There are very few things in my life that I can look back on as true accomplishments of character and will and not just fortune or blind luck. I successfully quit smoking in December of 1976 . Remaining tobacco free has been the result of my steadfast resolve. I got married in August of 1962 but the perpetuation of our marriage has, for the most part, been a testament to one woman’s willingness to overlook flaws and set aside disappointments. But there may be another instance of true accomplishment, yet looming, in my life’s story … maybe even five of them?
The good Lord had blessed me with five healthy grandchildren and they are all boys. The oldest, Charles J. Link, was 12 years old and an aspiring baseball player. Like most grandfathers, I was determined to follow the boy without interfering in his daily life and certainly not to “overstep” the authority of my daughter and son-in-law. I was content to remain silent when Jimmy Link (my moniker for him) told me that his Dad had had to special order his catcher’s mitt because none of the stores had one. I didn’t feel it was my place to tell either of them that this was probably because there has been a dearth of left-handed baseball catchers and never one in the Major Leagues.
I use this example only to set the table: It was in the late fall of 2008 that I came up with the idea … Jimmy Link was approaching adolescence and would soon fall victim to his hormones, begin growing whiskers, start looking at girl’s rear ends and, most importantly, stop believing everything I might tell him was true. If I was ever going to have a chance to make a lasting impression on a boy ….. it needed to be accomplished while he was still a boy.
My most enduring remembrances of my mother’s father are from the few hours spent alone with the old man traveling to and from a small farm he had near Hardinsburg, Indiana. We would drive in his Ford pick-up early in the morning from Louisville, KY, cross the Ohio River, and return in the afternoon. Take note of the fact that; I remember the time “traveling”. I remember very little of anything that ever happened during the day while we were actually on the farm. Once on the open road, “Pop” would take great pride in putting the old truck into neutral and then turn off the ignition, all in order to coast down the backside of the slightest little hill. Laughing, he would reach over and, with his strong grip, squeeze my left thigh just above the knee while extolling the virtue of gasoline conservation and evoking the opening line of our personal two-part mantra: POP LOVES JIMMY … and, as I was frantically pulling from his playful grasp, I would faithfully reply; JIMMY LOVES POP.
How could I create some, momentarily insignificant but possibly unforgettable, flash-back like this for my grandson? I decided Jimmy Link and I needed to take a trip. If he was going to remember his “Pop” like I remember mine, we had to hit the road and I didn’t own a farm. I also decided that the adventure we would undertake would be only the first of five episodes. If it was the right thing to do with him, it had to come about for his brother and his three Powell cousins. They were all younger so …
After bouncing it off his parents and a week or so of planning, we set out on our journey and here were the rules and procedures:
1) The primary destination of the trip would be determined by Jimmy Link.
2) Secondary stopovers, night-time accommodations, and routes taken would be left, primarily, to Pop’s discretion.
3) The duration of the trip was open-ended but targeted at 5 to 7 days.
4) Packed in Pop’s duffel bag was a little black book. It was the “journal” for the trip. Since Pop was an early riser, he (that’s me) would open the book from the front and, in the pre-dawn hour over his morning coffee, begin to document the previous day’s happenings and, of most importance, my observations and gut feelings. It was also allowed for me to reminisce and offer advice for the future … I had great leeway.
5) In the evenings before the TV could ever be turned on and probably after Pop had fallen fast asleep, Jimmy Link would open the same little black book from the back and put on paper in his best rendition of the Queen’s English, all that he had experienced and pondered during the day just ended.
6) It was(is), and affirmed by the solemn oath of both writers, forbidden to ever read a single word written by the other in their part of the journal.
