I know this isn’t conjecture. Let me be stronger. I KNOW each of you can identify with my day…when you have planned for months for a special time…and everything falls apart.
Let me explain.
It goes like this…for months I have been more than planning…I have been scheming to surprise my most beloved mentor, Fred Trost, on his 80th Birthday. He and Louise now live in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. I didn’t want Fred and Louise to know—so one of their daughters, Margaret, and I were co-conspirators.
Game plan. Take an early Austin flight to St. Louis, change planes for flight to Milwaukie. Rent a car, find Elkhart Lake and then wait for the surprise—as Fred’s family [4 daughters and 1 son, their families and Fred’s brother Jonathon from Rochester], were to gather. A joyous game plan.
That fell apart. I mean really fell apart.
A moment when it fell to the wayside. Looked for the St. Louis to Milwaukee flight…and the announcement on the departure board told the story: CANCELLED. Got in a line to see what might be planned. The Southwest clerk announced all remaining flights to Milwaukee were filled but they could guarantee each of us a seat on a Wednesday night flight at 9:30 p.m. No good. Fred’s 80th would be happening on Wednesday. So. What to do?
Then a lady standing in line next to me, who also needed to return to Milwaukee said she thought maybe she would rent a car. Then the couple behind her commented, “We’re in the same situation.”
In a moment…because I just happened to be standing in a line with these 3 people…everything changed. We rented a car for the 6 hour drive to Milwaukee.
What an incredibly joyous time…it gave serendipity a “best definition.” The lady is Terese Jackson…she’s a pharmacist consultant and knows so much about being a caring parent for their high school son…by supporting the various teams, by leading fund raising events, by simply caring through her energy and love for her community. So impressive.
Then, of all things the couple—Larry Miller and Ellen Bravo—married for 40 years, were coming from Austin to their Milwaukee home. They had visited their son who is director of a Children’s Theatre in Austin. Fascinating. Then Ellen shared she’s a novelist. Woohoo! I was so pleased to learn this…ah, a fellow novelist. She then shared information about her novel, “Again and Again.” What a synopsis first sentence:, “IF SEXUAL SHENANIGANS DISQUALIFIED CANDIDATES FOR CONGRESS, THE U.S. WOULD HAVE NO GOVERNMENT.” Well beyond interest. With that Ellen also shared she works with diverse coalitions around the country to win policies that truly value families, paid sick days and paid family leave. Found that exciting. Her group’s website is http://www.familyvaluesatwork.org
Larry then shared he was a teacher, a principal, an adjunct professor at Marquette University and a 6-year member of the Milwaukee School Board.
And with that in answer to the question, “Larry what is the most daunting challenge in being a member of the School Board?” he didn’t hesitate, “I’m now in my 6th year on the School Board and there are really two dynamics with which we struggle…they are highest on my agenda—trying to encourage greater financial support for our schools…and addressing the massive challenges in our district of so many families who suffer in poverty. It’s devastating…and in all our district.” I was touched by his focus and his passion.
Oh my! How stimulating…and I’m sure you can more than guess I was able to share some jots and tittles about my own journey. Never has a 6 hour drive happened so quickly! New friends. All when everything fell apart.
And. Of all things I was able to get to Elkhart Lake on the secret game plan schedule. Margaret texted me all their family was gathered in their parents’ home. I parked around the corner and called Fred on my cellular, standing outside their garage. Asked him if he was ready for his 80th. He said he thought he would reverse life by becoming 78. I told him that was humorous but not workable. Told him I was so sorry to miss the festivities, but Diane and I sent him only our loving best. He agreed, it would be nice if I might be there. We bid farewell.
Then. Maybe one of the most delightful times of my life…never has knocking on a front door meant so much. Louise—we hadn’t seen her and Fred since August of 2001 when Fred officiated at our wedding in Cannon Beach, Oregon. At first Louise thought I was at the wrong house, “Maybe, sir, you meant to visit next door?” I took off my Bronco stocking camp, “Louise…it’s Mark!”
My friends…such a fantastic moment…and there will be many moments tomorrow and part of Thursday—to get caught up…to visit with each of their kids and their spouses and their children.
It has ended up not being what I had hoped…it has leaped well beyond that. To tell the stories, to laugh and clap and cheer each other. It will be more than an 80th birthday time…it will be a time of rejoicing in how deep and rich and inviolate loving relationships can be.
And how a lady in line to check on a cancelled flight offered a suggestion to rent a car and 3 of us took her up on it. Incredible. Gosh, reminds me when I had a flight cancelled in Denver in August of 2000 and had to get another flight to Austin. And it was on that flight I met a very special lady…my wonderful wife, Diane.
Can you tell? I’m pretty pumped. And realize that a cancelled flight doesn’t mean nothing good will happen. Au contraire!