Starting my second full day in my new home state of Texas I’ve been thinking about the journey that started in Sarasota, FL three weeks ago today, December 19, 2015. My plan was to go to Massachusetts for Christmas with family then zip up for a quick visit with my brother in New Hampshire then back to Mass to see my friends Robin & Sheldon. I knew that it would be a time to reconnect with family and friends but it was so much more than that.
I originally planned to arrive in Texas on January 4th or 5th. I didn’t, and the reasons why didn’t please me to no end.
I arrived at my Dad & Anne’s place in Massachusetts in the dreariness of slate gray skies and drizzle on the 23rd. My sister was there too and my step-brother and his wife would be there Christmas day. There was great food and discussions about nearly everything. I also learned of their tradition of something called “breakfast dessert”. Always up for trying something new, I had cheesecake. Perfect.
Stockings were opened and mine was packed with everything for my road trip. Snacks, Starbucks and Target gift cards, tissues, tooth brushes and something called “Whale Poop”. You name it, I got one. When JT and Kate arrived that afternoon the presents were opened and there was more for the trip. More food, a knit cap and scarf, soft cooler and more. I was overwhelmed. It was all fun and laughs through a great dinner of roast beef, vegetables, potatoes, and of course, more desert. This time pumpkin flan. Yummy.
I left on the 28th, heading to New Hampshire andmy brother. As a long time sailor I know that you don’t mess with weather and the winter variety arrived my first night in the Granite State. About 4-5 inches of sleet and snow fell in the wee hours and I resolved that my car wasn’t moving until the streets had been cleared.
As such, I didn’t see my brother until after I’d spent a second night in that winter wonderland. The extra day did give me a chance to spend time with Pastor Dave. He’s not a pastor anymore but was when I attended church there 5 years ago.
From the moment I first met Dave in his church office I liked him. Always smiling and affable, he exuded warmth whenever I saw him. With the other pastors and staff at the church, he made it feel like a safe place during a time when I really needed a safe place. The Lord directed me to that church back then and granted me the extra time in New Hampshire so that Pastor Dave and I could talk once again.
With improved weather the next day, I travelled across town and spent nearly 4 hours with my brother. Suffice it to say that all is not well with him and I couldn’t be that close to where he lives and not reach out. I think it helped, but it’s not a “one and done” thing so I’m keeping him close inside.
Back in Mass, I arrived at Robin & Sheldon’s house. Robin’s been a friend nearly 28 years. I first met her husband on a New England visit back in 2014. We hung out in a pub in New Bedford for almost 4 hours that day so I was looking forward to spending more time with them.
Robin was working the evening I got there so Sheldon and I went out for some fantastic pizza, making sure to have some left over for Robin when she got home. When she did, we stayed up to all hours talking. This was a pattern that would repeat over the next few days.
I was planning to stay for their party on New Year’s Eve then leave the day after but during the festivities Robin, from across the room, asked, “Why don’t you stay another day?” I said yes, of course and spent another 24 hours talking about nearly everything under the sun. I’m glad that I did because I don’t know when I’ll get to see them again.
Back on the road, after spending night in Hershey, PA, I thought that since I was going right down I-81 that I should call my uncle, the Colonel in West Virginia and see if he was up for a visitor. He was and told me that my cousin Larry was there too, recently back from Saudi Arabia. I think the last time I saw the both of them was over a dozen years ago at a beach house in Duck, NC. I ended up staying 2 nights. The Colonel talked about flying the SR-71 and his time as liaison for the Joint Chiefs of Staff while at the Pentagon. It was truly fascinating. Larry talked football, living in Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and where he might go and work next. His perspectives on life is unique but none the less very interesting.
While there, I also got to meet the Colonel’s “lady friend”. An energetic, funny and smart woman who worked in the Reagan White House. I’ll save her story for a separate post because it’s really good and I don’t want it to get lost here.
My immediate family has never been that close and now, we all live in different, distant corners of the county, in some ways it’s even less so. But in others it is a bit closer. My extended family, my uncle and cousins are also scattered across the land but when we gather in one place it has always been special. Very much like the 2 days in West Virginia.
The rest of the trip was largely uneventful, stopping just west of Knoxville, then west of Little Rock. The clerk who checked me in the first night was delightful. Full of smiles and good cheer. She even rang my room after a while to make sure that everything was good for me there. It was, and I thanked her for her kindness.
Nearing Memphis the next day I stopped at a Steak and Shake for lunch. Once again, the server was ebullient and cheerful. After returning from the rest room and noticing that I had “hat hair” from my wearing a knit cap during the cold morning, I gently chided her asking, “How could you let me go out looking like this?” while pointing at my hair. She laughed and said that it looked OK. Gotta love southern hospitality.
El Chico was a short walk from my motel near Little Rock and they served up a Tex-Mex nacho-type dish with some friendly banter with the staff. All good for my last night on the road.
The point to all this is that I am fully blessed to have had the opportunity to spend time with some of the best people in my life. I’m glad that it was unhurried, with time to spend with each one individually and in a group. Over each mile that I travelled between them I reflected upon each visit. When I did I would smile.
I could have come to Texas straight from Sarasota and the distance would have been about a third of the approximately 3,500 miles that I covered in those 19 days. Yes, I would have gotten here sooner but how much would I have missed?