* 6 continued) … the last and most important of all: we’ll get to later…
Beginning in 2008 and over the next nine years, I fulfilled my dream and traveled with all five of my grandsons on a trip of their choosing. With the exception of Jesse, each of the boys was at that magic age of 12 and none of the adventures were, even remotely, alike. Jesse, the youngest by a few minutes, was 13 when his time finally came. This departure from protocol was dictated by the fact that he and his twin, Luke, were the same age and their Pop, at age 76, was hesitant to attempt two trips in the same year. Jesse’s trip would have to wait but, unlike his mother’s womb, he wouldn’t have to share it with his brother.
Trip #1 – Charles James Link – 11/16/2008 – Pop’s Toyota Camry
Destination of his choosing: a mystery to me until we actually arrived … we only got there on the 2nd day of driving and after a night spent in Tallahassee, FL. It was a remote location just north of DeFuniak Springs, only 10 or 20 yards from the state line, designated as the highest place in the State of Florida. Jimmy Link had picked out the site from some topographical map expecting a mountain top vista. At less than 350 ft. above sea level, all we got was a down hill look at the road we had just come up or, looking the other way, … Welcome to Alabama.
After a night in Natchez, MS, and all we could eat at a Golden Corral, we drove on to Vicksburg where we visited the battlefield and the USS Cairo (an ironclad Civil War river gun-boat) museum. Moving north through the harvest ready cotton fields of the Mississippi delta, we would drive for what seemed like hours without a word ever being said. It wasn’t me … this boy just never talks! Passing the glow in the night-time sky of the State of Mississippi’s gambling Mecca at the state line, we get into Memphis, TN. This late arrival worked out fine because my main objective was to let Jimmy Link experience Beale Street, the home of the Blues. After driving down the night-club and bar festooned road, I decided to see if we could check-in close enough to the action to, at least, let us have a “stroll down the avenue”… At a motel, just off Beale, I was turned away by the desk attendant who, seeing a young boy in the automobile, probably suspected I was a pervert. I jumped back in the car and told my grandson “well, at least you can tell all your friends that you saw Beale St.” We drove on and soon got lost in a dark warehouse district down by the Mississippi River. A friendly Police officer told us how to get back to the Interstate and we were soon passing the same motel but headed in the opposite direction. The passing scenery had become very familiar when Jimmy Link looked at me, got this sarcastic grin on his face, and said; “now I can tell all of my friends that I saw Beale Street TWICE!”
Cold night in a motel on the Inter-state east of Memphis … drive up to Land-between-the-Lakes in Kentucky to visit maternal ancestors old homesteads and cemeteries, bypass Nashville and cross all of Tennessee before checking into a Motel 8 just outside of Chattanooga. That night, after dinner, turned out to be one of the high points of the trip for my grandson! I took him to the movies, paid no attention to what was showing and sat down in an aisle seat with my popcorn and a 12-year-old. Jimmy Link still likes to catch, just for old times sake, R-rated “Role Model” when the flick comes around on late night TV. (it was years later before his parents ever heard about this part of the trip)
It was Saturday and, after de-touring by Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, GA we checked into a motel near the Atlanta Airport so we could take MARTA back into the City and not have to worry about parking. Paying a visit to the Phi-Delt House, I mingled with a few old-timers inside while my grandson just stood around wringing his hands on the columned front porch. Sensing his shyness, and with a little behind the scenes prompting on my part, Jimmy Link was soon approached by the cute little date of a Phi brother and asked to be her playing partner for a game of Corn Hole … (slang, game names, and the English Language had really changed in the past 45 years). When the time was right and we had waited long enough for the prices to drop, I bought a couple of tickets from a swarthy scalper and, putting my arm around his shoulders, walked with my grandson through the cool night air over to Grant Field to watch Ga. Tech put a thumping on “The U”. (for you Auburn grads … that’s Miami)
The last day … Sunday driving back to Port St. Lucie with very few things to talk about. Tired of Inter-states, I took all the back roads I could find (you know you’re off the beaten path when you pass a sign near Starke, FL that tells you how close you are to the big local attraction… Raiford State Prison. Back in Port St. Lucie but, not wanting it all to end, stopped at a Chinese Restaurant with less than a mile to go … maybe we’ll do it again someday boy?
