If you’re going solo on a trip, you never know who your seatmate on a plane will be. Usually there’s a quick nod, maybe a smile and a word or two, then you both delve into your own book or computer, or drop into a nap. Sometimes, though, you’re seated beside someone with whom you have a most interesting, sometimes even memorable, conversation. Perhaps it’s because you’re strangers and you know you won’t meet again that the barriers, usually in place, come down for a while. Things you might never discuss with friends or family suddenly are topics for mutual consideration. Such was the case on my flight to Lyon by way of Zurich.
My seatmate on the flight to Zurich had been a Swiss watchmaker who now did consulting and teaching work. A man of much curiosity and life experience and learning, he told me of his path to becoming a watchmaker, his daughters of whom he’s very proud, and his wife with whom he has built a good life. Then he asked me (if I didn’t mind talking about it) what I thought about growing older. A good question to think about at any stage of life, but especially now.
I answered that until a few years ago I hadn’t thought much about it but now was giving consideration to the “what’s next?” questions. Where to live, health care, what to do with the accumulated stuff of life are just a few of the many puzzles that will probably need to be solved over the next few decades. In response, he replied that he really had no one to talk with about these issues. Perhaps this is because of cultural “rules” or that his particular family and friends make this a taboo subject for discussion. He has many ideas about community living for older citizens that he is most eager to share and perhaps develop into actual plans, but he feels blocked by stone ears. In contrast, just this morning at breakfast in my Lyon hotel, I overheard a table of Americans discussing these very subjects in regards to both their parents and to themselves.
His question and ideas have given me a new perspective that I’m sure will percolate long after memories of our flight together are gone. And his sharing has made me especially grateful for the listening ears and hearts of my own family and friends. And perhaps that’s one of the blessings of “accidental” seatmates!