The Angels of Our Better Nature

My spirit is so deeply grieved by this horrific massacre in Oregon and by the predictable partisan bickering about what we should do about it.  America, we can and must do better.  We owe it to our ancestors who fought and sacrificed and compromised and immigrated and bled to build our nation. The status quo cannot be OK.  We must stop the killing of our children, our students, our innocent fellow citizens going about their daily business. As a nation we have become so deeply polarized that we have only one default setting: opposition:  the imperative that we must fight the other party at all costs.  As soon as any president gets elected it becomes the entire purpose and focus of the other party to be sure that he (or she) fails.  How will we ever make any progress that way? We must be Americans first, not Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives. Our republic was founded and survived on compromise.  How I long for a system that would value and respect every single life and reject all violence.  The great American spirit–that founded this nation out of the wilderness, rose to world prominence, fought for human rights around the globe, defeated Hitler, landed a human being on the moon–is still with us. Surely we can use it to find our way out of this political quagmire we have allowed to swallow us.  

President Lincoln said it best in 1861, but he could have been talking to us today: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
We must begin to work together or we will surely fall apart…

The End of an Era

I started digging into the nooks and crannies of the old van, needing to empty it out in case I find something to trade it for tomorrow.  I both chuckled and choked up as I found relics of the past fifteen years.  “US Govt Guide to Surviving a Bear Attack” from the Western Trip; the laminated Little League Roster that Meg Wright made for Anthony and Sean’s team; directions to Micah Rust’s mother’s Café and Bakery; a tax exempt form signed by Ken Nielsen; paperwork from Aunt Barbara’s nursing home; Cedar Point maps and parking permits; a “Today is my 7th birthday!” button (could have belonged to any of the kids; they have all turned seven since we got the van); old puppy biscuits (I went to pick up both Tillie and Tessie as puppies in that van)….

Why am I such an emotional wreck over an inanimate hunk of metal? Why is it going to be so hard to walk away and leave it at a dealership or a junkyard? Why do I feel like it is a family member rather than a transportation device?

Is it because I am a sentimental packrat? Is it because my minivan days have ended? Is it because it was the last vehicle I will have ever conferred with my dad about buying? Or is it because my kids grew up and left home in that van? Because it feels more like a sanctuary to me than a vehicle?

The kids were two, five and six when they rode along with me to Olean to buy this van.  They were so excited about it and helped to pick out which one we should get. It had eight miles on it when we got it, the other 267,000 have all been on trips to school, church, Houghton, New Wilmington, Fredonia, Odyssey of the Mind, AAU Basketball, Indiana, Cedar Point, Charcoal Corral, Molly’s house, away games, Buffalo, Letchworth, New Haven, Williamsburg….

It was so much more than getting from Point A to Point B. We talked and laughed and played car games; we debriefed school days; we ate fast food and made a mess of the van; we trick-or-treated; three-year old JonDavid shocked everyone by blurting out from his carseat “Oh my God, a cow!” in front of Grandma, apparently having heard it from his babysitter; we hauled home: friends, back-to-school purchases, presents and surprises, and freshly-chopped Christmas trees.  We watched movies at the Drive-In; and drove to meet and pick up our Swiss daughter who would join our family. We lived our lives in that van.

So tomorrow, or someday soon I will replace it.  I will hopefully drive away in something smaller, sportier, and more fuel-efficient and at long last with a working stereo.  And no matter how new and shiny and wonderful it is, I will still be crying.  Because I cannot escape the fact that this marks a milestone. The five of us will rarely, if ever, ride in one vehicle again.

Of course there are new and exciting family events still ahead.  We’ll be driving to the beach in Virginia, and to commencement at Yale in the spring, and to Mackenzie’s wedding in the summer.  If the next vehicle I buy lasts for another 15 years, it may well take me to meet my grandchildren!

But today I mourn the loss of an old friend and the end of an era.

Pro aris et focis

I can’t help but reflect on all of the facebook posts inquiring “What is wrong with America?”  You know what? Nothing is wrong with America, at least nothing that wasn’t wrong with it before yesterday’s Supreme Court decision.  America is, in fact, functioning just as it is supposed to.  America is not now, nor was it ever a “Christian nation” (whatever that is; even ancient Israel did not turn out to be a godly nation.)  Rather, America was founded as a nation where Christians could practice their religion freely, as can Jews, Muslims, Amish, Hindus, and Atheists.  The Puritans had fled England to escape an oppressive church that had tried to impose its religious viewpoints on a nation, rather than a religious body.  My own ancestors–the Brennemans–fled Switzerland because an oppressive church was trying to force religious viewpoints (infant baptism) on a political entity rather than a religious body. Rather than baptize his infant son, Melchior Brenneman (my 8X grandfather) fled to Germany and then followed William Penn to Pennsylvania where his family and descendants could freely practice their own faith.)

