The specialists I have to see are slated for the 28th and the 31st of this month (July) respectively.
These two moments in time will be the bellwethers of change. The nature of the change remains indeterminate in both cases, but I know that there will be a blessing in all of this no matter what. Don't ask how or why... I can only say that I just know.
Meanwhile, Bartowsky continues to edit the vast amounts of footage we shot on this trip. He has no idea how simple his life is right now. And I have no idea how complex it truly is. We all wrestle with our demons. Usually alone. I with mine. Bartowsky with his.
Today, at 4:30-something in the morning, my spidey-sense is kicking in and I sense other changes coming. So much so that I have already moved towards the moment I suspect is on the horizon. What movements have I made? What is it that I suspect? Let's just say that if I am correct in my assessment, it will change the nature of my days. I should know more within the next 24 to 72 hours.
At the end of it all, right or wrong, it is what it is. And "it" will shift and become whatever is in front, and sometimes behind, a person. Either way, there is a small hint of futility left upon the tongue when anyone spends more time wondering about probable outcomes than when one takes action. When one wonders instead of merely accepts the outcome. But the same residue is sometimes also left behind in the wake of action. What am I saying?
I guess that I am saying what will be will be. However, we can either try to prepare somewhat for suspected events, which I have done, or one can worry and wonder. In both cases I sense the gyrations of body and/or mind that hint at futility. But of the two choices, I would rather opt for action.
I am am so glad that I took this trip with Buddy Bartowsky when I did. Like our trip, the horizons in my personal life are starting to blur.
Out there, somewhere past day three, which would be after the Badlands of North Dakota, I came to a decision. The Badlands have always been a place for clearing my mind, and for cleansing the palette of my soul. Teddy Roosevelt seemed to agree. I noticed in a recently consumed book on the man that his ranch in the Badlands became his go-to place after tradegy (his young wife dying, as an example), or the destination when he wanted to clear his head. I get it. My decisions always come easier after visiting one of two places; the ocean, or the Badlands.
We often say, "I made a decision." Or, "Did you make a decision?" I like my European colleagues' version of this idea. They substitute the word "take" for "make."
"Did you take a decision?" Or, "We must take a decision ." This is more precise. More clinical. Or so it seems to me. As if to say a smorgasbord of options will be laid out and one must take just one or two of the options and be done. A singular entrée, instead of a buffet.
I took a decision or two on the future. While Bartowsky read, or filmed, or studied the landscape, I thought of the options long and hard. I came to binary or algebraic decisions -meaning that the decisions used the syntax of, "if, then." As in, "if this comes to pass, then I will..." This method was used because so much of what I decided was (and still is) contingent upon other things taking place. There is a piece of Biblical wisdom out there that says, in essence, man plans his ways, but God determines his footsteps. Even my agnostic and atheist associates may say that life is what happens while we are making plans. I'll go with the first one. So...
The first of three steps was a promise to get "checked out." The heart is fine, but there are some other issues that need to be explored. So I went in for a physical yesterday. My doc is fantastic, and she suggested two specialists. The first is the most embarrassing. I'm 50 now. I can't believe it because I feel like a younger guy, but I am. With 50 comes a special male treatment that involves the lower extremities and a couple of hours of, shall we say, probing. I looked at her and said, "Great! Christmas in July." At the very least they will be able to call my wife and tell her that my head is actually not up there. Unless, of course, it actually is. One of us has to be right.
So I will submit myself to hanging the old rump roast in the wind, just to "make sure."
The second specialist, the non-scope-centric referral, is the math specialist. That is, that Doc's examination will produce a result of greater importance to me. Albeit, both specialists can change the direction I want to take. The second one though is the one that I think about. That Doc's result will be the basis for the big decision looming on the horizon. If the Doc says X, then I go with Y. If the doc says A, then I go with B.
I won't talk about that specialist here (now) in terms of the what. However, I will say that this Doc is number two of three steps.
Step One: Go see my Doc and among iffy banter get down to brass tacks on the specialists. Done. Completed. Fini.
