I am not an old man. I still consider myself a young man. I don't feel young in my bones, in the mornings, when I wake up and creak out of bed. But I feel young in the mind. In the spirit. I do young things. And I grant there might be some merit to the argument that cause becomes effect. Maybe doing young things makes one feel young. Maybe it's the other way around. All I know is that I didn't take the adult pill when I was twenty-three, driving off the Air Force Base with all my personal belongings stuffed in the trunk and backseat of my Cavalier. I grew up, sure. And now I had a job as a Software Engineer at a corporate web-hosting company. That's not a child's job. And I didn't make a child's wage. But in my head, I just chose to take…
I went to a relative’s house for Thanksgiving this last year, and someone who wasn’t really part of the family was hanging around. It wasn’t awkward, as such, it was just one of those things that makes you frown for a second and pull your head back a little, and then you move on and eat a bunch of turducken. But I did have a conversation with her that I thought was worth mentioning. It was one of those things that made me frown for a second and then pull my head back a little.
So I walked into the house and shook all the dudes’ hands and kissed all the ladies’ knuckles and hugged all the kids. The usual. Then I said hi to this woman. And she saw the handgun I was wearing in a holster under my jacket, on my hip. So she sees my gun and says, “You think you’re going to need that on Thanksgiving?” and sort of made that face. You know the one. The one that says, “Ooh, you just got burned.” And I looked at her for a second and said, “I don’t know.”
It’s morning. You’ve just woken up. It looks warm outside, the sun is shining, but there’s a thick blanket of snow on the deck. A large mug of coffee sits on the window sill, sunlight illuminating the steam as it lazily escapes the heat of the mug. You may be cozied up with your chin on your knees, a thick blanket wrapped round you as you stare out the window from the overstuffed leather chair. But it’s not a happy time. It’s sad. You’ve just lost a friend, finished the final legal hoops of a failed marriage. It’s a pensive, reflective moment. All cried out. Alone. Relieved, at peace, but saddened and forlorn. A complex web of emotions hangs stagnant amidst the lingering aroma of the coffee. They’re all real. Every bit of it as real as the snow outside. The sun, too far away to melt it, serves as a reminder that it will warm someday. This ain’t the last rodeo. The fingerprints on the window also serve that hope. There is life. And when the bell rings and the kids come traipsing in the front door, your silent melancholy will be abruptly shattered.
I’ve come to find that winter is my favorite season. I do like that cold. But that’s not it. It’s like a hard reset for planet America. Or at least planet North Texas. My world. It gets cold, freezes off the trials of the summer and the first nine months of a year, drops the leaves in the street and starts over. Let’s give it another chance. Let’s see if we can get it right this time. A perpetual trial and error in small, annual runs, like caption bubbles popping, saying “Once more”. Every year I contemplate what I could have done differently to make it a better year. Have I achieved what I set out to achieve this year? Have I grown as a man? A husband? A father? Am I where I wanted to be in life? On that third-grade questionnaire, where it asked ‘where do you want to be at forty-five’ what did I answer? Rich with a mountain home and a private plane? Warm with a red-haired wife and a black dog in a small cottage? Alone with a television blaring nonsense at a sub-audible level while I play solitaire on a sticky TV tray?
It was two o’clock this morning when I heard the voice. I was lying in bed playing poker on my tablet because – well, for two reasons really. Number one, my red-haired wife is traveling. So I’ve no motivation to go to bed early. And secondly, because I’m insomniac, so there’s rarely any sleep for me these days. And thirdly, because I – wait… I only promised you two. So that’s that. I was, therefore, not awakened by the sound of a voice. But I was startled by it. That’s for sure.
It sounded at first like a woman talking in my kitchen. I was alone in my bedroom with the door closed. So it could have been coming from anywhere. But it sounded about as far away as it could be while still being inside my house and downstairs. The kitchen is the answer to that. I perked up and listened a minute. Then I went back to my poker game. Some people get arrested for taking other people’s money. I get badges. I was well into another good hand when I heard the voice again. And this time it was louder.
I’m not very big into antiques. In fact, I think I don’t much care for them at all. I’ve stopped at antique stores before, and browsed through the old roll-top desks and the antique china cabinets. I’ve seen the old grandfather clocks and the coffee tables that were built back in the early nineteenth century. And I do a whole lot of yawning, but not much else. That stuff just doesn’t do it for me. But I got a phone call yesterday that changed everything.
Well, not everything. That’s just a cool way to close the opening paragraph of a column. It changed something though. My grandmother called, you see. And she’s the last living grandparent I have. She happens to be my dad’s mother. Happens to be. I mean, I guess she happened to be the one to marry my dad’s dad and thus, happened to end up becoming my dad’s mother. Funny how that happens. She actually didn’t even call me. She called my dad. And she had something she wanted to pass down.