It is a good thing for the modern church that the founders did not found an explicitly religious republic because it would have been Deist, as were the founders themselves; it would not have been a Christian nation as we interpret that concept in the 21st century, and it likely would not have been receptive to the Holiness movement of the 19th century that gave birth to the present Evangelical church.

Was Jesus taken by surprise by yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling? Of course not. Was He sad? Probably no more sad than how He feels about how the Church has treated gays. The 21st-century church is expending a lot of energy and capital opposing gay marriage when that is something that Jesus never got around to offering instruction on during His thirty-three years with us.  I’d like to see us get back to the mandates that Christ did give us:  loving God, loving each other, feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, and spreading the good news of His gospel.

Russell Long once compared the great monarchies of the past to magnificent galleons with their regal construction and mighty sails, but which were highly prone to capsize and sink.  Whereas he noted that a democracy is more like a raft, “it won’t sink but your feet are always wet.” Some of my Christian family and friends feel like they got a good dunking on the raft yesterday, but the raft of our democracy is still afloat. The American republic and God’s providence for His people are still intact. This was in fact, a secular government, elected by, of, and for the people, working out what is right for its citizenry in the 21st century.  Like so many times throughout our common story, we will have to agree to disagree on this issue.  You don’t like gay marriage? Then marry someone of the opposite sex and enjoy your right to free speech and the free practice of your religion.  That is what we have worked so hard to build and preserve over the past 230 years.


Jacob’s Journal

The journey God has given me has been long, and awful, and joyful and unlike that of any other man.  I arrived in the world grasping at my twin brother’s heel. Later I tricked him into stealing his birthright from our father. In turn, my father-in-law played a dreadful trick on me. Along the way I lost my beloved Rachel, raised twelve beautiful boys and wrestled with God.  Now I am a prosperous old man with more grandchildren and great grandchildren than I count. Nothing about my life prepared me for its darkest hour, however.

The light of my life was my Joseph, Rachel’s firstborn son.  Rachel had so desperately wanted a baby but she seemed unable to bear children.  When she finally did, the joy we shared knew no bounds.  And that beautiful, loving boy fulfilled all of our dreams. I have always loved all of my children but there was something special about the bond I shared with Joseph.  After his mother died we became even closer. Even when his brothers grew up and married and were busy with their lives, Joseph loved to sit by the fire with me each night and we’d discuss our days and our dreams.  We both have always been so intrigued by dreams, ever since the dream God gave me so many years ago.  How well I remember how Joseph’s eyes would light up when he would see me; it happened when he was a young boy but still happened when he became a man, taller than his father.

One fateful day I was in the marketplace and saw the most spectacular colorful coat and all I could think of was how Joseph would love it and how his eyes would light up.  He loved colors and always took note of the beautiful color of flowers and birds and butterflies. This coat had all of those colors. I knew he had to have it. Somehow, to my shame, I did not think that I should also have brought gifts for my other children.  Joseph did indeed love the coat, even more than I could have imagined, but it was, alas, the start of the worst part of my long journey.  For it was only a few days later that my other sons returned from the fields, but something was very different. As I had watched over my boys all during their growing up years I had always counted them, thousands of times I had counted them to be sure that all twelve were safe.  On that dark day I only counted eleven. Soon they handed me that same coat, torn and bloodstained.  My precious Joseph dead, the campfire of my life had gone out. Nothing would ever be right in my world again.

I tried my best to carry on for the sake of the other children and grandchildren, but there was no joy in my journey.  The dreary days stretched into weeks and months and years.  The boys were grown, I was ready to die and be gathered to my fathers.  In my later years a terrible famine spread throughout the land.  All of the gold I had gathered over the years was worthless; we could not eat it.  Our flocks and herds were gone. The grandchildren were hungry.  It seemed that the end of my journey was near and that it would be a bitter one.  The boys had gone to Egypt in search of food and encountered a strange ruler who seemed to know too much about us but they returned with generous amounts of food and we were able to feast again.  But then when the food ran out, they needed to return there and this time they were to bring Benjamin, Joseph’s younger brother whom I had kept by my side since Joseph died.  Having no other choice, all eleven of my remaining sons left again for the long journey to Egypt. I sent gifts and gold along in hopes of pleasing the Egyptian ruler and a safe return for my boys, hopefully with more food. I sat by the fire and fretted for weeks, the road to Egypt is long and dangerous, especially in those dark and hungry times. I wasn’t sure if I would see them again or if I would live long enough for their return.

