Thankful for Dillan

15 12 2009

For Texas, Dallas is that shining city on the hill.

A bold tribute to the Lone Star State’s success in many ways. The city’s sky line is a view to behold and it’s diverse population likes to consider itself a “cut above” that of Houston, Atlanta and most certainly New Orleans.

My brother has called Dallas home for quite some time now. When Jim and I pulled into town, I gave him a call.

We had not been on the best of terms of late and I had come to regret this a great deal.

Younger by a good four years, Keith had matured faster into manhood. He was married and the father of a beautiful baby girl. Courtney, his wife, had recently landed a nice paying job as a public school teacher and the family of three lived in a condominium complex in the Dallas suburbs.

Miss Dillan Kate

My niece

On Thanksgiving Day, Keith and Courtney brought the baby by the hotel where Jim and I were bunking for the night. Jim’s schedule did not allow for much family time on the first stop through Dallas. I would have more time to visit on the way back.

Still, I really wanted to see my niece and Keith graciously accommodated this request. She was walking now and eager to explore.

They named her Dillan Kate, a nod to our Scots-Irish heritage. She was more than a handful these days, rambling around the lobby of the Crowne Plaza, pacifier firmly in place, seeking out stairs to climb and rooms to roam.

I introduced Keith and Courtney to Jim and after a few pleasantries, the old engineer retired upstairs to finish watching the Cowboys game. Jim wasn’t too keen on toddlers.

I, however, couldn’t keep my eyes off Dillan. Her eyes…that face, it jogged my memory something fierce. I had seen that tender look before, decades ago in Central Florida. It was hard to believe my little brother was now a daddy.

I was proud for them.

That night, Jim and I visited the Oak Lawn neighborhood in Downtown Dallas where we had dinner and drinks.

Jim explained that this was the more affluent section of town and we would have no problem striking up conversation at the local watering hole, appropriately enough, called “J.R.’s.”

I really wanted to be with Keith, Courtney and Dillan, but that wasn’t part of the deal. I think they understood, at the very least, I hoped they did.

At J.R.’s, a large Hispanic fellow tried to pick me up. Jim offered little support. Fortunately, I was able to politely deflect his advances and eventually the man left.

“Jim!,” I said intently. “You gotta be a better wing-man!!”

“He wasn’t my type,” he replied.

Later, another man approached us. He was a stout guy, in his early 40s I’d say and very clean cut.

The man bought us three rounds of beer and come to find out he was a military contractor just back from Iraq. Having served his time in the Army, Jim was much more engaged in this conversation.

With a long drive to Amarillo ahead of us, we called it a night early, thanked our newfound contractor friend for the drinks and headed back to the Crowne Plaza.

It was a Thanksgiving with no family around a dinner table. No dad carving turkey. No mom making dressing in the kitchen. No relatives bemoaning the ills of the country.

But the Cowboys were still playing football and I had just seen the next generation of McDonalds.

Much to be thankful for.

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