Morning: We woke up around 6:30, checked our e-mails one last time, showered and started packing our suitcases. I was somewhat concerned that I would not have enough to fill up the two suitcases, since one of them had mostly Brandon’s stuff in it on the way over. I carefully packed the Fubar Buddha and the ceramic opera mask. Everything else seemed to fit in nicely. Joe had been concerned that he would not have enough room in his suitcase, but he did.
When we finished packing, we thought we’d do the hotel breakfast buffet one last time, but only 10 minutes remained for the buffet when we got to the lobby. After one final visit to our old stand-by, the bagel shop, we were back to the hotel to check out. Brandon was waiting for us. I gave him some remaining items his Mom had sent and some I did not wish to carry back to the States. I took lots of photos as he packed away the items in his bag.
Afternoon: Brandon had been a host on our local American Cancer Telethon for about six years. This past year he appeared on the telethon via an Internet hook-up and pledged 300 yuan, or about $50. Accepting the pledge back in April, Joe said he would be coming to China to collect the pledge in just a few weeks. So before we left the hotel, we took the first of several photos of the exchanging of the pledge. The cab arrived and we were off to the airport. For some reason the ride to the airport seemed quicker than the ride from the airport when we arrived and John Ping wasn’t driving.
Inside the expansive terminal, we found the Continental Airline desk and checked our bags. Brandon suggested that we get something to eat at the Kenny Rogers Restaurant there in the terminal. I was glad he didn’t need to rush away so soon. We found a table and placed our orders and talked as a video of Kenny Rogers performing (when he actually looked like Kenny Rogers) played on a large screen TV attached to the inside wall. When we finished, I told Brandon how proud his Mom and I are of him and what he had been able to accomplish there in Beijing. “Just luck,” he said, but I assured him it was much more than just luck. Lucille Ball once said there is no such thing as luck. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
As we walked toward the gate area, we took a few more pledge presentation photos just to make sure we had a good one to use. Joe said that we could run one of the photos in the local newspaper to remind other pledgers to send in their money if they hadn’t done so. “Don’t make me come collect your pledge!” the caption would read.
As we approached the gate, I recalled the photos Mary Ruth had taken of her departure. She doesn’t hide her tears too well. And I felt my own beginning to well up.I thanked Brandon for a wonderful time and we hugged. “Love you, Brandon,” I said. “Love you, Dad,” he replied. Joe and I gathered up our bags and headed towards the train that would take us to our gate. As I thought about the 13-hour flight, I turned for one last glimpse of my son but he was gone, lost in the crowd.