After many hungry weeks of watching the horizon I saw the dust of a great caravan. I could hardly dare to hope that it would be my sons. And yet as the dust grew closer I saw that it was indeed and that they had many more camels than they had taken.  My eyes filled with tears as I counted all eleven sons, safe and accounted for, even Benjamin.  But then a strange thing happened. Reuben rushed forward with a terrible look on his face and fell to the ground at my feet sobbing, soon the others joined him. They were safe, they had food, what could possibly be wrong?

The story that tumbled out of my Reuben was too horrible and too fantastic to believe.  Joseph had not died but had been done away with by his jealous brothers.  My sons wept bitter tears of shame as they confessed what they had done, and begged my forgiveness. We went into the tent together and cried and embraced and I also asked their forgiveness for the sin of making them feel unloved.  I dared not believe the second half of their story; that my Joseph was alive and well in Egypt? I could not even get my hopes up that it could be true.  They had to be mistaken.  The magnitude of the gifts from the Egyptian ruler was more than I could imagine. We had enough food now for many years to come; there was no need to return to that far off land.  But on the slim chance that it was true, I readied my weary old bones for the great journey.  I knew at my age, I may die along the way, but if it were true that I could see my son once more before I died, it would be worth the long, long road.

After many weeks we neared that strange and wonderful place.  A great pyramid rose to the sky on the horizon, larger than anything I had ever seen.  But while we were gazing at it, a great cloud of dust approached surrounding a glimmering chariot of gold.  The rays of the sun reflected from the great chariot and a great Egyptian ruler, also clad in gold inside.  The strange man jumped from the chariot and ran towards me.  I can see why my sons did not know him, he was adorned in the strange style of Egyptian royalty. But when he came close enough for my old eyes, I knew in a moment. Those eyes I had known and loved since he first peered at me from his cradle.  It was indeed my Joseph.  As I rushed into his arms, I felt like a young man again.  I clutched his face and wept “I thought I had lost you forever.” My grandfather Abraham may have known something of this feeling when God spared my father Isaac on the altar, but I am convinced that in that moment I knew a joy that no other man had ever felt.

The joy of that moment foreshadowed the greatest moment in history when another of my descendants, Jesus the Christ would arise from the dead and return to our father, the great Jehovah.  Can you imagine His joy when His Son arose from the dead, as my own son seemed to have? I believe that God gave me that reunion with Joseph so that our story would forever remind God’s people of the great joy He feels whenever one of His children returns to Him.

Today, are you walking with God? Do you know God? If you do not, do not walk but run into His arms as my Joseph did to mine. You and the Father will never know such joy as you feel when you return to where you belong, in His loving arms.  As long as I lived, I never let go of Joseph again, and that is just how God the Father will abide in you.  Seek Him and find Him today.



What a seven months it has been since my cancer diagnosis in October. What a six years it has been since I lost my job at the College.  During that time I’ve sent my first two children off to college, I’ve made a new and wonderful life for myself as a high school teacher–complete with new friends, new adventures, and new challenges–and it is one which has been far happier than the one I left behind.  

The interesting thing about staring cancer in the face for a few months is how it reorients one’s thinking.  It now appears as though the worst is behind me: I have recovered rapidly; I am back at work; the surgeon believes he got all of the cancer; and with each passing day I feel more like my old self.  I have held back very little in this blog so I’ll go ahead and say it:  to my great happiness, I was able to go back to school NOT wearing Depends! I only needed them for about three days.  And today I had my first post-surgery PSA reading and the results came back “undetectable.” Meaning no evidence of cancer cells.  One is not pronounced “cured” of prostate cancer for ten long years, so I’ll go in every six months until January 2025 to have my PSA checked. (You are all invited to a party on that day!)

