Hey, hey! I made it! Florida and back without any major malfunctions. Boy, is it good to be home. Woo-ee, was it hot down there. And the humidity! They say Florida averages about three inches above sea level, but if you ask me, it's all under water, all of the time. Only, the ocean over Florida isn't quite as thick as it is over, say, the Mariana Trench.
I'm glad I went, though. My Mom&Dad-in-law had a nice, nice 50th wedding anniversary. They even got married again--"reaffirmed their vows," is how the minister put it--and get this: they had the very same minister and the very same maid-of-honor they had 50 years ago! Only difference in this go-around is that Antonio--that's Dad--has lost about 98 percent of his hearing in the intervening half century and he had to trust Mary (Mom) to guide him through the ceremony. We're still not sure if he knows what he agreed to. Hah!
But seriously, it was crybaby heaven, I tell you. See, here's this divorced Venezuelan gentleman with seven of the most practical joke-playing kids you'll ever want together in the same room, and he falls in love with this Ohio missionary nurse who agrees not only to be his wife but to be a good mother to his brood for the next 50 years--and counting. Even I was getting teary-eyed. Either that, or sweat was running off my forehead like the Mississippi Delta and draining down my cheeks into the Gulf. It's hard to tell the difference in Florida.
Anyway, I'm glad I didn't miss it. I wasn't going to go, see. Not until a couple of weeks ago. My wife bought tickets for herself and our girl way back in January, but I didn't want to spend the money. It's not that I'm cheap. Heck, I spend money all the time. But I prefer to spend it in smaller chunks. Three bucks here, a fiver there. It's when somebody wants a few hundred dollars out of me that I get nervous. And of course, you can't fly to Florida and back for anything less than a few hundred dollars.
About a month ago, though, my daughter started tenderizing me for a major cash barbecue. Amazing how these kids work their wily ways, eh? They fish around for a soft spot ("Gee, Dad ... Gramma and Grampa are so old.") and when they find it, they go in like a Rotor Rooter clog buster.
"Gee, Dad ... you haven't seen them in 10 years!"
"Gee, Dad ... Gramma and Grampa were really, really disappointed when they found out you wouldn't be there."
"Gee, Dad ... Grampa cried when he found out you weren't coming."
I'll never know for sure if Grampa cried when he found out I wasn't coming. While I was there, I asked him. But like I said ... 98 percent hearing loss. According to the answer he gave me, he must have thought I said, "Did you frilly fry whippet hounds Sy wasn't drumming?"
So, yeah. I ended up going. And happily so. And for four solid days, I watched no news, read no papers and received no inspiration for the column due a few days after my return. Yes, I was vaguely aware that George Tenet had resigned his post at the CIA and that Ronald Reagan died. But I couldn't write about either one of those. As to Tenet, there's nothing unusual in higher levels of government for miserable screw-ups to suddenly decide to spend more time with their families. And as to Reagan, it's too early to be expressing what I thought of that guy. Suffice it to say, I can only wish he had decided to spend more time with his family back in 1980.
Therefore, since I haven't the slightest idea of what to have an opinion on this week, I am using this opportunity to issue a few thank-yous. We don't do that often enough, you know ... let others know how much we appreciate what they've done. We tend to save all that gratitude up for special occasions like retirement parties, awards banquets or 50th anniversaries. But we can't be certain everyone's gonna have a retirement party, can we? Let alone an awards banquet or a Golden Anniversary.
I mean it. We need to learn to spread those acknowledgments out some, to let folks know before it's too late how much they contribute to our lives, because you and I both know that if we put if off, we forget. We think we're gonna do it later, but stuff comes up, life goes on, and we forget.
So ... by golly ... before I forget:
Thanks a ton to those pilots who didn't once crash their airplanes someplace between here and Tampa. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
And thanks to Bob Berserquier (Badger Bob) for filling in for me last week. I haven't had the chance yet to read whatever he wrote, but knowing Bob, I'm sure it was a lot of fun.
And a special thanks to the airports in Salt Lake City, Cincinnati and Atlanta. You know, if you hang around our airport here in Boise long enough, you might get the impression that nobody on earth has the consideration and the common decency to provide a simple smoking lounge for those of us who still support the tobacco farmers of Kentucky and Virginia. It's not that big a deal, really. A room somewhere close to where people get on and off planes so they don't have to trudge outside to a field for a few quick drags, then slog back through security so's they can catch their connection ... is that so much to ask? And if you're worried about spending those precious tax dollars on such a convenience, hows about putting a quarter toll on the room? Like on a pay toilet, see? It'll pay for itself, believe me. And it'll give all you holier-than-thous something to snicker about when you pass.
Let's see here, who have I missed? The pilots ... the airports ... Badger Bob ... oh yeah! Tony and Mary!
Thanks. And I mean it from the very bottom of Bill. Thirty-years ago, you welcomed this long-haired, beer-guzzling, hick-a-billy into your family and never once asked "D'you suppose this specimen might treat our beloved daughter badly, that he might ruin our good name and embarrass us everywhere we go, and when he's disrupted and shamed our family all he can, then he'll rob us blind in the night and head for the hills?" Hey, that's exactly the kind of question I intend to ask when my girl drags a man home.
But no, from the beginning, you treated me with respect and kindness and generosity. You are rare individuals who live their faith from day to day, minute to minute, and you are better in-laws than I deserve. I admire and respect you both, and feel honored to be a part of your lives. And before I start sweating down my cheeks again, let me add ... I love you.
And I don't say that about just anybody!