Every night before bedtime, writing in the little black journal, or the appearance of doing so, was required. Jimmy Link said he did and I took him at his word. Every morning I did my part … sometimes with more satisfaction than others, but always.
Trip #2 – William Reid Link – 8/11/2010 – Pop’s Trawler “Blue Heron”
Destination of his choosing: Willie Reid decides he wants to play Popeye so we’re off on the Inter-Coastal Waterway headed toward St. Augustine, FL. First day totally uneventful unless you count the Manatee that rocked the boat, near bedtime, by scratching his back on the boat along the boot stripe.
The end of day 2 found my young crew getting bored. He had really only taken an interest in one aspect of cruising: he was fascinated by the occasional wreck we would pass. They were of all different sizes and both power and sail but they all had a few characteristics in common … hard aground, full of seawater, and covered with barnacles. He was mesmerized and repeatedly ask me, “how can that happen Pop?” I’d usually just laugh and come back with something like–“just some dummy that didn’t know anything about boats and probably had had a few too many brew skis.” Knowing we couldn’t reach St. Augustine before dark, I deciding to turn off the charted ICW channel and head out the Matanzas River. It’s a natural waterway and the site of a tiny little coquina structure called Fort Matanzas. It’s also the site of two other things ……. shallow water sand bars and a rapidly changing 11 foot tide! My intent had been for us to dinghy in and visit the 17th Century attraction but we never thought we’d be able to do so by walking ashore. Willie Reid and I never got off the boat that night but we spent hours heeled over sideways as the Blue Heron, along with her crew and Captain, lay beached on dry land waiting for the tide to return and the other boaters to quit laughing at us. I noticed Willie Reid had stopped asking me about shipwrecks and looked a little uneasy every time I popped the tab on a new can of beer.
Days and nights of 3 and 4 ……. and we’re put in at the City of St. Augustine Marina. Hook up with an old neighbor and sailing mate: Lew Krantz. Lew, and especially his wife Debbie, took my young crewman under their wings and ….. Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not, Wax Museum, Fort San Marcos, petting Dolphins on the head at Marine Land, the Lighthouse and “The Oldest” of everything else! This was an almost identical experience to one his Pop had had on a 1953 road trip, at age 13, that took me all the way to New York City. (Willie Reid didn’t care but I wrote details and in great length in his journal)
At the end of day 4, our first full one in town, and after the Krantzes had dropped us off at the dock, Willie Reid was promptly adopted by a motley bunch of “First Coast Locals” fishing on the docks near our boat. They were catching giant flounder and my young crew joined them and stayed up until ……. then snuck out again later. I don’t think he was ready to leave but, after only two days, we had to get under way …..
Sailing home on the final day, again on the ICW, we went outside and into the Atlantic at the Ft. Pierce Inlet. We had plenty of time, the weather was fantastic, and …….. put out one line with a feather and piece of pork rind and another with the simple single hook wooden plug given to me by Trent Brown, Earl Stewart’s Captain. Between us, before the day was over, we hooked and landed a total of two denizens of the deep! Willie Reid was first and brought in a good-sized bonito in relatively short order but, some half hour later, it took Pop almost 10 minute to even get his catch to the side of the boat. After the fact, this was very understandable …… I had snagged a dreaded Sargasso snapper (clump of combination seaweed and discarded plastic)! Considering Willie Reid’s recent dockside tutoring in St. Augustine and my total lack of angling skills, this was about what to expect! But he didn’t have to keep laughing at me. Pop and his daughter’s youngest came in the Inlet at Stuart and were soon back on the St. Lucie River ……. mostly quiet now, I guess everything’s been said?
Every night before bedtime, writing in the little black journal, or the appearance of doing so, was required. Willie Reid said he did and I took him at his word. Every morning I did my part ….. sometimes with more satisfaction than others, but always!
