Life is funny. My family moved away from New Orleans more than fifty years ago. Since then I have lived in Baton Rouge, Jackson, back to the New Orleans area (Slidell), Dallas, Baton Rouge, Waco, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston (Katy), Austin and Baton Rouge.
Today my first grandchild was born in the same hospital where I was born nearly 55 years ago. Full circle.
My daughter-in-law is a stud. She was in labor for well over twenty-four hours before she delivered.
Before she delivered my granddaughter. She’s perfect, Caitie and Mike are both doing well, and we are headed back to Baton Rouge. I have been awake since yesterday morning, so I am ready to get home. But I am doing OK, because I am now a grandfather.
There will be more to tell, and we are still worried about our friends that are dealing with Harvey. Right now, though, we are going home and going to bed.
My family has what my wife calls “the weather gene.”
My grandfather owned a farm and a nursery (in addition to being a mortician and funeral director) and my father graduated from college with a degree in Botany, so there is no real professional aspect to the weather expertise. Mostly just good ol’ practical experience.
But, whenever something starts churning around in the Gulf of Mexico this time of year, Peggy just kind of expects me to know what is going to happen. It is flattering if not always accurate.
I returned to San Antonio on Monday this week only to have a surprise of a hurricane show up in the western part of the Gulf. I know what you are thinking — San Antonio is pretty far inland to be worrying about a hurricane — and that is a true statement.
However, I had a grandbaby scheduled to come this week in New Orleans, and wherever that hurricane decides to go is likely between me and said grandbaby. Let me just say that the phrase “Come hell or high water” seems particularly appropriate.
Using my high-tech weather forecasting skills I determined that the hurricane was going to come ashore between Corpus Christi and Houston, so I decided to leave today and get on the other side of the storm. This decision became more important when Peggy called to tell me that Caitie was in labor and headed to the hospital.
There is nothing quite like driving into an area that is expecting a hurricane. Fill up your gas tank whenever you see gas available because there is not likely to be any available the closer you get to where the storm is supposedly headed. And don’t even think about finding bread or bottled water. Fortunately, fast food was readily available on the road.
I left San Antonio a little after noon with Peggy giving me updates on baby status via text message. Weather updates were a little easier to get — stick my hand out the window.
Getting through Houston was a predictable nightmare, but I got out of there before it got too bad. What should have been a nine hour drive turned into eleven before I got to the hospital in New Orleans.
Good news — I have not missed the birth of my grandchild.
Bad news — Caitie has now been in labor all day with no baby to show for it.
Good news — Hurricane Harvey is not likely to hit Baton Rouge or New Orleans, so we are in pretty good shape now that I am here.
Bad news — Hurricane Harvey is now between me and getting back to work. And he is going to do some damage before he is done.
I got here, and I will let you know when I have a grandchild.
For now, we are just waiting. And praying for those that are now in Harvey’s path.
You may recall that I had ankle surgery at the end of last year, and today was what will likely be the last follow-up visit with the surgeon. The surgery was largely unsuccessful, even after seven months of serious rehab work. Bummer.
But it meant I got to do something very important.
LSU has had a live tiger mascot since the 1930’s, and I have known all of them since Mike III. I would visit Mike III every time I came to campus, and he always came over and greeted me. Probably because I looked tasty.
Mike III died when I was about to start high school, so I had to develop a new relationship at an awkward time in life. Fortunately, Mike IV and I struck up a wonderful friendship. When I went to LSU in August of 1980 I lived in the football stadium. Mike’s enclosure was right outside my window, literally forty yards away. One of my favorite memories is when he would occasionally roar at night. I would frequently roar back. I spent many an evening sitting in my lawn chair outside his enclosure visiting with him, and we had many meaningful chats. I also took Peggy to meet him when we were dating. I know it was a lot of pressure, but Mike approved of her wholeheartedly. I think Peggy understood…
Mike V had a glorious reign, including a football national championship and five baseball national championships. My visits with him were more limited since I lived so far away, but every time I came to see him he would meet me at the fence and roll for me. He also provided a personal highlight by “spraying” a group of obnoxious tourists who were yelling at him to come closer for a picture. He came closer, all right, and let ’em have it. Tiger justice.
Mike VI may have been the most beautiful cat I have ever seen, and he had a wonderful personality to match. He was the mascot when I moved back to Baton Rouge, so he and I visited often. He oversaw a football national championship and a baseball national championship. He was extremely playful even when he became ill with the cancer that killed him. His death was a very sad day.
A lot of tiger history, but it sets up what happened today. Today was Mike VII’s first day on campus, and I got to be here to share it with him. He is just a baby — a 175-pound baby — but he walked right over to me, flopped and rolled for me. I told him that I had stuck around just to see him. He is likely to be the biggest of all the mascots, but today he is still a kitten. I told him I would be back soon to visit. I think he was pleased, but it is hard to tell — we’re just getting to know each other.
I have written a lot this year about the pain of losing parents as we get older. It sucks, but it is inevitable and is the way of the world. To be honest, the alternative — parents losing children — is much worse to me.
I am not ready to start losing friends.
We all have those tragic moments of death in youth. Two of my closest friends died together in a plane crash when I was 21. It was tragic and it was tough. But that’s not what I am talking about.
I’m talking about people my age or even a little younger. We got news today that the former husband of one of Peggy’s closest friends died this week. He was a year younger than me.
When we lived in Dallas we used to do things with Paige and Bruce. Paige was Peggy’s maid of honor and Peggy was a bridesmaid and I sang in Paige and Bruce’s wedding. When we left Dallas we would see them when we came to town, usually for dinner or lunch somewhere. Food and drink was an important part of the relationship. Sometimes too important a part, especially the drink.
