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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

30 Minutes At LVS

May 4th, 2007

“Anyone sitting here?”, I asked the lady.

“No.” She pulled her arms in a bit and gathered her purse closer to her.

Thanks to the “print your boarding pass the day before” option at Southwest Airlines I was in the “A” group. Which means I was at the front of the cattle call free for all in finding a seat on this flight from Las Vegas to Lubbock. If you’re ever unsure about which gate for a flight to Texas, you just look for the one with the most cowboy hats.

Two rows over a young 20-something couple were sleeping upright, using each other for a pillow. Her head on his shoulder, nuzzled in so tight all you could see were cheek and chin. To my left and down a bit a large woman on her cell phone, laughing so hard and so loud that she was wheezing. Directly in front of me a nervous man in a western shirt, Levi’s, boots and a cowboy hat, fumbling with his Bluetooth ear piece as he tried to make appointments. “Is that better? Can you hear me now?”

However old the silver haired lady was, she dressed young. A snappy black and white outfit and burgundy polish on her toes and fingers. She had a firm grip on the boarding pass, her thumb covering her last name. The first name read “Melba”.

Sometimes I read and keep to myself. Sometimes I like to see what I can learn from a stranger by asking questions. I had a couple good books in my briefcase. But then again, when would I see Melba again to ask her anything?

It’s now or never.

“So are you living here and going someplace else? Or live someplace else and visit here?”

She said, “Just here to see my granddaughter. I’m going back to Ft. Worth today. I live there. Have to drive to Dallas to catch the plane but I leave my car at a friend’s house so it’s pretty easy. I live alone but I’m fit and active and want to be on my own as long as I can.”

“So does living in Texas mean you have to be a Cowboys fan?”, I asked. She looked too smart to be a Cowboys fan but every person has their weakness.

“Let me tell you, football is my sport. The Cowboys, the college teams. I love it. I went to the University of Oklahoma so I really follow the Sooners. That’s where I met my husband. He was a World War II veteran.”

“So were three of my great uncles. Did you ever read Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation”?

“I love Tom Brokaw,” she fairly beamed. “I think he’s the man.”

“Well, I think he’s a little full of himself, but that sure was a good book he wrote.”

She bristled a little at that. But even Tom Brokaw’s mother thinks he’s full of himself.

“So where did your husband serve during the war?”

“In the South Pacific. Saipan. Gaudalcanal. He was a nurse in the Army. He wanted to be a doctor but ended up going into the service when the war broke out. When it was over and he came home, he wasn’t able to pursue medical school. So he went into sales. And he was darn good at it. Made a good living selling air conditioning systems for the big office buildings. We were very happy. We had a vacation house on the lake. It was the best time to have our family and friends there. A lovely place.”

Her eyes looked up to the ceiling for a moment. Remembering, I think, the lake. And him.

“We cooked these big meals and sat around the table together with everyone. What a wonderful place that was.”

“Do you still go there?”

“I sold it after my husband passed away. Couldn’t keep up with it anymore. And it just wasn’t the same.” She sounded wistful. Like seller’s remorse.

“I’ve had a good life. Great family and friends. And lots of wonderful memories.”

Perhaps remembering she was talking with a stranger she collected herself, smoothed a wrinkle on her sleeve. Then looking me in the eye she reflected with sober certainty, “Memories. At my age you live on a lot of memories.”

Memories.

You have to make them before you can live on them. God-willing I live as long as Melba, I want a lot of memories to live on. Living life in the moment, making memories on purpose rather than by chance is the only way to do that.

The nervous man had managed to set a couple appointments while trying to get his Bluetooth to work. The large woman was still on her phone, but breathing normally now. The young couple woke and stretched, him wandering off in search of a restroom or a coffee. And me and Melba, boarding passes in hand, waiting for our plane.

Just thirty minutes at the Las Vegas airport on a Thursday morning.

Memory made.

“Memories are times that we borrow, to spend when we get to tomorrow.” – Paul Anka