A New Perspective on Family

9 03 2010

I woke up around 10 a.m. Sunday morning. It was one of those rare mornings on the trip that Jim didn’t rouse me at the crack of dawn. And for that I was grateful.

I called Keith and he said he’d be by the hotel in about an hour to pick me up. I was looking forward to spending the day with my brother, Courtney, his loving wife and their beautiful baby girl Dillan.

Keith took me back to their townhouse in nearby Irving, a suburb of Dallas that for many years was home to the city’s beloved professional football team — the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys were my childhood favorite team and I watched many a game on Sundays after church. Dad usually watched them with me, but for some reason, he never rooted for the Cowboys. Dad always sided with the team playing the Cowboys. Maybe this was his way of establishing a rivalry between us.

Keith always rooted for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, even when they won just a couple of games. He was loyal like that. Still is.

But on this Sunday, football was far from anyone’s mind. At the townhouse, Courtney pulled out their wedding album and suddenly we were skipping down memory lane. They had been married just a few short years, but the images seemed like so long ago.

For a guy my age, I haven’t been to many weddings. Just not my scene. Maybe one day I will tie the knot. They say it’s a life changer. Much like having a child. My little brother has done both and I am very proud of him.

Looking through the photos with Courtney was a bonding experience. My mother looked so happy. It was fun dancing with her at the reception.

After looking at pictures, we went shopping in the SouthLake section of Dallas. Turns out, dining with a toddler can be quite entertaining. Dillan was well behaved but she requires a lot of attention. You gotta make sure she doesn’t put just anything in her mouth. And luckily, she didn’t throw her food at anyone. I’m pretty sure I did that as an infant.

After we were finished, Keith left a hefty tip. “We like to eat out just like everybody else,” he said.  This was a new perspective on family.

I was impressed at how well Keith navigated the stores, especially that bustling Barnes & Noble, with a loaded down stroller. It made me think about the summer in New York and noticing all those young couples pushing their baby strollers through Central Park.

Strolling through SouthLake

I remember the look on their faces. For some, it was a look of sacrifice, while others appeared downright miserable. And then, there was the couple whose smiles could light up Broadway.

That’s what I saw from Keith and Courtney. I guess you would call it joy.

That night, after baby girl was put down to sleep, Keith helped me download some songs to my I-Pod. We talked a little about the upcoming college bowl season and then it was time for me to leave.

Courtney gave me a big hug and she asked Keith to take a few pictures of us. When I left, she had a tear in her eye. I hope it was a tear of joy. I really don’t care to be pitied. It’s way overrated.

On the ride back to the hotel, Keith and I mostly talked about the economy. He said the recession was starting to creep into his health care sector and, like most of us, he was none too thrilled.

“It’s going to get better,” I tried to assure him. At that point, the entire trip’s air of optimism had taken hold, “And, we’ll all be stronger for it.”

When I got back to the room, Jim was already fast asleep. We had a 12-hour drive back to Panama City ahead of us.

And I was ready to go home.

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Leaving New York

13 11 2009

I left New York after the Labor Day weekend. Barry was back teaching in Berkeley, Omar had moved to Iowa and Shaun was still collecting unemployment in Queens.

The summer in the City had taken its physical toll. All of the walking produced a realization that I am not 25 anymore.  Mentally, it was challenging as well. Shelter should never be taken for granted.

I have spent the last couple of months recovering from New York. Going to the Beach, riding my bike and writing. Old Man Winter will be here soon.

I have made plans to visit family in Texas. Life springs anew there. My brother is now a father. Dillan Kate McDonald celebrated her first birthday in August. Courtney, the proud mother, sent a photo of Dillan in my birthday card. She is beautiful. Blue eyes, golden hair and a smile that will warm the heart of the coldest journalist.

We will travel to Dallas via automobile. No Greyhound this time. Mr. Smith has taken care of the arrangements. He makes this trip every year. Without his help, I would not be able to see Dillan. New York broke me.

“That’s what they say about New York,” Omar told me. “It either welcomes you with open arms or chews you up and spits you out.”

New York did chew on my spirit pretty good. But now I must get back in the saddle and ride again. The lessons learned in the City will no doubt serve us well out West.

There are a couple of tasks that must be dealt with before the trip. Meetings with doctors and lawyers, of course, and brunch with Goede, my trusted director friend.

We have brunched for several years now and the meetings are always enlightening. Goede got a front row seat to my last flameout and, to his credit, has stuck around to help pick up the pieces.

He can be tough and brutally honest and many times I have regretted not following his advice more sincerely. Goede warned not to quit my job at the newspaper.

“There is a recession coming, John, some say we are already in it,” he advised.

Unfortunately, I did not listen.

Next week, Goede and I will meet before I leave for Texas. Through our e-mail communications, he has informed me that I have a few questions to answer and it is important that we brunch in an atmosphere conducive for listening.

This time I will be prepared.