Lost Cause or Burning Candle?


Lost Cause” – Isn’t that descriptive of lots of things? In the early morning hours yesterday, I had the thought that at some level, I am a lost cause. I’ve had enough experience with early morning flights recently that I resolved to do it differently going forward. No more of that for me! Getting up at 3:00 a.m. or 3:30 a.m. to catch a plane is the catalyst for weariness. Enough of that! I needed to do it differently. I resolved that I would.


Like I said, I’m a lost cause. Tuesday night I set my alarm for 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Nothing like waiting until the last minute to get up, but if I hurried, I could make it happen. My head hit the pillow at 11:00 p.m. on Tuesday and I was immediately out for the count. When I awakened two hours later, I didn’t feel rested. When I finally focused enough to figure out the time, I had another two and a half hours to sleep. I opted to take most of it.


Back on schedule, I pulled into the parking lot at the Austin airport at 5:00 a.m. Much to my surprise the “B” lot was open. Back in the day (many days ago – actually probably years) I always parked in the “B” lot. Most often I parked near the pick-up station at row four. There was a method to my madness. I could easily remember the term “Before or B-4”. Consequently, I never had to worry about finding my car. Maybe you have to be near my age to appreciate that, but my concept of getting lucky is remembering where I parked.


I smiled with the memory of those times as I turned into long term parking yesterday morning. In short order, I determined that there was nothing near “B-4” with open parking. Every space was filled. Actually, that proved to be the theme of the entire “B-lot”. Every space was filled.


I looked at my watch and discovered that I had wasted 15 minutes (okay – at least 10 minutes) making my way at a snails pace up and down each row. I took the exit and found myself in line to leave the airport. The road I was on was leading to the toll booth to pay for parking. That isn’t what I wanted to do. Even at the early hour of the morning, I had the cognitive skill set to recognize that doing a U-turn to avoid going through the toll booth and back-tracking the wrong direction probably wouldn’t serve me well.


Once again, I had the thought “lost cause”. How could I be so near the airport and figuratively so far away? Would I miss my flight because I was unable to find a place to park? If so, the trip to the airport would be a lost cause.


Did I mention the airport was packed with people at 5:00 a.m.? Okay, 5:25 a.m., it took that long to get parked and inside the terminal. The line for Southwest Airlines was well beyond the scope of their regular “get in line and wait” area. As luck would have it (I’m not saying good or bad luck), the lady immediately in front of me engaged me in conversation like I was her long lost friend. Actually, for conversation to take place, both parties have to exchange information. Since I was mostly listening, I’m not sure it was really a conversation. At some point, she wanted to know if I thought she really needed to wait in line or could she carry her luggage on the plane? I guess that is what “long lost” friends are for. I told her I could only offer an opinion, but I didn’t think her luggage would fit in the overhead bin.   It looked too large. That led to the next question: “Would it work better for me if I checked my luggage in from outside? This line doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast and I’m afraid I’m going to miss my flight.”


I’m not sure I responded to her question, but I had the thought: “If I thought it would be faster to check luggage in with the guy outside, why do you think I’d be standing in this line?” Before I could articulate a response, she asked another question: “Would you mind watching my luggage while I run and check to see how long the line is outside?” Obviously, I have not read the book: “How To Say No Without Feeling Guilty”. No sooner had I agreed to watch her luggage, than all of the periodic airport announcements I’ve heard across the years by the guy with the deep voice saying: “Do not agree to watch anyone’s luggage” came back to haunt me. What was I thinking?


As the line doubled back and I turned the imaginary corner still pushing the woman’s luggage, I had the thought: “This really is a lost cause. When the explosives that are obviously packed in the stranger’s luggage detonate, mine will be the fingerprints subsequently discovered somewhere in the debris. I was on the verge of panic. I knew what my mother would think about that kind of negative publicity. Worse yet, I knew what the General would think.

I comforted myself with the thought: “They’ll be hard pressed to establish that I have an ISIS connection. On the other hand, if it would work in the best interest of anyone’s political agenda, stranger things have happened.” When the lady whose luggage I was pushing finally returned, I welcomed her as though she were a long lost friend.


Lost Cause” kept repeating itself in my thought processes. Then it occurred to me, many people would think the purpose of the meeting I’m attending over the next four days is a lost cause. I guess you could say, “lost cause” has a double meaning.   I was headed to Washington D.C. for the POW/MIA League of Families Annual Meeting. Most people in today’s world have no understanding why after at least forty-four plus years, families still need to definitively know what happened to their loved ones. Most would define any effort as a lost cause and unnecessary expense.


Thankfully, before my morning was over or I even reached Washington, a thoughtful person gave me reason to think differently. I was walking quickly through the Nashville airport attempting to get to the gate for the Washington flight. As it turned out, once I got to the gate, I had an hour to kill. At some point toward the end of that hour, I looked up just as a familiar looking person walked passed me. As he walked by, I noticed he was engaged in a telephone conversation. Consequently, I opted to follow him.


I walked passed him and waited for him to complete his telephone call. Walking toward him, there was not a hint of recognition that he knew me. I said, “Excuse me.  Is your name Larry?” He said, “Yes”. I asked: “Larry Gatlin?” He said, “Yes”. I said, “I’m Don Forrester.”


He repeated my name, but from the look on his face, I wasn’t sure he was connecting the dots. He then repeated my name again and asked: “Are you the twin whose brother didn’t come back from Vietnam? He is Missing In Action. I affirmed his assertion and told him I was on my way to Washington for a POW/MIA League of Families meeting.


He then said something really thoughtful and kind. In fact, it was so touching that I will treasure the memory. He said, “We keep a candle burning in our hearts for your brother.” We visited for a few minutes and Larry then dialed his home number and handed me the phone. When Janice answered the phone, I said: “This is a voice from your past.” When I provided her my name, she affirmed for me that my name is not Don.  It is Donnie.   We had a really nice visit. In my early childhood years, Janice’s family lived three doors down the street from our home. Our families go back a long way.


By the time I got back to my gate, my plane was almost boarded. As I brought up the rear of the line of those boarding the plane, I no longer had “lost cause” bouncing around in my head. It had been replaced by something far more dear. “We have a candle burning in our hearts for your brother.”


All My Best!












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