So many times my red-haired wife will come home and tell me about news stories she’s read or heard, and I’m always surprised. I don’t read news sites. I don’t watch TV, so I never see the news there. I don’t believe in newspapers. I mean, I’ve seen evidence of them before, but I just really don’t believe in them. Too much like bigfoot. A lot of hearsay and no real proof. And I really don’t listen to any news-bearing stations on the radio. So I guess you could suffice it to say that I don’t really keep up with current events.
I was sitting on the couch today, getting ready for my mid-afternoon nap when I suddenly had the urge to turn on the ole telly. I have one of those real old-school ones that’s not LED or 3D or 4K or any of that. It’s just a simple 1080p LCD. Remember back when those used to be cool? Anyway, I looked through the list of recorded shows – all the Doc McStuffins and Good Luck Charlie and various other Disney crap we record for my daughter – past my Ultimate Treehouses and Treehouse Masters, you know, the good stuff. And I found Nik Wallenda – Walking the Tight Rope.
Well, we made it back. Sigh. I have to take a few deep breaths. Seriously. A week on the beach is hard work. Another deep breath. I’m going to convince you that it’s hard work, and then you’ll see why I’m taking so many deep breaths. Breathe. And then maybe you’ll also see why I am so happy to be home, while at the same time looking forward to going again next year. Deep breath. It’s very hard work. And I didn’t even take my laptop this year!
Historically, I have traveled with only the bare necessities when it comes to technology and electronics. For instance, my laptop backpack would have in it only the things I needed for the week: computer, netbook, tablet, SD card case with several spare SD cards, an SD card reader (or two), two of every kind of cable I might possibly need, spare styli, a couple of blank CDs, a USB light, screen wipes, my 3G hotspot and every possible dongle, cable and connection I might ever need or want to plug into my computer while I’m there. Seriously, what happens if I take a bunch of pictures on my D-SLR and didn’t bring a card reader to transfer them to the computer, and I lose the camera? Well, simply put, I lose the pictures.
The church I attend is spread across two campuses. I go to the North Campus. Not sure why I capitalized that, but there you are. It wasn’t always like that, though. Not the capitalization thing, the two campuses thing. There used to only be one campus. It was the South Campus. But of course, back when it was the only one, it wasn’t called the South Campus. Or the south campus. Or even the campus. It was just called the church. And if I capitalize that, you’ll start thinking of Under the Milky Way.
Anyway, the point is that when it used to be just one building, and that’s where I went, I was married to a different woman than I am now. I have nothing negative to say about my ex-wife. She’s a lovely gal. We just weren’t meant for each other like I used to think. When we went through our divorce, which was one of the most difficult times I’ve ever gone through, I stopped attending that church. I also lost forty-five pounds. That should tell you how stressful it was, and – therefore – how seriously I took it. I hate divorce, and can often be heard saying I don’t believe in it. But that’s a whole other column.
We got up at 3:45 yesterday morning. That’s not the impressive part though. We had gone to bed at close to midnight the night before, and then lay mostly awake through those very few hours trying to sleep through the sound of the dog clock in the neighbor’s yard. This dog literally barked once per second for over an hour. A true canus tempus. I wanted to kill him in the face. But we were energized by vacationalistic excitement, and thus were able to get up with no problems. Then I set about to making Bloody Marys for all of the day’s travelers. Well, except for the kids, of course. Duh. They drink whiskey sours.
By 5:15 we were on the shuttle (all seven of us) heading for the airport. At the end of the three-hour flight, the stewardess announced congratulations for Bret and Danae who are getting married on the beach. I know. Copycats, right? They’re even getting married on the same slice of beach as we did nearly four years ago. Major rolleyes. But then the flight attendant had us do the wave. Very nice.
Beer of the what? Seriously? Beer of the Month Club? How have I not heard of this before now? Actually maybe I had but I didn’t know what it meant. Or maybe I thought you had to go to a bar to get them. Either way, what I do know is that my ridiculously awesome and hot red-haired wife joined the Beer of the Month Club in my name for Father’s Day. Now there’s a wife who cares!
The idea of this is extremely attractive to me. So if you haven’t heard of it, you get your red-haired wife to join you up, and she can pick monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly delivery. It’s pretty expensive. If you sign up for monthly for a year, it’s upwards of $450 bucks. It ain’t cheap. But you can find coupons and save yourself a little cash on shipping and whatnot. So then they just pick two microbreweries per month and send you two varieties (three bottles) from each, for a total of four unique beers that you have probably never heard of. What’s not to love?