There were a few dark days early on in this adventure–when my numbers looked serious and my PSA level had risen significantly in three months–when it dawned on me “I may not make it out of this alive; I may not live to see my grandchildren.”  As the news has gradually improved since then, it has given me the impetus to ask myself that Francis Schaeffer question: “How then should I live?” If this thing had gotten me, would I be satisfied with the life I have led? What do I want the rest of my life to look like whether it is a few years or many years? How do I want to be remembered by my children and grandchildren?  A health analysis at Roswell estimated that, apart from Prostate cancer, I can expect to live another 34 years. So now that (it appears) I have been given the precious gift of being around to bug you all for another three and a half decades….what should those years look like?  How do I want to set my sails for this sweet journey I’ve been given? This new lease on life is absolutely exhilarating!
I don’t quite have a plan in place yet, I don’t have any plans to run off and join a traveling rock band.  I don’t make enough money to buy a Corvette and head out to see the world.  And I am blessed to already love the work that I do. But I do know that I want to worry less and laugh more.  I want to spend less time stooped over endless stacks of papers and more time interacting with my students and pouring myself into them and being sure that they know I love them.  I know that I want to travel more and I want to see my friends in real life and not only in facebook pictures.  I want to live a life and not watch others live an imaginary one on television. And I also have resolved to work on my blog to record and process this next phase of my adventure. You are all welcome to follow along for the ride.  #TimsNewLife


The Day I Became a Dad

21 Years ago…March 27, 1994

It felt as if I had waited my whole life to be a dad.  I have always enjoyed being around kids and even babies. When Uncle Bruce and Aunt Kathie adopted Brian in 1969 I was enchanted:  I said to Aunt Kathie, “Finally there is someone I can tell, ‘I knew you when you were a baby.’  Three years later they adopted Suzanne.  When two members of my church family, Wayne and Marilyn, adopted precious little Robbie, he and I became inseparable on Sundays and at youth group activities.  I loved carting him around.  Then two other dear church friends Bob and Betty McClimans adopted Celynd and she gave me my first real experience with childcare. In the summer of 1978 her parents were stuck without a babysitter for the summer and I had not yet found a summer job.  Suddenly I found myself–a college freshman–caring for a baby: feeding, diapering, bathing ….everything. And, I loved it.

Loving all of those wonderful adopted kids always made me wonder whether God was preparing me to be an adoptive parent.  And in fact, it took me so long to get married, I was not sure if I was ever going to be any kind of a parent.  By that time I had doted on several nieces and nephews. Spending Amanda’s first year living near them in Nyack and seeing my precious little niece every day only deepened my desire for fatherhood. In 1992 I finally did get married, and then to my surprise–but delight–we found ourselves almost immediately pregnant. (So much for my paranoia about infertility.) But to our great sorrow, we lost that baby at about six weeks.  When our dear obstetrician–Dr. Miller–told us the news, he broke down and wept with us. Again, I wondered if I would ever realize my dream of fatherhood.  In the sad empty void after the miscarriage I got started on a PhD program.

Then in February of 1994, we discovered that we were once again expecting a baby.  Sally and Chris were both expecting babies that spring and we went down to visit New Wilmington on Palm Sunday weekend.  We’d been to church that morning and I was in the kitchen helping Mom fix dinner when Olga appeared in the doorway with an ashen look on her face.  I knew something was terribly wrong.  “It’s happening again,’ she said.  We jumped into the car and hurried down to the emergency room at Jameson Hospital in New Castle.

There we encountered an ER doctor whose command of the English language was somewhat lacking.  He explained “threatening miscarriage, perhaps an ultrasound will tell us if baby alive.” Olga lay on a gurney and I knelt beside it and we cried and prayed.  They had to summon in an ultrasound technician who had a long drive to the hospital.  That endless, agonizing wait at Jameson is seared into my memory forever.  When the technician finally arrived, still wearing his civilian clothes, he took us off to another wing.  As we passed through the lobby, I saw that my sweet mom had driven in after us, still in her Sunday clothes, the uneaten Sunday dinner still on the table.  She sat in the waiting room and gave me a brave and encouraging smile as we whisked past.  I knew she was praying for us.

The technician–who spoke English as his first language–was very kind and friendly.  He explained that an ultrasound at only about five weeks may not show anything at all as that was barely enough time for the heartbeat to begin.  I asked if he would tell us what he saw.  “That’s against policy,” he explained, “the doctor has to go over the results with you.” That seemed so unfair and illogical to me, the man in the ER was not our doctor and he barely spoke English, but I was too emotionally spent to try to argue against the policy.  He looked sympathetically at our tear-stained faces as he hooked up the equipment.

