648 miles. That's what we drove today. It's been a long day.
We turned back last week after a worrying bout of chest pains made us run for our doctor's office and a battery of tests. When I say, "Us," I mean me. The test results were due today. So instead of waiting around forever, we blew town at five-thirty this morning. Our thesis was that if we needed to turn around due to bad news, we could. After all, how many times can a guy drive to Charleston, WV? Today was the second time in under a week for us. So we kissed Raleigh goodbye at 5:30, and actually made it out of town closer to six due to a coffee and gas run. (Mainly coffee.)
The doc called at 10:28 AM. Heart scan good. But...
More on that "but" later on. Much, much later on. Like end of trip or beyond later on.
So our gamble paid off. We've covered good ground and will be revamping our schedule -dictated by the days we have left. Tomorrow is MInneapolis -if fortune smiles.
It is crazy how good it is to sit next to my son as he reads while I grumble at traffic. We talk. We laugh. We go radio silent. We have lonely stretches punctuated by internal thoughts. We eat and stop for gas. I listen to my books. He sits composed in his college uniform of black skinny jeans, Doc Martens with yellow laces, and a maroon t-shirt. Me in my middle-age uniform of disheveled appointment; khaki shorts, a black Honda motorcycle logo t-shirt and old neon green trimmed Nikes. He is in for style and me for comfort.
I also have a pair of dress shoes packed, a pair of slightly upscale gray pumas, and a pair of running shoes. Buddy Bartowsky has another pair of dress Docs and a pair of flip flops.
Experience and youth. On the road. Again.
We woke up in Charleston to some potentially bad news. And, unfortunately, we have to delay the second day of our journey for a few days. More on this later. For now, the consensus is, "bummer."
So, we had two to three days built in for contingencies. I was hoping we wouldn't use it, but it looks like we are going to use it two days into the trip. So, when we do startup again, it is going to be tight. We may have to shave off some dawdling or reconfigure the route. But that's okay. The trip is about us. About our relationship. Everything else is secondary. We'll be starting up again soon. Sorry for the delay.
Tired. After a 3 or 3:30 AM wake up call by the new munchkin, some work at work, and then a 3:00 PM departure from Raleigh over the mountains of VA and W. VA, playing zig-zag-tag with trucks and toll booths... Yeah, tired.
But we have some good news. We blew by our goal of Roanoke, and ended up in Charleston, WV. Beautiful area. And we covered a gamut of subjects, had a few laughs, stopped for gas, dinner... a pee.
Ok. That's enough.
G'night, John Boy. (Old, old, old reference. >>>Sam Walton of Walmart. Just kidding. Google it. )
We can also be found on Facebook.
The birds were serenading the Creator as I rolled up on the old Toyota today. 5:19 or thereabouts in the A.M. Here's a quick clip. Time to get the day started. A few errands. Some work at, well, work. And then heading home at 3:00 to scoop up Bartowsky and kiss the wife and chitlens goodbye. That's the plan. Let's see how reality jives with the agenda/itinerary.
We're almost on our way. I have my bags packed. Two of them to be exact. One big one for clothes and a smaller satchel full of books. Bartowsky is not packed. Not even close. He reminds me of my best friend in high school.
My mother was living in Bridgewater -a bedroom community outside of Boston. My best friend and I decided that within hours of crossing the rostrum and grabbing the old sheepskin, we would jet to Boston and start life there. In truth we went to a raging party at a classmate's farm after crossing the stage, and rolled home in the early morning hours. The flight to Boston was scheduled for the next morning. I went home after the party to grab an hour or two of shuteye followed by breakfast with my dad.
At breakfast, the big Kahuna (my dad) slowly reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, and handed me two Ben Franklins. I think at that point, it was the most cash he had ever handed me at one time.
"Have a good life," he said, as if we wouldn't see each other ever again. I was a little perplexed by this statement. After all, if I am your only kid, and you really want me to have a nice life, then two hundred bucks...
But I thanked him. And I did appreciate it. Pops was a notorious skinflint on some things, so I was caught between amazement that it wasn't two Andrew Jacksons and that whole "nice life" comment. None-the-less, we hugged and professed our love for one another. And that was it. I was off to pick my best friend up on the other side of the block we lived on, grab the mother unit and her husband, and race off to Bismarck -two hours away - to catch a plane to the Big Green Monstah and all things Boston.
In the early morning hours of the post-party drop off, I emphasized the need to be up and packed for the trip. We didn't have time to mess around.
"No problem," my buddy said. "I'll be ready."
