Love At The End Of The Tunnel

[My photo. Elias leaves pre-K.]

The longest and most uncomfortable, painful and seemingly endless flight I ever undertook began at 4:00 am on Monday, November 20 when I forced myself out of the bed.  I forgot our wakeup call was for 4:15 am.  Our flight was scheduled for 7:00 am.  It was going to be a long day.

We were at a lower level Marriott about two miles from Logan Airport.  Our shuttle picked us up at 5:00 am, on time and the driver was even awake and courteous.  I was numb with lack of sleep.

The first leg of our flight required a stop-over in Chicago.  Time to breathe real air and stretch our legs for an hour.

Then we boarded American Airlines flight #1239 for Seattle.  I bought one of those neck pillows but it did nothing but keep me upright with my head forced into one position, much like you see in the photos of the poor souls in the electric chair..  Everything in my body hurt when we finally landed.

We were on the first segment of our winter vacation.  First stop was to visit and spend Thanksgiving with my daughter, Erin, husband Bob and, my one and only grandson, Elias.

From their home in Orting in Washington, we were due to fly to LA and then spend the month in Joshua Tree in the Mojave desert of California.

But, I digress.

We called Erin who was waiting in the cellphone lot.  Within a few minutes, she pulled up in front Pick-up Station #1.

We loaded her 2013 Hyundai Accent.  We drove south for about forty-five minutes and we were at her home in Orting.

I had been awake since 4:00 am and was drugged with Valium and Dramamine so I was grateful when every one else left to do some shopping, I drifted on the sofa, the large black cat, Guinness, sleeping on my lap.

Everyone returned from shopping.

Then the real fun began…Elias began to remember his grandpa and Emmy.

It seemed to me to be the longest and most painful flight I’ve ever made.  But the love at the end…made it all disappear.

[My photo]

Postscript: Guest proofreader for this post is my daughter, Erin.]

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Playing Scrabble On Facebook With Your Daughter: The Agony And The Ecstasy

ScrabbleScreenShot

There is on odious, evil and insistent karma that floats and follows me everywhere.  Like gnats on a hot afternoon in the Adirondacks, they follow me about in my own yard to plague my very soul.  Gnats (or is it the equally noxious black flies?) that have been known to drive a tundra dwelling musk ox to commit suicide.  I have lost sleep.  I dread the coming of nightfall because of the waiting nightmares that will make me wake up screaming and soaked with my own salty sweat.

And, it’s not the heat in the room because it’s -38 F outside our thin pane of glass.  The interior of our  house sometimes looks like a set from “Dr. Zhivago”.  But that’s okay, after all it’s only the end of April.

What am I paying for?  Why can’t I await the Final Judgement to pay for my moral laxity?  What is it that plagues me so deeply and causes me to see the whole world in different shades of gray?

I am about to confess for the first time the reason for my anxiety and self-doubt.  You see, several years ago, I made a dreadful mistake.  I am making this public, here on my very own Blog Platform on WordPress.

I challenged my daughter to play Scrabble on the computer.  The computer is necessary because she and her husband, and my grandson live 3,000+ miles away, in Orting, Washington.

Oh, you say, isn’t that grand.  A dad playing perhaps the most famous and popular word game in the English-speaking world with his daughter. (Please don’t ask about Candy Crush Saga!)  What a great bonding experience…you say.

In theory, you have a point.  But in practice, the naked facts speak for themselves.  She beats me far more than I beat her.  In fact, her current win percent, in late April, 2015 is 59%.  Mine on the other hand is 45%.

Some back story is needed here:  My daughter wanted to attend a small private Liberal Arts college in the Northeast.  She did.  So, we both have undergraduate degrees.  I, on the other hand, came within four credits to completing my M.A.T. degree.  But, after I began teaching full-time, I took graduate level courses in many different locations, accumulating enough credits to equal a Ph.D. (Which I don’t have, but that’s another story.)

To further complicate the issue, I am 25 years older than my daughter.  I read a lot.  She reads a lot.  But if you do the math, I have 25 more years of books under my belt than she.  At my present reading rate, I have read approximately 576 more books than my daughter.  I don’t know how many books she reads per year but if you subtract her total from my total, I still have the advantage.

Not only that…I am a published author.  Doesn’t that count for something?  Apparently not.

Here is a “typical” game between the two of us:

I open with EYING which is worth 9 points.  She will come back with YTTERBIAS which, as we all know, is worth 14 points.  After studying the board for 20 minutes, I’ll put up SAD (4 points).  She will play BOBBEJAAN (22 points) before I can get back from the bathroom.  That’s probably a Bingo, so it’s really worth about 125 points.  Now, after 4 moves, the score is 139 for my daughter and 13 for me.  You don’t have to be a bookie from Hialeah to know where the odds are going.  And, speaking of Bingos, she has 76.  Is it worth mentioning that I have 30?

