"This is the final boarding call for Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta..."
All the passengers had boarded, that I could see, as I continued to wait for my flight to Orlando.
But not everyone had boarded - the lady behind the gate counter motioned to somebody sitting off to my left. A man and a younger boy, probably 12 or 13, stood up and moved to the gate. The lady came out from behind the counter and smiled at the boy as she scanned his ticket. She spoke some soft words to the gentleman and stepped back as he reached down to hug the boy. The embrace lingered for a moment, then it was over as the boy followed the lady, alone, down the ramp to the plane.
I saw the man watch the boy disappear, and for a few seconds after he was gone from sight the dad continued to catch that one last glimpse. He hesitated a moment, then walked a few paces over to stand in front of the glass windows next to the gate. The waiting plane could be seen warming up for takeoff just outside, and I could imagine the man scanning each window for that last wave.
Whether he saw the boy through the plane windows was impossible to tell, but soon the man sat down at the far end of the glass in a rocking chair to watch the plane taxi away from the gate.
Next to the man was a small rocker, just the right size for a little boy. It remained conspicuously empty as the man continued to sit and watch. I didn't have any idea where the boy was going, why he was leaving, or why the man was staying behind. Today there are a million reasons why a father might have to separate from his son, ever briefly.
But today I could see, through one father's eyes - a final hug, a last look and an empty rocker. The little boy that was there no longer, but always would be.