Step Two: Go see the specialists. Leave the racial and body type profiling proctologist joke at home. But (and that's a big butt) share it here:
"Is it racial and body type profiling to desire a petite and anorexic Pygmy with no noticeable fingernails as one's
I hope not. That's my dream.
At at any rate, step two is not completed at the time of this writing. And Step Two, Part B -the non-rumpus room specialist-is the key. Step Two, Part B leads to algebraic Step Three.
Step Three: If X-result, then take Y-action. If A-result, then B-action. It will be one or the other. What are these results and actions and specialists? Well, they are related to the trip. To cruising an endless ribbon of highway. To adventure and whatever comes our way. Possibly to Steppenwolf (pictured above). But the real answer, the no-kidding, here-it-is answer, is...
We had a rule on the trip. It was called, "The Golden Ticket Rule."
Quite simply, if Bartowsky or I ever had visions of murdering our traveling companion (him killing me -most likely, or me killing him -less likely) we were to voice this inclination. Talking about it would produce an immediate action, best summarized as: Find nearest airport and put Bartowsky or Dad on a plane home.
"Congratulations, son! You just won a beautiful golden ticket on Delta Airlines!"
The intent behind this rule was not necessarily a concern about murder or being murder. Although we do watch The First 48, so... Rather, the concern was close proximity for 12 days or more. In a car. Designed by the Japanese. I'm 6'-3". Bartowsky is 6'-2." And thus, the Golden Ticket.
Which was never redeemed.
Happy Day After the 4th of July!
This morning I put on my serious shoes. That's how I think of the shoes I wear to the day gig. It doesn't matter if the toe is rounded or pointed, or the color or texture of the shoe. They are all serious if I am dining them for the old proverbial salt mine.
And serious shoes would normally denote the end of the road trip, and thus the end of this blog. However, there are a few loose ends to tie up. And over the next few days, in the next couple of weeks, I will wrap up everything as I close the loop on items that were either started or mentioned in this blog.
For now, suffice to say that I was looking for a few things "out there." And I found some of them. So I will come back to those things here -on this blog.
But for today, it's time for some serious shoes.
Have a great day.
More commentary to follow here -once we catch our breath at home for a few days.
Thanks for going along on the ride.
My father told me once that the nicest beaches in the country were in Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama. I was a kid and didn't believe him. I had witnessed the beaches at Patterson Lake in North Dakota and the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, where my mother lived. What could be better than these two places?
And then I went to Clearwater one year.
And then again. And again. Once, when my wife was stressed out, I used airline points and sent her there, too. It was only for the weekend, but she came back sun burned and blisssed out. I was a hero.
Later, I discovered Mississippi and Alabama. Well, "discovered " might be a bit much. Others, probably Native Americans, (North or Central) discovered it long before I showed up to say, "Hey! Look everyone! The Gulf Coast is stunning." My friend Richard and his wife had lived in Naples/Marco Island, etc. I can hear Richard saying, "No kidding?" with a crooked grin.
Bartowsky digs it, as well. However, our Swiss-Norwegian-Scotch Irish-heritage gives us two color options on the coast: "Gulf Coast Sand,"or "Lobster." My wife tans. We only tan after multiple coats of "Lobster," and by that time we are candidates for the melanoma test center.
If there is ever a war on the Gulf Coast, we have the perfect camouflage. Like sand crabs that don't have to bury themselves.
"I didn't see them, sir! Those Fast Present albinos took out forty-seven of our men. It's not our fault... couldn't even see them, sir. They were right there. Right there..." his voice trailing off in disbelief.
"You should stay out of the sun," my doctor said -firmly back in reality.
"I like any place cold," said Bartowsky. Adding, " The colder the better."
But even Bartowsky loves the beach. We just need to love it in the early morning hours, or as the sun goes down.
Otherwise it is Lobster-Boy and Sand Crab to the rescue.