In passing, I would be remiss if I did not mention a confrontation between me and Willie Reid. It occurred after setting the hook in Mosquito Lagoon the first night of our return voyage. The incident was minor and I have, long since, forgotten the details but the happening, and the mutual respect it engendered, will always come back to mind, at least for me, anytime my grandson chooses to utter, with emphasis, only two words ……….YES POP!
Trip #3 – Elias Bradford Powell – 6/25/2015 – various Airlines & a rental car
Destination of his choosing: This kid was expensive and caught me at a weak moment. Eli is a big time sports fan and, since it’s summertime … why not go to a baseball game? Even better, why not go to a Major League baseball game? Better still, while we’re at it ….. if we’ve got 4 or 5 days, why don’t we go to 4 Major League baseball games in 4 different Cities? ….. and, because of the logistics involved, this would all have to transpire over a 4 day period. Economy Parking at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport is closer to LaBelle than it is to the Atlantic Ocean but that’s where I left my car before boarding an Allegiant Airline’s flight to Greenville, SC. Overnight with my son Bobby and his family, then ….. fly off to Chicago with Eli, pick up the rental car at the Airport (no, I don’t want the additional insurance), check in at the Palmer House, where I decide to take a little nap before game time. I turn Eli loose to do a little exploring, but only after his promise not to “leave the Hotel”. Awoken by a knock on the Hotel room door …… a Hotel Security Policewoman …… Eli had been arrested! Minors are not allowed in the roof-top pool solarium without supervision. My grandson was released into my custody but he showed little remorse ….. he told me that he only got caught because he didn’t have any identification to show when he tried to rent a bathing suit. …… One convict and a grand-dad catch the Elevated out to Wrigley. Cubs and Dodgers, Eli gets Clayton Kershaw’s autograph and spends some of his own money in, what will become, a ritualistic 30 minute pilgrimage to the “souvenir shop”. Cubs lose and we eat Chicago style pizza on the way back to the Hotel.
Leave Palmer House and find out it has cost me $23.00 to self-park my car, over night, in the garage across the street. Drive to Detroit in the rain but it clears up by the time we arrive at the Marriott. Nothing but rubble where most of the adjacent buildings used to stand but the sign in front of the parking lot across the street says $5.00 / All Day. When I asked the attendant “how much for overnight?” ….. he laughed out loud and told me to hand the keys to the Hotel valet because the closest guarded lot was 8 miles away ……. $18.50 plus a $5 tip ……. on the way, as we walked to Tiger Stadium, ate one Coney Island chili dog each at both the American and the Lafayette, (In Detroit, the two restaurants are next door to each other and in the same building. Every Motor City resident has a favorite …. Eli and I agreed …. we both go with the Frenchman!), and get to the ball park just in time for Detroit vs. the Chicago White Sox.
Morning drive to Pittsburgh where we will put up with an old business acquaintance and his family. Wade Horigan and one of his sons take us to Primanti Brother’s for one of their World Famous hamburgers and I got to go down memory lane seeing haunts and neighborhoods where I had spent the entire summer of 1961. (That’s a story for another time). The 4 of us get to the twilight game (Pirates & Braves) a little early, giving Eli some extra time to check out the souvenir shop.
Off mid-morning, after a hardy breakfast at the Horigans, heading east on the PA Turnpike when I get the idea to take a break from all this baseball ….. turn off near, but not close enough to, Gettysburg. Twenty-five or thirty miles of winding mountain road and Eli didn’t pack his motion sickness medicine ……. I wasn’t aware of anything being wrong until I heard a faint plea from my passenger: “Pop, can you please slow down?” ……. it all works out and Eli and Pop spend 2 or 3 hours on a Sunday afternoon looking at graveyards and paying homage at the pink granite monument dedicated to the North Carolina 26th Infantry. (the unit in which Eli’s 5great-grandfather died while serving)
Arrive in Baltimore with just enough daylight left to make us appreciate not having to live in Baltimore. Eli asks me if the streets we’re driving on to reach the ball park were “in the hood”? I forget my answer …. we were soon at the 4th game in four days. Baltimore vs. Cleveland Indians ….. even Eli was worn out so we left after the 7th inning stretch. Another Marriott near the Airport where I find out Eli hasn’t brushed his teeth in 5 days ………
Turn in the rental car and fly Southwest back to Greenville where Pop rests for a couple of days before facing another miserable experience with Allegiant. (how can that outfit stay in business?) Get back to Ft. Lauderdale 4 hours late at 3:15 AM and, after retrieving my car and a 90 mile drive, not in my own bed until sun-up.
