The DL 130 to Munich
If there had been any shred of doubt (and there hasn't been) that Carolyn’s loving, generosity of spirit was alive and well amongst us, it came with our seat assignments for Carol’s and my flight to Europe this past Saturday. Care must be taken to avoid seeming to wallow in privilege, so this story bears a bit of a run up.
One of Carolyn's enduring legacies has been the extension of standby flying perks throughout Delta Airlines's route system. (Of course, the corporation is responsible for the perk passing on to her surviving spouse, but I don't think the company would mind me attributing it to one of it's most valued employees.) It's what so far has enabled both my solo and companion travels to Europe and eventually beyond.
As it happened, the flight to Rome, which was to be our embarking point for this high-caloried trip through Italy for Carol and me, showed signs of being overbooked. Casting about for a plan B, I saw that a flight into Munich was both open and might serve a convenient link to get to Italy where our Eurail pass was valid. While the irony of touching down in a city Carolyn and I had first met in back in 1972, and then traveled to together so many times in our brief time together over these last years, was not lost upon me, I believed I was ready to experience Munich for the first time since Carolyn had passed. In this I would prove to be quite naive, though Carol was not.
“Would you be ready for this?” she asked as I reviewed the revised itinerary with her. “I'll be seeing Munich with you. New beginnings, new experiences, just like we've said all along.”
I had known, though, ever since Carolyn died that I'd never want to travel alone to either Munich or Bavaria. This was her second home; her roots came to run so deep here over the years of her life, traveling with her could feel like living inside a Wagnerian opera. I'd worn lederhosen so often on our trips here, I could have been a model for a garden gnome. My initial immersion into Bavarian folk culture had been so saturated that I'd told Carolyn at one point in that first trip together that if I heard one more tuba play, I'd find a gun and blow my brains out. “I'll have a moment or two,” I admitted to Carol, but we'll be making Munich ours this time.”
The seat assignments for this first flight back to Germany revealed just how intense those moments were going to be. As an active employee, Carolyn and I had been accustomed to being upgraded to Delta's first class cabin. I believe all our flights to Munich had been in that upgraded amenity. That had more or less ceased being the case as a surviving spouse. Up until boarding on Saturday, it appeared all the available first class assignments would go to the active employees positioned above us on the standby list. Yet, an hour before boarding, I looked at the seat assignments and there we were, once again among what Carolyn and I had come to call the “pod people” of Delta 1.
“This is very sweet,” Carol noted as she slipped into her pod.
“I know,” I answered. “And I've already thanked her.”
Later, as we strolled down Munich’s main pedestrian mall, amidst the city's version of Mardi Gras (called Fasching), Carol maintained a steady stream of questions regarding Carolyn and my time in Munich. I think she realized, and respectfully accepted, that there'd be three of us taking in the sights of the wonderful city.