5:35 AM Central Time. I've been awake for an hour. Why? Not sure. It could be that yesterday was an easier day than the day before; a couple hundred or so miles less than the slog from Mountain Home, Idaho to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Or it could be I dreamt of a Yamaha Enduro and an easier, more care-free, time in life. In the dreams I was acting as delivery boy for my lawyer's office. Shuttling documents in a leather messenger bag. In the dream, I was still me. That is, old. And fatter than I should be. Middle-aged. But I handled that motorcycle with ease. A young runner ran by me with a dog. I used to run cross country in high school. That was before I was old. And fat. I woke up thinking about the dream and about yesterday. Yesterday I felt as if I were chasing ghosts across southern prairies. And the dream felt the same way, although the dream was much cooler. It involved a motorcycle.
Somewhere south of the New Mexico State line, as Bartowsky and I nipped the corner of the Enchanted State, or possibly after we crossed over into "Don't-Mess-With-Texas," I thought about my dad within the context of this trip. We used to drive like banshees all over God's creation. Skiing, going to see the grandparents in Pennsylvania, conventions, etc. Dad was the original nomad.
My pops had a series of two-door coupes that varied over the years. Coupes because a sedan would have been very uncool. I bought a slightly used sedan for this trip. Motorcycle dreams or not, I am not as cool as my Pops. I'm old. And kind of fat. Like the way sugar is "kind of" sweet. But I'm working on it. Not the cool part, the fat part.
At any rate, we were driving along yesterday, Bartowsky was reading, and I was thinking of the many road trips I took with the big guy when I was young. The two last road trips I remember were bittersweet. The older of the two involved flying my then very thin butt down to Louisiana from Portland (where I lived at the time) to drive with my father from Pineville, Louisiana, up the Natchez Trace, and eventually to Pennsylvania. I remember a rest area, trying southern Catfish for the first time, and sitting in a room in Pennsylvania with my dad. Across from us, fidgeting with a blanket over her knees, was my non-verbal, and obviously scared, grandmother. Alzheimer's had knocked at her door, found her home, and ransacked the place with her sitting there the whole time.
The second road road trip on this list of "the last two," involved flying down to Louisiana from Raleigh (where I live now) and retrieving my father along with some of his vast array of 1970's ephemera, and driving him to North Carolina. It took us months to convince him that he should be closer to us for health and safety reasons. The plane was delayed due to thunderstorms in Dallas, and a 4:00 PM arrival time became a 2:00 AM arrival time. My father, who had disconnected his phone, was unreachable. And by the time I arrived, he was also scared. And angry. I tried to sleep in a chair he was leaving behind, but my father hovered nearby like a cat on catnip. He was too jacked up. Wired. And he wanted to go. Finally I acquiesced and we left his apartment, in the dark, and headed for backroads and interstates that would wind us North.
I noticed that the electrical system in his GMC Jimmy would short out whenever I turned on the air conditioning. The car would suddenly drag. When I mentioned this to my pops, he shrugged. He hadn't noticed. We drove in toasty warmth for the rest of the trip. Finally, at one point, I told him that energy had left the body and that I, and he, should rest. I pulled off the interstate into a Hampton Inn's porte cochere. I grabbed a room with two queen beds and went to retrieve my father. I found him rummaging around in the back of the Jimmy. He came up for air with two hundred dollar bills.
"What's that?" I asked.
"For the room," he replied.
"Dad, I paid for it. And they don't take cash. It's all good."
"Oh," he looked defeated. "I'll put it back."
The concerning part was that he had fished the cash out of the car. Turned out that he had his "cash savings" in a box in the back of the GMC. How much? He told me the amount with pride.
"Dad! You're going to get us killed." He looked at me blankly. We went upstairs to our room. I tried to sleep but imagined the car breaking down and some shady mechanic ripping off my dad, or worse. Or a highway patrolman pulling us over and inquiring about drugs or cash.
"No drugs, officer, I mean other than some stool softener, but cash? Yeah. Um... about fifty-three thousand in a balsa wood box held together by staples and Elmer's glue. My dad calls it, 'Fort Knox.' Is that a problem, sir?"