Can anyone out there feel my pain?

One time I jokingly made a mention about how can she beat her dad so bad after I spent years changing her diapers.  I even paced the Waiting Room like a good father does on TV while she was being born.  Her reply was that I should be proud of her education and brains.

Believe me, I am very proud of her in so many ways.  She’s very smart and very well-read, it’s well known.  But, does she have to be so morally correct and not “allow” me to win?  That would be nice once in a while, say on my birthday or Father’s Day.

When I recently mentioned this to her, she said something to the effect that it is part of the American Dream for the younger generation to become better Scrabble players than their forefathers.  Did I miss something in Civics Class in high school?

So, it must be something I did to get this karma-thing following me.  Did I not mash her peas enough when her little baby teeth had more gums than teeth?  Was it because I woke her up from a sound sleep to let her see Bob Dylan in a rare TV appearance on Letterman sometime about 35 years ago?

Then it hit me.  I remembered what it was I did that brought the negativity of the Universe upon my head.

I recall the night.  It was in 1983.  The place was Danbury, Connecticut.  I took her to see “Superman III”.  It happened there, right in front of her eyes that I did a despicable thing.  Something I have felt profound shame about for 32 years.

I am confessing this in public, right here on my Blog site.  Now the world can judge me for what I really am.  Now the blackness of my soul will be visible for all to see, like a goiter on my neck.

I looked into the ticket seller’s eyes and lied about my daughter’s age.  I shaved a year off her age to save $2.00.  Yes, she saw and heard the whole thing.  Yes, I did this thing.  Yes, I am sorry.

But, I can’t turn back the hands of time.  I must bear this smudge of sin, so awful and so wrong, that proper folk should turn away from me in horror, like I am some kind of vocabulary-challenged Quasimodo.

I must carry this until my walk on this earth is complete.  Then I will have to take the Ultimate Consequences at the Gate of St. Peter.

But, the problem is not completely solved.  None of the above explains why my daughter’s husband beats me almost every time we play.  The rare time when I do win (both times) I feel like having a tee-shirt made up with the message: “I BEAT MY SON-IN-LAW AT SCRABBLE”.  On the back, I’ll print his Social Security Number.

I will end this with another short confession.  My wife and I drove all the way to Orting, Washington to visit my new grandson and his parents.  But, I had a second motive.  I was determined to locate the Scrabble Dictionary they used.

I couldn’t find it, but I have my ideas.

The only place I failed to look was the bottom of the dirty diaper pail.

 

Travels 27: Falling In Love Again [The Final Installment]

The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense.

Take what you have gathered from coincidence.

The empty-handed painter from your streets,

Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets.

The sky, too, is folding under you

And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.

     –Bob Dylan “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”

Carpe R-Pod.

     –Patrick Egan

Well, it’s over.  Our journey to the west coast and back is completed.  Now it is not a day-to-day reality, but a seedling memory, destined to grow and spread like Kudzu along a Virginia roadway.

All this may sound ponderous, but it isn’t over to me or to my wife, Mariam.  This trip was the longest I’ve made in decades.  It filled in many blanks in my mind’s geography.  I’ve seen places I have been dreaming about since I was a child.  I’ve met people in out-of-the-way places that won’t be easily forgotten.  For me, some stops were repeats from trips made as early as 1964.  For my wife, many of our destinations were new to her.  We’ve shared a great deal.

There are a million different ways I could have gotten from Rainbow Lake, NY to Orting, WA, but I chose one.  It was a ribbon of asphalt, sand, gravel and metal that led me to a certain door, of a particular house, on an average street where my grandson lived.

Don’t look for a PowerPoint “My Vacation” slide show, or a list of places I took pictures.  You’ve read my humble posts.  You got the general view of what happened along the way. ( I want to thank all the people who took time to read my goofy musings and please know that I appreciate your comments more than I can truly say.  I hope you found these blogs amusing, informative and thought-provoking.  Thank you for allowing me to play the role of tour guide in ways I hope were creative and worthwhile.)

So, how did this whole thing, this budget-busting, underestimated and exhausting trip change me?  What have I learned?  How am I different from I was on the morning of September 18, 2013?

The answer is that I fell in love again…in love again with emotions I feared were beginning to die inside me.  I’m invigorated and in love again.

In love with my wife, for being with me every mile of the way.  We argued routes, menus and which CD’s to play.  But we were hardly ever out of each others sight…something I want to keep happening.  The success of the trip was because of her genius and patience.  All I did was keep my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road (with only a side glance at the girls on the split-rail fences).  Remember,  I can multitask.