There ended up being a lot of frustration and weariness in the week gone by but it only came as the result of an old man trying, but failing, to keep up the pace.
Through all of this; the following still held true ………… Every night before bedtime, writing in the little black journal, or the appearance of doing so, was required. Eli said he did and I took him at his word. The last morning of Eli’s trip was the only instance, on any of the 5 adventures, where I failed to get up early enough to complete my writing. Later, before take-off, I took advantage of our wait time in the Baltimore Airport to do so.
Trip #4 – Luke Robert Powell – 6/27/2016 – Pop’s Camry and three boats
Destination of his choosing: Luker wanted to go fishing. He didn’t care where or for what and that’s what we did!
Luke’s fishing trip with Pop actually started with his Dad , my son Bobby, tagging along. Before even showing up in Palm City, the two of them went to a Marlin’s baseball game in Miami…… drive up and kill a day visiting and planning.
Now’s when the first of my PBHS Class of 1958 gang comes into play in Luke’s trip. Earl Stewart arranges for a 3 generational deep-sea outing on KAIZEN, his 60′ sport-fish. Earl, his son Stu, and grandson Jake welcome the 3 generations of Powells aboard for Sailfish, Dolphin, and Black Fin Tuna. We bring both great memories and a mountain of sashimi back to Palm City at the end of the day.
Finally on our own, Luker and Pop drive south. A quick stop in Homestead ….. my grandson hasn’t spent much time in nursing homes but, then again, Max Gelders doesn’t hang out with many 12 year olds …… After dinner on the way down at Bud N’ Mary’s on Islamorada, check in at the first of what will become a parade of Flee-Bags. This one in Marathon.
Billy Wilkinson has hooked us up with a fishing guide so, after a quick gravy biscuit at the Stuffed Pig, it’s chum’em, hook’em, and haul’em in on both the reef and outside in blue water! Back at the marina restaurant, we have lunch (the snapper we have just caught …. prepared 4 different ways) with Billy and his lovely wife Karen. Gotta go! …….. we got a long way to go and a short time to get there ….US #1….north bound …… “one road in, one road out, that’s what the Keys are all about!” Long afternoon drive ………… Flee-Bag #2; just off I-75 in Ocala ……. got in late and dined Italian.
On the road headed west before dawn ….. barely time to check in at Flee-Bag #3 in Steinhatchee before we’re outfitted with masks, snorkels, and fins and diving deep; 40!, sometimes 50! …………………. inches. Our elusive prey, as we follow our guides instructions, is the crafty and vicious ………. scallop.
With our limit being cleaned back at the dock, Luke and I track down another PBHS grad and invite him to share our bounty. I had run into Steve Davidson (Class of “61”) on Sammy Bigbie and my second voyage on the Blue Heron. Fried, grilled, and sautéed scallop dinner with Steve and a few beers, then Luke and I are off to bed early (what else are you going to do in Steinhatchee?)
