Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Reason for the Odyssey

Odyssey; noun...a long series of wanderings or adventures, especially when filled with notable experiences.

Why am I calling this vacation an odyssey?
Since our return, I have worked two funerals. The first was a forty one year old man that was tragically killed in an automobile accident. His fiancee was definitely not the only one there mourning his death. In fact, it was standing room only. Every chair in the place had been used and there were still people filing in the doorway. Our supply of tissue boxes was dwindling rapidly. The air conditioners were running full power and it was still over 80 degrees in the service because of all the body heat. His death came as a shock to the whole town and everyone wanted a chance to say good bye.
The second funeral was much smaller. The daughter did not even want her father's death notice to be placed in the obituaries or on the funeral home website. It was a private affair attended by only her and her husband. She requested that everything be kept private.

After our adventures on this past trip, the contrast in these two funerals seems especially pronounced. You see, this trip was not about getting away to an exotic location. It wasn't about staying in a nice hotel. It wasn't about escaping the dropping temperatures in Michigan. This trip was about reconnecting with old friends. It was about staying in contact with people that we love. Everyone mourns in their own way. If I died today, I'd like the packed house with standing room only.

How many times do we say that we will call someone and put it off until later? How many times do we say that we are going to visit someone someday and never do? It would be easy for me to say that I have been in the same house for 18 years and it wasn't me that moved away, they should come see me! But that's not how it works here on the Brighter Side.
Sorry guys! But you knew this photo would end up here.

We've had several friends move away in the past several years. Most of them to Texas. So a year and a half ago, when one of those friends (Stephanie) called us in the middle of the night, worried for her son (who was 12 years old at the time) because he just came out to her as being gay, we told her that we'd be there for her, no matter what. We would be that support team that everyone needs to get through this tough time for a mother. The fears of her child being beat up or made fun of. The worry that he might not be able to fulfill all his dreams. And for her son and all the questions that he is bound to have as he grows and experiences this wonderful life. As things progressed and she found that junior high kids are not as harsh to gay kids as they used to be and that Spencer would be OK after all, we made a promise to her that we would go to Texas and take him to his first gay pride parade. We took the long way around to get there. But we made it. It rained on our parade all day. As you can see, we were all soaked through and through by the end of it. But the important thing is that both Spencer and his mom got to see that it's not as bad as the news and churches make it out to be. Our friend wins Mom of the Year in our book for taking her son to such an event. And Spencer couldn't have been happier. He's a smart kid and knows to be careful. He has an amazing support system with his family, friends and even his Guncles Ed and Stew. After a rain soaked day at Dallas Pride, as the sun set in the West as it usually does, the clouds broke and a huge double rainbow was cast across the whole city of Dallas. Perhaps God's way of saying that it's OK to be gay?

Double Rainbow as seen from our suite on the North side of the city.
But they are not the only reason that we went to Texas. And we certainly learned how BIG Texas really is. Since we had several destinations, we decided that driving was the way to go. To buy a dozen plane tickets would have been a fortune and with the new car, our total cost for gas for our 3200 mile trip was only $380! I do love to drive anyway, so it just made sense.

Do you ever need an excuse to go see a friend? No!
But our reasons to go to Texas were stacking up. About five years ago or so, my best friend Jon and his wife packed up everything they owned and moved to a small town near Beaumont in search of work. And three years ago a young man, Josh, that was first a friend from my retail job and then a roommate for a while, decided to move to Waco to be with his family, who had moved to Texas in search of work as well.

We try to keep in touch with everyone, but time and distance is no one's friend. We left New Orleans headed for that small Texas town that Jon now calls home. Traveling across Southern Louisiana was an experience like no other travel that either of us had done before. If the seventeen hours to New Orleans wasn't a test enough on the new car, these series of bridges that seem to go on forever certainly were. There's no place to stop for miles and did you see how much rubber is on those over-sized rims on that car. I swear, if I get a flat tire, I just have to go to an office supply store and pick up some rubber bands and I'll be fine for a couple hundred miles. Every bump is felt in that car.