I experienced a renewal of the love I have for my daughter, Erin, as I watched her cuddle with Elias as I did with her forty years ago.  My love grew for Bob, her husband, for making my little girl happy.  And, Elias.  I am in love with my grandson.  Within days of our arrival, he began to crawl with serious intent.  This is no small issue; dealing with a ten-month old wanderer.  I will never forget the sight of Elias kicking with joy as he saw his daddy pull up in front of the house at the end of a work day.  If all children were loved like that…

I fell in love once again with my son, Brian, who encouraged me to continue the postings.  “It’ll be strange when they end,” he emailed me.

This country.  This amazing country is a place that can be loved in countless ways.  America has the beauty, geography, history and people who could keep one on the road forever.

Every person, eye, rock, tree, sand dune, mountain, lake, diner, hand, gas station or store has its own unique tale–but most will never be told.  Every face I saw is a doorway to ten thousand moments of joy, sorrow and all other emotions you can name.

I wish I could live a hundred more years just to open one or two of those doors.

And the land itself is a giant face…the face of “our land”, everyone’s land, regardless of any differences.  The “big picture” is joyfully heartbreaking to gaze upon.

It is polite to stare.  How else can you really absorb it all?

If you think it’s goodbye, it’s not.  There are more blogs in my head now than ever before.  I’ll be back…

So, happy trails to you, until we meet again.  Now, excuse me while I scrounge through our trip stuff to find that refrigerator magnet…the one that says Route 66 on it.

Awake, awake, the world is young,

For all its weary years of thought.

The starkest fights must still be fought,

The most surprising songs be sung.

     –J. E. Flecker

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Pacific Northwest Interlude: A Song. A Journey. A Metaphore and a Memory

Sitting at the kitchen table, I can see my daughter, Erin and her husband watching a mute TV while a song is playing on an iTunes mix.  Bob is a musician.  He plays the drums and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of most kinds of music I could ever run across in my lifetime.  I think it’s safe to say that he can speak with authority about a vast realm of music with the exception of Armenian Wedding tunes or ancient Celtic hymns to a rock.  From my vantage point, I cannot see my exhausted wife on the futon, holding her Kindle Fire on her chest but unable to read it because she is fast asleep.

The song Bob is playing on his mix is a Dylan tune from years ago.  He knows I love The Bob, but he does too.  (What’s there not to like about a Dylan song from his most creative period?).

This particular song is “Boots of Spanish Leather”.  As I listen, I am thinking back to a time, almost twenty years ago when I was sitting in an authentic Speakeasy bar on Madison Ave. in New York City.  I had just started teaching at a small Private school on the Upper East Side.  This person was my co-teacher in the sixth grade.  She has since moved on to another school and I retired  about eight years ago.  She was very close to my wife and myself.  We ate dinner nearly every Sunday night.  But we moved away and moved on.  We still see her when we visit NYC several times a year.

My friend and I were having an afternoon snack at this old Speakeasy.  It was called The Madison Pub…but don’t go looking for it.  It’s long gone now.  The last time I passed by, it was a bridal boutique.

We sat at a table with a red and white checkered board pattern tablecloth.  I put a dollar into the juke box and picked out a few Dylan songs.  One was “Boots of Spanish Leather”.  I hear the words tonight and I think back to that afternoon…and most importantly, I think of the journey my wife and I just completed (or half completed to be more accurate…we have to drive back home soon).

Is there something I can send you from across the sea,

From the place that I’ll be landing?

For Dylan, it was the sea.  For me, it was the endless prairie.

That I might be gone a long time

And it’s only that I’m askin’,

Is there something I can send you to remember me by,

To make your time more easy passin’.

I doubt that my friend knew what states I drove through.  She’s only a mere acquaintance now.  But at a time before I got sick, we three were fast friends.

So take heed, take heed of the western wind,

Take heed of the stormy weather.

And yes, there’s something you can send back to me,

Spanish boots of Spanish leather.

I’m with the people I love now, my daughter’s family, my grandson, my wife.  And many, many friends have followed my blogs “Travels” on FB or WordPress.

Every now and again, someone creeps into my memory.  Someone who was close to Mariam and myself.

My journey, the song’s lyrics, my recollections can sometimes form a unique synergy.

The Rand McNally Atlas spread out on the table in front of me shows our route here and points out my way home.  But my mind is stretched to its limit when I think of the web of routes and roads and paths and highways and trails that somehow, in a way I’ll never wrap my mind around, link us all together.

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,

Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,

With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,

Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

–Mr. Tambourine Man

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