Day 7 --
Zero hour. The day I leave for Florida, the day I leave behind my beloved Heidi. An early start finds us on the road to Baltimore, Heidi's sister driving us in her van, one of those big jobbies with the TV/VCR installed, and traveling with the sister's little girl. To help keep the munchkin happy and quiet, we're watching 'The Emperor's New Groove'. Now, don't get me started on Disney: short version, I hate them, they are a dangerous cult, nuff said. Now, I have 'Boom, Baby!' stuck in my head. It wasn't as bad as most Disney movies, but I hated it anyway.
Finally arrive at the airport, and Heidi can't decide if she wants to come to the gate with me or not, so I tell her to do it. I want to see her as long as I can. We have a little time before my plane begins to board, however, and as I hug her goodbye, I can feel tears welling up in my eyes, even as I can feel her begin to cry, softly, against me. I whisper in her ear that I love her, and as we break the clinch, she looks at me, and says:
"You know what? I love you, too."
I know I nearly cracked my head open, so great was my smile, and we both could only stand there, holding each other. A few more minutes pass, and they announce my boarding. This is it, the moment I have been dreading, when I have to turn away and leave. I turned to kiss her, more emotion in a kiss than I have ever felt or given, and she hugs me tightly, one last time, and says, even more emotionally, "I love you, Frank." The first time had been heaven, but the sincerity and the feeling of this was such that I almost choked, responding in kind. Finally, we break, and she walks away, head down, looking back only once, to see me standing there, watching her, and she smiles.
I watched her walk, and then she was gone.
The flight to Orlando was boring. I considered getting drunk, but I had to meet Mom at the airport, and I was already expecting the next weekend to be Hell On Wheels. I also knew that she would be hounding me to help fix their computer, make it faster on the 'Net, etc. We landed, Mom and I went to lunch, went home, saw my grandparents (who she lives with), found their computer problem (which was that they were running a computer so old, it had no right being alive), and went and bought her a new machine. Damn WinME, though, kept freezing on me, so I spent most of the afternoon teching it.
I knew my brother (6 years younger than I) was flying in from Nashville that night, and my cousins Kate and Anna (6 and 8 years younger than I respectively) would be in eventually, and that their brother David (12 years my junior) was here somewhere. So, when David walked in, I knew it had to be him...even though I didn't recognize him in the least! Well, that's what happens when you don't see peeps for 5-6 years.
John (my brother) and I got in the pool after we picked him up from the airport, and stayed there until 3am. Man, I miss having a pool.
Day 8 --
I was waiting for it, I admit. Mom and I haven't REALLY got along for a good 15 years now, and we're on eggshells around each other. I slept late and got up at 10, and went back to work on the computer. By 11, she had already driven me so crazy that I got up, got pissed off, took a shower, grabbed John, and left the house. We went and got Kate, and did some stuff, dropped her off, went to see my other grandmother (who didn't recognize John or I at
first...well, we're both much different looking), and finally killed time at the mall and the bookstore. Incidentally, I finally found a copy of 'The Crying Of Lot 49' by Thomas Pynchon. Finally went home, and spent most of the day in the pool.
Day 9 --
The final day. If I could just get through today, I'd be on a plane first thing in the morning for home. I knew there was a big family lunch planned, since it was the first time in years we were all together, and afterwards, I ended up out in the shop talking to my grandfather, who, for all of my life, we've all called Big Dad.
Big Dad is a helluva guy. He'll give it to you straight, whether you want him to or not, and he'll let you know exactly where he thinks you've screwed up and how you should go about fixing it, and that if you don't, that's just fine, it's your mistake to make. And it can come off as a bit arrogant, except for 2 things. One, he's 99% of the time absolutely right. Two, he's paid his dues, seen the country through all kinds of things, fought in WWII as a Navy man, and has always done the best he could for his family, with good results. I highly respect him, so I'm willing to talk with him and listen to him.
He and I got to talking about me and Mom, and I had already kinda decided that I needed to talk to her, and he helped cement that in my mind. So, that night, after dropping John off at the airport, I had her come join me outside while I smoked. I got her to sit down and just listen to me, so I could get some stuff out in the open. Let her know how I felt, and how she made me feel, and how I resented all the things she had done over the years, and
that I didn't care about the family because of her, and that I didn't like that I didn't care. We finally came to the agreement that we needed to make a start at being a family, instead of being enemies, and that it should start now. I think it went well, and hopefully, it's the beginning of something really good.
Day 10 --
Flight home. A long day of air travel. Caught the plane from Orlando to Phoenix, which stopped in New Orleans. I cannot tell you how badly I just wanted to get off the plane, say to hell with everything and just enjoy my city all over again. Once in Phoenix, a 2-hour layover got me to a flight from there to Seattle. All in all, I got on the plane in Orlando at 8am EST, and landed in Seattle at 3pm PST...about 10 hours travel time.
My bag jingle-jangles with keychains, as I bought one in pretty much every state that we passed through, 10 in all, not counting DC. Full of mixed and conflicting emotions, I'm home.