But we made it to town in one piece (so I thought). Since they are in the process of moving house again, the tour of the place wasn't long. But dinner out was amazing. Made even more so by the company. It reminded me of why he's my best friend. And gave us the chance to get to know his wife, Stephanie better. It turns out that she's not just the mean lady that stole my best friend from me. She's got quite a personality on her and I can totally see why Jon married her. It was a Monday night when we got there and they both had to work the next day. But we stayed up talking well into the night. Come morning light, we did not want to say good-bye again. Our visits are way too short. We miss them both already.

Should I get a pair for my new car?
We left for Waco that morning. Another six hours in the car. This time, across the back highways of Texas. Ranch after ranch with fences that went on forever and big iron gates at the entrance to each and every one of them. Cows to left, cows to right, cows up ahead! They certainly like their cattle out there.

We had booked a suite in Waco and were looking forward to relaxing with Josh, catching up on new things and reminiscing about old. We had taken some things in from the car and as Ed was settling in, I ran out to get some more things. I ducked my head into the back seat area and picked up a bag. As I stood back up, it felt as though someone had stabbed me from behind. I quickly fell to the cement next to the car where a black grackle bird was enjoying some of the trail mix that had spilled out of the container and I had tossed it out of the car. I couldn't move. I looked around for help or to see who had done this to me. I only saw the bird. Who by now is looking at me like I'm his next meal.

With no one in sight, and dinner planned with Josh and his dad, I forced myself through the pain and rolled over. I eventually was able to upright myself and managed to drag the last bag into the hotel. Every step was causing me so much pain that I could barely stand. I entered the room where Ed was waiting and explained what happened. He helped me to the bed and got me some left over pain killers from a previous injury. I took two! Within minutes, Josh and his dad were there. I did not drive 1500 miles to lay in a hotel room or visit a hospital. So I pulled myself up and we went to dinner over at Buzzard Billy's.(Jokingly pronounced boozard Billy's)
Yes, I drove! The road in front of the restaurant was under construction and every bump sent pain shooting through my back again. But despite the pain, dinner was quite good and again, the company even better.

They have a deck that overhangs the river and the turtles and ducks know where to go to be fed. So we hung out enjoying the sunset and decided that I should get some rest if we wanted to do anything the next day.


ZielonaMila said...

Fantastic photographs, interesting story. I am greeting

MorningAJ said...

Do you know what caused the pain? I know you don't want to waste a minute - but PLEASE take care of yourself.

Spencer's a nice-looking lad. I hope all's well for him and he doesn't face too much intolerance.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog, as I live in Texas. I have two daughters who are police officers in austin, TX. they are both lesbians. I love them dearly because I know that their sexual preferences does NOT make them all of who they are.

Anonymous said...


As I have said before there are not enough words to express to you and Ed the appreciation and respect I have for both of you. I am not sure that I would have gotten through those earlier days without the support I received from ya'll. I suppose I might have found a way, Spencer being the amazing kid he is and the love I have for him would have eventually gotten me to that place. Having the two of you there to reassure me, to support me and really just being my friend was more then I could have ever hoped for. I am certain that your friendships has gotten me to this "good place" a whole quicker. The things I have learned are to many to list but trust me when I say that I have definitely learned a LOT (even things as small as gackles:)

I am so grateful to have both of you in my life not just for Spencer's sake but because I truly consider BOTH of you MY friends!


Ms Sparrow said...

What great guys you are for actively supporting Spencer. You Rock!

Old joke from Bob Hope: "When you drive across Texas, there's nothing but miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles!"

So I'm curious, what kind of back injury did you have? Did the grackle attack you or was that a coincidence?

laura.forestdreams:) said...

ooooh...sounded like such a nice...anbd much needed trip...wonderful pictures & visiting with friends...until i got to the end, and you pulled something in your back! yikes! i could feel your pain!!
i hope by now your back is better...take care of yourself...

(please be patient with me, i'm so far behind in my reading...will be doing lots of catching up over the next few days!)

Stew said...

Absolutely right! It is such a small part of who we are. There is so much more to everyone. And it's those stories of someone's life that makes my job so amazing.

Stew said...

The grackle didn't seem to have any fear of me. But I doubt that I was on it's menu.

Stew said...

That's what friends are for. And we are equally as appreciative for your friendship.

ptc said...

The little rainbow looks very nice I love this weather !