Last fall, after learning our grandson would graduate from Rice University in Houston on Saturday, May 12, we began planning our trip. We finally opted to give the new jet service a try. That turned out to be a fateful decision.
Traveling is one of our favorite things to do. It gives us an opportunity to meet folks from other places and from all walks of life. While waiting for our 3 p.m. flight on Thursday, we had a nice visit with Janis Gian, a long-time Garden Citian, who was headed for Exeter, England, to attend the graduation of her daughter. Another traveler was headed to Buenos Aires, Argentina. He'd spent two years at our community college on a cross country running scholarship. In August he will attend a Hawaiian university, again running track. He laughed when we teased him about what tough duty THAT would be!
The American Eagle Jet flight to DFW went well for the 23 of us aboard the Brazilian 44-passenger plane. Valet baggage service had our two bags awaiting us just inside the terminal, thus negating a trip to the baggage claims area.
While awaiting our 7:30 flight to Houston, we visited with various individuals, each sharing some background info and future weekend plans. One fellow was a medical supply salesman; another did custom upholstery on private jets. After a pleasant trip on to Houston, we were happy to greet our grandson and see his excitement about the big event.
The 8:30 a.m. graduation at Rice went well, in spite of a 5-inch rain Friday eve and early Saturday. The seats were dry, but the quadrangle grass was mucky. The faculty and degree candidates entered to The Grand March from Verdi's opera, a long-time favorite of mine. Some prospective graduates had to wade through 5 inches of water to reach their seats, a cold, sobering experience as they began to face their new post-college life!
The presentation of diplomas went off more rapidly than we thought would be possible, the speaker was interesting, and the pageantry and circumstance were impressive. Seeing our grandson graduate was thrilling. It brought tears to our eyes to realize another important page in his and our lives was being turned. But we got a chuckle when the band played a favorite of his, the Theme from Star Wars, as the graduates marched out through the quadrangle "Sally Port," a Rice tradition.
Our family get-to-gather party on Saturday afternoon and evening, and the Mother's Day lunch at a neat seafood restaurant, made the weekend wonderfully complete.
Shortly after 2 p.m. we were safely through security check-in and waiting at gate 28 at Hobby Airport for our 4:30 flight to DFW, again on American Eagle. At 3 p.m., our gate attendant insisted that we board a plane awaiting departure because she didn't want to send it off with two empty seats. So off we went.
My seatmate was a 6-foot-3, 265-pound former Utah football player headed back to the Miami Dolphins training camp where he was competing for a spot as defensive end. He'd majored in criminal justice, but didn't seem concerned about those more frequently reported head injuries.
And, incredibly, seated just in front of me were two of the guys I'd met on Thursday prior to flying to Houston. What are the odds on such a happening?
At DFW, shortly after our early, unplanned arrival from Houston, we spotted my sister from Manhattan, Janice Lee. She and her husband, Danny Trayer, former Garden Citian, had been in Knoxville, Tenn., for her grandson's Saturday graduation from University of Tennessee. The departure gate for Manhattan was 23, next to 21 where we were seated. She explained that Danny had become ill en route to DFW and that he was outside in an ambulance ready to go to the hospital. Before they left, the driver said they would go to Grapevine Baylor Medical Center, not far from our son's home.
After receiving our cell phone call about the crisis, our son, daughter-in-law and the new graduate responded and helped my sister until she and Danny flew back to Manhattan on Tuesday, where he was to undergo further evaluation.
Being in the right place at the right time can certainly be a miracle, at least we think so.
Duane West, a longtime resident and former mayor of Garden City, is a member of The Telegram board of contributing writers.