I resolved that if we made it to Raleigh alive that I would take my father directly to the nearest bank.
Once again, he wouldn't let me sleep and we ended up leaving two hours later. He was anxious to get back to North Carolina -where he once lived while in the Army. I was exhausted and pissed. We drove straight through Georgia and South Carolina, and approached the outskirts of Raleigh well past midnight. By this time I was weaving all over the road, and my eyesight was blurry. My pops was wide awake.
"Keep going," he admonished, "you're doing great." And then he turned in his seat, looked at the rear passenger seats, and said, "Did I ever tell you what my son did in college?" That got my attention and I was suddenly fully awake.
"Who are you talking to, Dad?"
"These people," he motioned towards the backseat.
"Dad, we are alone. It's just the two of us." He turned around suddenly to look again. I checked the rear view mirror. Could two people have climbed in while I stopped for gas? There was no one there. Dad said nothing. I chalked it up to delusion brought on by fatigue.
I did get him to Raleigh. And we did get him to a bank. And over the months ahead I would eventually come to realize that Alzheimer's had also knocked on his door and was beginning to slip a toe in to the house. That explained the electrical system on the Jimmy. The talking to spirits in the back seat. Alzheimer's! Like a thief. In the pre-dawn hours. Looking for cash in a flimsy box.
Yesterday, I glanced over at my oldest son. He was on another book. His sixth of the trip. Occasionally I would see him put the book down and stare out at the vastness all around us. I remember reading on the Natchez Trace trip with my dad. Perking up when we hit Tupelo -the birthplace of Elvis.
"It's a big country," my son said. I nodded. "It seems like we just started two days ago," he added later. I nodded again. How many times on trips with my dad, had I made similar comments? How many times had he nodded. How lucky had I been to travel so many miles with him before the Alzheimer's kicked in and smashed all the strongholds? I realize how blessed I have been to take this trip with my son.
We have a couple of days left now, as we approach the Gulf of Mexico. Soon our trip will be over. A couple more days of chasing ghosts.
A typical day for us starts with the old man (me) rolling out of bed long before Bartowsky stops snoring. I'll do a quick inventory of wallet, key, phone. I don't have to look at Bartowsky to know that he is okay; he snores like a chainsaw gone bad. But I still do.
I will pray, spend some time in the Word, (yep, I read the Bible), and then catch up on social media. I will also review anything I wrote the night before -just to make sure it is not too awful. Then it's off to the shower. Meanwhile, Bartowsky works hard at his attempts to wake the dead with his snoring.
After getting myself into a freshly laundered state, I will dress and pack. Throwing around bags and the like will usually stir the slumbering snorer in the room, but occasionally I have to grab his toe or bark, "Bartowsky! Daylight's burning, pal."
While Buddy Boy stirs and rolls into the shower, I will pack up the cruising unit. Sounds simple, but it is a minor, junior Olympics rountine that involves reorganizing the stuff we picked up along the route. (Mainly books and a new pair of Docs for the kid.)
Usually while I am wrestling with my luggage and contemplating new combinations of words I learned first on the playground and then in the Navy, Bartowsky will be going through the complex grooming rituals of an 18 year old guy. With a little luck, he's completed the systematic process, production, and mechanics of cleanliness, and is ready to go. Some mornings he is not. I get it, but I don't. I can be cleaned and groomed in 2.6 minutes if need be. Bartowsky; not so much.
After he's done with his cleaning "thing," we will either: A: Load up his stuff with a repeat command performance of Bag Ballet and then go look for a Starbucks. Him: Vanilla Latte and a warmed Croisant. Me: Decaf Americano and some form of pork byproduct. Or, B: Eat at the Hotel and then do the Bag Ballet with his stuff. Or, C: Both.
Usually both. I need the placebo effect of a grande decaf. Well, "need" is a little much.
After all that, we will hit the road. Will it be a long day? Or a short day?
It depends on the destination.