I arrived at his house. His mom, who always treated me well, said, "Oh. He's still sleeping."
I went to his room, and yep, sure enough, he was sprawled across his bed. Eyes shut tightly. Beer breath in full force. Drool on the pillow.
"Hey man, wake up! We gotta go."
I tried again. "Tim, wake up!"
"Yeah, yeah," he finally stirred, "I just have to pack."
Fred Anderson Toyota in Raleigh has early morning hours.
Grandma is arriving at our house tomorrow. We have to clean. We also have a couple of closings that are coming up in our side business. Oh, and at some point we have to pack. We have to road test our cameras, too. We have to work on a few things for the day gig before leaving town. We have to double check our lists. Maybe triple check. We have to make sure the car is up to snuff before next Wednesday at 3:00 PM...
Fred Anderson has early morning hours. Check. One item down.
We are taking a little break. For two reasons.
First, we said welcome and hello to our latest addition. Cozette joined our family on May 31st and the entire gaggle of kids joined my wife and me as we stopped our routines in a beautiful mixture of necessity, joy and awe. Out of all the kids, Cozette is our largest at birth. Absolutely a chunk of goodness and creation rolled into fat cheeks and body rolls and a piercing cry. I call her, "Ocho," because she is the 8th child to be born in my personal lineage.
People always think that there is something wrong with this many kids. They say things like, "Eight kids! Wow." And then they shake their heads. They confuse multiple kids with a lack of intelligence. Or possibly a lack of control. They miss the point.
For us, the kids are the gold and the silver. The treasure. No matter how many businesses we own, or how many investments we make, nothing compares to the incredible gifts God gives us in children. What an honor to be a parent.
The other break in preparations comes from an event less joyous. An independent rep from the day gig, and moreover, a friend, lost his battle with a second round of cancer. He was a good man. A good friend. A light in a sometimes dark world. He lived with his beautiful wife in Haddonfield, NJ and I would often fly up to work with him in his considerable territory which spanned multiple cities and states from Hoboken to Northern Virginia/DC. Along the way, we would attend concerts and go check out museums-including the Barnes back when it was still the Barnes. (Watch The Art of the Steal for more on this collection and the war that raged over it.)
When he got the "all clear" on the first round of cancer, we celebrated with a Stones concert in Raleigh. Bartowsky and my buddy, Judson, joined us. I had wished that Scotty G and my friend Tom could have joined us as well. Scotty knew Mike, but Tom did not. But, I was just so stoked. Crisis averted. A good man goes on. Time to celebrate! Everyone should have joined in. And then...
It came back. That dreaded disease. The thoughts and prayers flowed again in a New Jersey direction. The constant questioning came back, too. Wanting to know if the good man was well. If all was still right in the world. If he would beat it again. We hoped and prayed. And prayed some more.
He came down to Raleigh with his wife in January. What an honor to have them in our home. I took a picture of him with Bartowsky. Two good men side by side. Both a lot like the other in ways unknown to either.
And then, far too soon, Mike was gone. He left us in early May. And now, almost a month later, and four short days after Cozette arrived, I find myself in Mt Laurel, NJ with a black suit on a hanger in the closet of a hotel. I find myself not wanting to put it on. Not wanting to say goodbye.
Last night, two other reps, a colleague at the day gig, and I, went to the Library II -a restaurant that I visited many times with Mike. After a day of calls and driving, we would stop in and Mike would order the Surf and Turf and a Perfect Manhattan. He would sigh with contentment and talk about work. About projects. About people we both knew. About his three gorgeous daughters. About his wife. About life. He was filled with energy and advice. Sympathy and empathy for those around him. With kindness.
Last night I was angry. Or just not quite myself. Surrounded by people I know but do not know at all, I thought about Mike and our many meals. But the energy was gone. The friendship and admiration were there, but they were not there in a strange mix of emotions. The restaurant seemed better lit, but much darker. The man that was supposed to be there was not there. And then I slowly unwound. And eventually I sighed with some contentment as we left the restaurant. I stopped on the way to my car and took a picture of the restaurant sign. I am not sure why.
This morning I woke up well rested and thought of my own beautiful wife. I took an early morning drive and found Mike's house in Haddonfield. I rolled slowly past and thought about all the love that emanated from within its walls. I returned to the hotel and started this post. And now, as I sit here in sunlight on a beautiful Sunday morning, I can see the connections as my wife's words come back to me. Speaking about Cozette's character and my father, in conjunction with Mike and this remembrance weekend, she said, "Hopefully she is wise... kind, and a lover of music."
The sun still shines.