Saying good-bye to #3 and our uninvited and undetected bed-buddy, a 4 inch green toad, Luker and I left Steinhatchee and headed north. Breakfast in Mayo, FL where both waitresses on duty claimed to be Kerwin (the “Throwin Mayoan” of U of F fame) Bell’s steady girlfriend in high school. On up the road …… my young charge had never experienced a spring and Florida’s are famous world-wide! On the road, headed towards Live Oak, we turn off at a little sign that read: CONVICT SPRINGS …….. Luke still hasn’t experienced a spring (it was sad); maybe on his next trip down? Sammy Bigbie was out with his chainsaw trimming oaks and killing snakes when we stopped by ………. didn’t stay long and it’s Atlanta here we come! Stop to buy bag ice for scallops we’re carrying in a cooler in the trunk …. late lunch (2 chili dogs, a glorified, 2 onion rings, along with a PC and big Orange at The Varsity), walk around the Ga. Tech Campus, stop by the Phi-Delt House and, finally, check into the fancy digs across Hemphill Ave. from the Coca-Cola International Headquarters, right across from the Tech. campus on North Ave. (no flea-bag, are you impressed?), Dinner downtown ……. bad German.
Next morning ……. the Coke Factory ……… you or I couldn’t do it! Who else but the Coca-Cola Corp. could persuade thousands of people to travel from all around the globe, wait in line for hours, then pay 10 or 12 dollars to see, virtually, nothing but a blatant multi-storied documentary advertisement about Coca-Cola! On the way out of Atlanta and headed towards Greenville, SC, Luke and Pop stop off at 401 Wimbledon Rd. and pay a brief visit to a small cottage that was the first place his grandparents ever called home. This boy has been a Champion to have kept his happy demeanor as I drug him from one old classmate or haunt to another. Looking back, I think I’d taken out many of the frustrations I felt in the aftermath of Eli’s hectic and demanding baseball traveling marathon, on his younger brother ……… someday, hopefully, you’ll understand Luker.
I know it’s getting monotonous but let me repeat ………… Every night before bedtime, writing in the little black journal, or the appearance of doing so, was required. Luke said he did and I took him at his word. Every morning I did my part ….. sometimes with more motivation than others, but always!
Trip #5 – Jesse Michael Powell – 8/3/2017 – Pop’s Camry
Destination of his choosing: Jesse vacillated between “go west young man” for Pro Hockey in Nashville and St. Louis ,,,, or head east for the beaches. Winter turned into spring, which morphed into summer … hockey season ended, so we packed our bathing suits.
Left Greenville too late to reach saltwater–turned off the inter-state before Columbia and spent the night in the Camden, SC lakeside home of George Corbin and his beautiful wife Joan. George is a fraternity brother and fellow jock from Tech. Mr. Corbin went out and bought some worms and Jesse caught brim off the back yard dock!
Signs along the highway should have been my first clue! The old tourist trap put-down of “cotton candy and hats with your name on them” may have originated in Atlantic City but it had moved south … ONLY 48 Miles to go ….. there weren’t many pine trees along this Carolina roadside; too little room for them to grow between the billboards. Even before Jesse told me his surprise destination, I knew where it had to be …….. Myrtle Beach, the Grand Strand, and Dolly Parton’s “Pirates Voyage”! Checked into a mom & pop ocean front motel. Jesse was disappointed when told it wasn’t retched enough to qualify for “flee-bag” status but promptly hit the sand and surf while Pop took a nap. Can’t sleep too long , we’d be late for ………. 3 and a half hours of water-logged, red-neck, and acrobatic “dinner theater”. Terrible indigestion, a dollar for another pack of gummy bears, and a last minute souvenir shop visit for a red “Myrtle Beach Life Guard” tee-shirt …….. will this day ever end?
