, or a serious accident, joining the military is life-changing. It is destiny irreversible, viewed most poignantly from advanced age. Makes me think of the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken.”

    1. I’ve no doubt he’ll make an outstanding Marine. And it seems a good choice for a young man unsure about what he wants to do or study right now. If only Kabul hadn’t happened just before he left …

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