The Taxiway Lights

Posted on by Jeff Raught


         Quite a number of moons ago I worked for Allegheny Airlines / UsAir at a small airport. My favorite time was waiting for the last flight of the day to arrive. Standing on the ramp I could see the lights across  the airfield. Approach, threshold, runway and more. But the lights I was always drawn to, were the blue taxiway.

Photo courtesy Tim Dustrude San Juan Update
Photo courtesy
Tim Dustrude
San Juan Update

                Heading toward the runway they are the first lights to guide you. Upon arrival, they are the last ones before rolling up to the terminal. In those few moments of that blue lighted path, they surround you with a feeling of  anticipation. I suppose that’s what makes them so unique. The destination has not been reached, whether that be far or close at hand. They are a marker like no other in a journey.

         Lately, I see my family in the midst of those blue-lined rows. We’re watching our Mom, take a ride on the taxiway. Physically she is still strong, but her memory continues to not be what it once was. Mom is indeed transitioning to a new place. Whether she is arriving or taking off it’s hard to tell. For now, she is in between the runway and the gate.

         People often express that it’s sad. Sure, there are those moments, but one of the realities is that Mom has reached eighty-five years of age. I don’t have the same expectations about how she responds to me, to life, even to her own self. Recently, she had cataract surgery so that evening I called and asked how it went.

               Hi Mom, how did the surgery go?

               Surgery? Huh? What are you talking about? I had surgery?

                Yes, Mom you had it done this morning.



                Oh that was months ago Jeff. And besides I can see fine. I see great! Where’s my car?

Photo courtesy David Gurkin
Photo courtesy David Gurkin

        Is it sad she can’t remember? Heck, I’m inclined to think that if you don’t remember a laser being pointed directly in your eye, that’s not altogether bad. Yet it does show us the move from apartment to retirement community is needed, though she can’t quite grasp the why.

        Maybe that is what it comes down to. How do my sister and I, along with others help Mom hold those things that are important?  What are the ways we help her to gracefully let go of the ones that aren’t? I wish I could take her for a ride on a plane. We wouldn’t even need to takeoff. Perhaps from the taxiway I could show her that in-between spot of where her life is. And let her know that it’s a very safe place to be. I’d let her look toward the runway and dream. Or maybe help her imagine someone waving to with a reminder that she’s not that far from home. Wherever that home might be.

        I pass an airport every morning and feel the lights escorting these thoughts of mine. Each color reminds me of a role to be played, a lane to choose. Approach…..runway….threshold…and taxiway. It is kind of an old friend showing me where we are for now. And whichever way she turns, we hope to guide her there. Oh and one more thing…Mom? Please remain seated until the aircraft has come to a complete stop. Somehow, I don’t think you’re going to do that.


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