Time seemed to freeze as he rolled the sensor around Olga’s stomach, searching for any sign of life…my hopes dwindled.  Then….”I SEE A HEARTBEAT!” he crowed!  Then immediately, “Don’t tell them I told you!” He guided our eyes to the screen and showed us a faint little flicker in the fuzzy pattern.  It mostly looked like a TV channel that was not coming in.  But once he put his finger on it, we could see the steady pattern that he meant.

I know that people agonize deeply over the question of when life begins, and I’m not here to attempt to answer that question for anyone else, I know only that in that moment, I became a father: In that moment, I first glimpsed Anthony Jay Nichols, who would arrive safely about 30 weeks later.  In that moment, I fell in love with that teeny-tiny pinprick of a heartbeat, as surely as I love him today as a big, strong, senior in college.  If anyone had tried to harm that microscopic beating heart, I could have torn him apart with my bare hands.  My 21-year (and counting) adventure as a father–the greatest in my life–began on that glorious afternoon.

“I guess the world is not a wish-granting factory.”

In a wonderful example of cosmic irony, I made my annual pilgrimage to my dermatologist on Monday, Oct. 13th where, upon the 20th anniversary of my melanoma, he declared the book closed on that cancer case.  On Thursday, Oct. 23rd, my urologist told me I had prostate cancer.  Thanks universe: it was a swell ten days.

I first learned that my PSA level was a little elevated this past summer.  “It is probably nothing,” my doctor said, “but let’s have you see a urologist.” “It may be nothing,” the urologist said, “but let’s have you do another blood test to see.”  “I wish I had better news,” my urologist said when he called with the results of the second blood test.  And so it was that I found myself lying on an examining table in Rochester undergoing a biopsy a couple of weeks later, quite literally the biggest pain in the ass I have experienced yet.  After those results came back with more bad news, I headed back to Rochester last week for two more tests to determine whether the cancer has spread to my bones or my lymph nodes.  When you first hear that you have prostate problems, I think every man first worries about whether he will end up wearing Depends or worse, with a loss of function below the equator, so to speak.  It is amazing how words like “bone scan” and “lymph nodes” change the equation of what we have to worry about.  The doctor says I have a “medium grade” cancer which means that there is a medium level of concern that it has or will spread and so it must be treated.

This past weekend was a dark and gloomy one. Worrying about my prostate interspersed with doing prep for teaching Edgar Allan Poe next week.  Great timing on my part. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to focus on my schoolwork Friday night when I saw my son bounding into the house, returning from his Halloween party. But as the figure drew closer, I realized it was not JonDavid at all, but his long-lost sister: Samantha. I had dropped her off at William & Mary in August and did not expect to see her again until Christmas.  But when she got the news about my health woes she began cobbling together planes, trains, and automobiles to make a surprise trip home to cheer me up.  From the time she was born I’d always sung to her, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey.” And indeed she has always been my sunshine, never more than this weekend.

Beyond Samantha’s surprise, I’ve been blessed by such great friends in this ordeal.  One of the first people I told my dismal news was my dear Academy buddy, Janyce Smithley. I couldn’t have a better support at work than Janyce.  She cries with me when I need to cry, tells me jokes and funny stories when I need to laugh, and comes around offering chocolate and cookies in between.  “Anytime you feel like you can’t handle one of your classes, come and get me, I’ll take over for you!” she offered.  If any of you ever have to go through something like this, I hope you have a Janyce in your life!

Also on Friday evening, I had such a special visit from two of my favorite people, Bev Rhett and her son Thomas.  Bev is on her own cancer journey and has only recently returned from several months of treatments down in Virginia.  As soon as she heard about my prostate problems, she and Thomas put together a basket full of cancer-fighting food and snacks, a copy of her favorite book “Anti Cancer: A New Way Of Life” and an orchid plant, loaded up their precious puppy, Lincoln, and came over and paid me a much-needed visit.  Bev came to offer advice, love, wisdom and support as I begin my own journey. While Lincoln and Tillie romped around the house together, Thomas and Bev cheered me up with their loving friendship and support.

Be it resolved already that if I make it through this, I want to be a Janyce and a Bev to anyone who is struggling with cancer.  Ugh, that revolting word. I am reading what I can on prostate cancer and treatment options and most of what I read just makes me want to cry.  But I know that I am going to have a lot of decisions to make in the days and weeks ahead.  This is one of those times in life when I desperately wish that I could change the channel, but sadly, that is not an option.  If the cancer has not spread beyond my prostate, then I am facing a less deadly battle that will hopefully be more annoying than anything else.  If it has spread…then God help me.