Bruce didn’t die in a car accident. He didn’t commit suicide. He just died, and that is not supposed to happen to 53-year-old men. He was a week older than Peggy.
I suppose this is one of those moments that should cause me to think about being healthier, exercising more, eating less. In reality it just makes me sad. Even though Bruce and Paige were no longer married they were still close. They have been excellent parents to the son they share, and they have been very engaged in his life. I don’t think either of them held out any hope or desire for reconciliation, but they have remained very good friends.
I am truly sad for Paige, and I am truly sad for a young man losing his father while still a college student. He should have had many more years to get support and advice from his father.
Take care of yourselves, folks. And show the ones you love that you love them, every day.
My life as a road warrior began this week, living in Baton Rouge and working in San Antonio. I have decided to drive back home three weeks out of the month and have Peggy come visit San Antonio one weekend per month. There is one thing that will put a kink in those plans, though…
Today we drove from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to visit my son and his wife. As I have mentioned before, they are expecting our first grandchild in a couple of weeks. They wanted some pictures taken while great with child, so we drove over to visit with them and take some photographs. We also took them to lunch, and we took my nephew with us. Beautiful pictures, great food, good day.
Tomorrow I will get back in the car and drive to San Antonio. I will come back home next weekend unless I have a reason to come back sooner. If the grandbaby arrives anytime soon I do not think I am going to be seeing Peggy in San Antonio for a while. I’m good with that.
We’re pretty stoked about the whole grandparent thing, so I don’t expect to get tired of the driving right away. It’s a little over a thousand miles a week. But I really don’t want to move and take Peggy away from her first grandchild. Besides that, we love it here in Baton Rouge. And football season is about to start!
I love bringing people with us to Colorado. Even though we do many of the same things each year when we come, sharing them with others keeps everything new and exciting. It is always a blast to see everything through someone else’s eyes.
I think I love it even more when we are here by ourselves. The guests are gone and it is just Peggy and me for a couple of days. There’s just something so relaxing about hanging out on the back deck looking up Keystone Mountain and enjoying the cool weather. Wine in hand, sometimes coffee in hand, just soaking it up.
We drive to Denver tomorrow to fly back to Baton Rouge. Then I will drive to San Antonio to start the new gig. Life is going to be changing in a major way when we get home, but here on the back deck everything is peaceful and perfect. Peggy loves it here and I love Peggy. So, by the associative property I love it here, too.
The real world waits for us but we don’t have to go back just yet.
We always stay on the back porch too long on the last night and end up in sweatshirts or blankets simply because we do not want it to end. We don’t want to leave the cool weather, we don’t want to leave the beautiful scenery, and we don’t want to leave the relaxation.
But we will leave. And we’ll come back next year and do it all over again.
One of my guilty vacation pleasures is to visit the barber shop every year while we are in Colorado and get a haircut and a shave. Peggy calls it my “spa day” — I’m OK with that.
When I started going to Scott he was located in Dillon. I would grow a beard each summer (technically a Van Dyke) and let Scott either shave it off or trim it for me. It is kind of my end of summer ritual, even though we will still have at least two more months of summer when I return home to Baton Rouge.
A couple of years ago Scott moved up to a larger location in Frisco. He now has five or six barbers working for him and the place has become very busy. So busy, in fact, that my failure to make an advance online reservation with Scott proved to be fatal to my chances. I walked in and took my chances.
The young man who cut my hair today did an excellent job, but he was nervous about the shave. He told me that he had not shaved anyone since he finished barber school a few months before. I told him to relax and do his best.
I am not giving his name because he cut me. It didn’t hurt, but any cut on your face bleeds like a mother. He was so upset by it that I was comforting him. It really was no big deal, but Scott came over and looked at it and said, “Guess who just got a free haircut?” I tipped the young man $20 and told him not to worry about it — chalk it up as an experience to improve his technique.
It did not ruin the experience at all, and I recommend the shop to anyone I know who is going to be in the Summit County area. Of course, next year I will make my reservation in advance. We went ahead and did everything we had planned to do for the day. But for now, I am going to try to get some sympathy mileage out of it.
So, after more than a week enjoying North Carolina with two different sets of friends, we are back in Colorado for our annual visit. This year we were able to get here a few days earlier than usual and spend a couple of days with the friends who own the place where we stay every year.
In 2009 we told them where we stay for vacation every year, so they came to Colorado and stayed for a month. They had such a great time with their kids that they decided to buy a place. We have been the beneficiaries of their generosity ever since.
It was great to see them and to ride in a jeep up Montezuma with them and their kids. Their son is about to be a sophomore in high school and their daughter is about to enter junior high, so they are a lot of fun to hang around with. We were going to do a bike ride but it rained. The jeep trip was a great consolation prize!
Jim and Cindy left today, and tomorrow we have other friends joining us. Peggy and I spent today by ourselves walking and seeing the sights. When our friends get here we will do the (downhill) bike ride from Vail Pass into Frisco, CO. It is 13.1 miles of beauty and awe alongside Ten Mile Creek. I’m thinking about getting one of those “13.1” stickers that people are putting on the back of their cars to convince others they have run a half marathon. Surely 13.1 downhill on a bike is the same kind of challenge…
We love bringing folks up here with us. It is obviously a special place to us since we have been coming back for the thirty-two years since we got married, and it is a special joy to share it with our friends. And, it doesn’t hurt that we have been here for two days and the temperature has not gotten above 65 degrees. In August.