“Why are we at the American Legion Hall in Calabash?” Jesse had asked a good question ………. we had spent the last two hours searching for a small bar and marina on the Calabash River that his grandmother and I had tied up to one night in 1989 soon after Hurricane Hugo had devastated the Carolinas. The Legionnaires were my last hope but none of the old soldiers had any knowledge of its location or had even been in town that long ago. Time to move on, more beaches ahead of us. Monumental purchase of the trip at a 7-ELEVEN…….. an ordinary, folded filling station style, North Carolina road map. Jesse wants to track our every turn! After Wilmington and the Fort Fisher Museum came Carolina Beach and some other one, I never got out of the car and can’t remember the name. We soon ran out of coastline road and, heading inland, made for another of “my secret destinations”! Plymouth, NC: the site of the last major Confederate victory in the Civil War and home of the replica of the gunboat, CSS Albemarle on the Roanoke River. So-so room at a Hampton Inn and horrible pizza and antipasto at Mama’s Diner next door ……..ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz
If God ever decided to give the USA an enema, there’s no doubt as to where he would insert the hose! The eastbound 2 lane road leading to the bridge crossing the Alligator River traverses the most worthless land I’ve ever seen …… but let’s call it the Rainbow Highway! It leads to the Atlantic Ocean and the pot of gold at its end is called Nag’s Head! After tiring of counting Lamborghinis parked in the driveways we were just in time for …….. Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers National Park, exhibit, and lecture! (if you ever get the chance, don’t miss it!) Gave up trying to fight weekend traffic on the dead end road headed to Duck, NC and just jumped back in the Ocean …….. remembering how: I tried to show Jesse the Lido Beach method of wave riding and didn’t do bad. But, when the time came to get back to dry land, I had to crawl on my all-fours against the soft sand and undertow. Showered, we got back in the car and headed inland once again. Disappointed that, after going 40 miles out of our way to find it, his roadmap search inspired destination du jour; Powellsville, turned out to be nothing but a Zip code; Jesse and I kept on driving. A monument tour and photo-op at the State Capital in Raleigh, inter-state “40” to Greensboro, NC, a fairly clean Quality Inn and another night of pleasant dreams about our next morning’s Free Breakfast!
Before Lenore, NC was officially incorporated it was named “Powellton” and the cemetery at Lower Creek Baptist Church is home to 3 generations of Jesse Powell’s male forbearers. Today, Lenore is just a stop off on the highway up the mountain towards Boone, Banner Elk, Sugar Mountain, and eventually ……. Knoxville, TN. Ted Davis was a teammate and fraternity brother in college, a successful veterinarian, and a caring husband and father. Ted had also played 7 years of football in the NFL. His years with the Colts, Dolphins, and Saints had resulted in the surgery scared and pain racked body of an old man who couldn’t get out of bed. I’d been promising to visit with him for years and, at least for an hour or two, there I was ………. me and Jesse! The destinations of these past few days were obviously not my grandson’s choices. I had taken over Jesse’s adventure itinerary but this didn’t diminish our interaction. Our on-going conversations were candid and sincere ……… I hadn’t turned off the Camry’s ignition or coasted down any hills but I had gotten closer to Jesse, and learned more about him, than I had any of the others.
Finally, Jesse got his “Flee-Bag”. The only thing worse than our motel, eastbound out of Knoxville, was the “New Orleans style Restaurant” across the Street! (Try Cuban food in Miami, French in Montreal, or Mexican in El Paso, but Cajun in East Tennessee …..?) Had to give the boy at least one more night on the road but I had developed a nagging shoulder and neck pain ……… one last night, this one with my sister and brother-in-law in Waynesville, NC ………. Uncle John took Jesse rafting as I convalesced ……… my father told me one time: “don’t get old, boy” …. I didn’t listen to him!
Last morning, and down the mountain to Greenville, SC …….
Yes, and for the last time ………… Every night before bedtime, writing in the little black journal, or the appearance of doing so, was required. Jesse said he did and I took him at his word. Every morning I did my part ….. every morning!
* 6 continued) …….. I have honored this vow and none of the five journals have ever been opened since the day each journey ended. I have even chosen not to revisit my own thoughts and accountings. I am resolved to continue this practice until I departs this world. Soon after that day the boys, now men, will be given their journal to read and share as they see fit and a voice somewhere will whisper to each: “Pop loves ………” and, hopefully, all five will smile and come back with “……… loves Pop”.