June 20 - Cheryl's First Journal: Driving across Colorado and Kansas

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Actually, it's late afternoon and I lost an hour traveling across the time zone. The girls and I had relatively peaceful morning. Breakfast was admirably healthy considering the temptations of left-over deserts from the night before. Last minute remarks to Susi and Sylvie, more to fill the time than to instruct. I was really ready to go ...even by late last night. Hugs goodbye; Susi's strong, maternal, bearish embrace and Sylvie's tender, sweet, poignant one. Auf weidersein and au revoir! As Simon and Garfunkle once sang, "we've all gone to look for America."

I had an aisle seat on the plane. The girls sat together across the row. At the last minute, an attractive, outdoorsy woman took the seat next to me. She looked mid-fortyish, with long chestnut hair, green eyes, a broad, even smile, and a dark, natural, weathered appearing tan. She wore jeans, a turquoise tee-shirt, and dangling turquoise and silver earrings. "Ah, a Coloradan returning home," I surmised. So I asked, assuming a quick and easy reply, expecting to return to my headphones and "Mad About You" playing on the screen ahead. She replied quickly, excitedly, "No. Actually I'm going to see my son. I haven't seen him for 26 years." Curious, I guessed, "Did you give him up for adoption?" She told me yes and revealed her abridged, plane trip-sized story. She was young. He was her first love. She became pregnant. She hitch-hiked to his house, apprehensively, afraid to tell him. She found him outside working on his '56 Chevy. As she approached him, a cute young red-head went to his side and held his hand. She walked away. She later wrote him a note. I listened while she related her daily worry about her relinquished son, her questions. "How is he doing? What does he look like?" She went on to have three more children, two sons and a daughter. She lived on ranches. She lived in Alaska. She worked as a cook and trail-guide for greenhorns who needed her expertise to experience mountain trail riding on horseback. On her lost son's birthday, she thought about him. She tried to find him several times.

Finally, only two weeks ago, they made contact. She told me they spent many hours in the past two weeks on the phone talking, discovering, delighting in their discoveries. Today, they would meet. On the airplane seated in the back seats were this woman's son, daughter, and grandson, also anticipating the reunion. The second son would join them from Spokane. I asked my seatmate if she were worried. She said she thought everything would go well and anticipated good things. She admitted she had lost sleep recently. Last night, she couldn't sleep at all. For her, this was the day she could begin to complete the puzzle with the missing piece of her life.

I shared with her the purpose of my own journey. She listened reciprocally as I summarized our plans. She expressed enthusiasm for us, for our adventure. I believe her quest had cost her more lost sleep than mine had.

The plane landed after a nauseating row with turbulence. I shepherded my girls to the aisle. She remained sitting, lost in thought. For a second, she looked up, wished us well on our journey, thanked me for listening. She told me that if she hadn't had me to talk to on this flight, she wouldn't have known what state of mind she would be in by now. She would exit when the rest of her family in back could catch up.

Al and the boys planned to greet us at the baggage claim. "Much easier and more efficient," Al asserts, "considering the complexity of Denver International Airport". Nevertheless, I scanned the faces of the waiting crowd. A young, nice looking, mid-twenties man wearing jeans and a white tee-shirt was leaning against a pillar, searching the faces of exiting passengers. He had a familiar look, a familiar smile, chiseled cheekbones. I was sure I had met his birth mother. I shushed my girls to the side. The voyeur in me pleaded to stay. I had gotten this far, I couldn't leave now. Finally, my former seatmate emerged from the jetway. For a brief moment, she stopped to look around. Her eyes met her son's and they both knew instantly. Big smiles, warm and certain embraces. Their joy almost brought tears to my eyes, but since I didn't actually cry, I stood transfixed by the powerful emotions I felt. I experienced a lump in my heart. She was right. It was going to be good.

We made our way to the baggage claim. We saw Will first, followed by Cody and Al. The siblings greeted each other with a familiar, obligatory grunt but I noticed smiles all around. We were about to begin our journey. Leaving the airport, my former seatmate and I acknowledged each other with smiles. Yep, this was the first day of the rest of my life and my life is good.

**Next Day's Journal**

-Cheryl Bikrutz