The Great Western Trip

Tonight we finally pulled into our driveway a little before 9pm, tired, satisfied, glad to get out of the van, and happy to see the pets. Even as happy as I am to be back, I’d gladly climb back into the van if it meant that we could have more time with every friend along the trip. I’ve started to upload some more trip pictures onto facebook and the kids, who until about four days ago were on Pacific time are having trouble winding down and getting to sleep, so they are still upstairs talking and planning a slumber party. Perhaps the sweetest part of the day was Anthony thanking me tonight for the trip and saying “It did turn out to be a good idea after all Dad.” That really meant a lot as I know he was missing his girlfriend a lot on the whole trip but he still enjoyed the experience, which was what I was hoping for. I was asking them tonight about their favorite aspects of the trip and while they all had particular favorites a few themes emerged: they all mentioned Glacier National Park as being the best sight, playing with their Spokane cousins, the Mall of America, deep-dish pizza & Tyler LeVan, Pete Sbanotto’s eggplant parmesan, and they all loved Oregon. But the longer we talked, the more apparent it became that they’d really enjoyed all the different segments of the trip, if not the long car rides in between. I’m so, so grateful for this experience of a lifetime and thought I would conclude with a few last thank yous and reflections:  First of all, thanks be to God: we prayed for safety and had it in abundance, secondly, thanks to our old van – Eight years old, 145,000 miles, and not a speck of trouble on the whole trip, even driving over the Rocky Mountains, the Continental Divide, and through the 115 degree Arizona desert!

Trip by the Numbers:

Miles on the van: 8191

States visited: 27

Number of new states for me: 5 bringing my total to 48!

License Plates spotted: 48 – We still have not found Delaware or Rhode Island – TWO cars from Hawaii made it, but no one from Delaware or Rhode Island can even make it to Ohio?! Obviously I’m still bitter! I’m extending the deadline until the end of August!)

Calories Consumed/”Hey guys! Look at that!”/Vacation-Griswold Family References: Too Many to Count!

Even though I goaded the kids into picking favorites, I really loved every moment of the trip so much, that I don’t know that I can narrow it down to any specific favorite. I did have these thoughts:

Things I’ll miss most about the trip:

  • Renewing old friendships
  • The Open Road
  • Having the kids always within five feet
  • Hotel Jacuzzis
  • Stopping for 64 oz. Diet Cokes

Things I won’t miss about the trip:

  • Stopping at every rest stop in America because of my addiction to 64 oz diet cokes
  • The smell from the back of the van (“Anthony?! Was that you?! No! It was JonDavid! No! I wasn’t me…”)
  • Goodbyes

Things I want to be sure and include on our next Western Trip: 

  • Bring Sabrina along!
  • Stay LONGER everywhere we went this time: Especially MN, Chicago, MT, OR, and AR!)
  • Add Yosemite and Sedona
  • Spend a full week in Glacier!
  • Always stay at Red Lion Inns!
  • Spend a full week in California visiting friends
  • Get a classic car and cruise Old Rte. 66

But if I did have to pick a broad category for my favorite experiences on the trip it would be this – watching all of these dear friends throughout all the chapters of my life interacting with my kids and being so sweet to them – whether it was watching them so comfortable and at home at the Trudeaus, or listening to Leslie LeVan laughing with them, or Dan Foley treating them to the rides and aquarium at MOA, or Ann Snowberger instructing them on the finer points of marriage, rafting, and rattlesnake hunting, or Sara Hall fixing blizzards for them on a hot afternoon, or perhaps my favorite: Pete Sbanotto hosting a Texas Hold’Em tournament for them while Elaine toured Olga and me around town! It has all been such a great reminder about what wonderful friends I have and how much I love all of them.

Now somehow I have to come back down to earth and resume my regularly scheduled program which this year isn’t particularly one of my favorite episodes: “In Which Tim turns 50, loses his job, finds his first issue of the AARP magazine in the mailbox when he gets home from the trip, and has to go on a big fat diet to make up for a month of unbridled eating!”

Years ago Mindy sent me a greeting card that said “I’ve woven the memories of our times together into a patchwork quilt and when life gets hard or lonely or cold, I wrap up in that quilt to keep warm.” That is what this trip has provided for me – a wonderful quilt of new memories with old friends.