Westward Ho – Day 3

(Kay)
Today has been an emotional roller-coaster.

Let me back up a bit though.

We took a gamble when we set out. We’re a bit tight on money (too many bills every month), but our annual review was just completed at work. Mine was two years late, so a retroactive “merit increase” was coming my way. The money would have been enough to pay for gas, hotels, and food. So, we’d be good. But, we couldn’t be 100% sure it would come this paycheck. We were reasonably sure though.

Also, this is Labor Day weekend, so we have a bonus day off. My 12 days of remaining vacation become 13, and if you combine that with weekends we have 19 days to make it to the west coast and back. Totally doable.

And… campgrounds start closing on, or shortly after Labor Day, so we wouldn’t be able to take our kind of vacation this year unless we took it now.

Also, I desperately need a $%^&ing vacation.

This morning

This morning Dachary wakes up at 5 AM wondering, “Did we get the money?” because, the thinking is that if we don’t get the money we have to turn back. There was no money at 5. Of course, I never get a paycheck at 5 AM but she didn’t know that.

8 AM rolls around and “Yes! I’ve been paid…. but… um… while that’s a little bit bigger than normal it’s not money enough to fund the trip, and pay rent… WTF?!”

I message the money guy at work and say,

Um… we are not seeing the retroactive merit increase in my account. Sorry, you’re probably getting a bunch of these, but we really need to know what’s up with that ASAP otherwise we need to cut this trip short and head home, as we were planning on using that money to fund it.

I am stressing. Dachary is stressing.

As the day progresses I become… a mess. Stressed. Pissed. Depressed. All at once. We’d have to turn back…

(Dachary)

My version of the day is slightly different. Yes, I woke up at 5am curious about the money, and then stressy… but that was a back-burner thing for me. What brought me to Indiana was the need to hook up a medical alert device for my grandpa, who raised me, now lives alone, and has been having concerning medical problems lately. I had believed we’d be heading over to his place in the morning, after we eat breakfast, so I call and… he’s out running errands. He’s on social security, which means he gets paid at the first of the month, and then he’s off to pay bills and do all the things he hasn’t been able to do lately because he ran out of money halfway through the prior month. He knew we were coming, he knew when we’d be there, knew we wanted to spend time with him, but he couldn’t be arsed to be available.

This always happens with my family. This is part of why I don’t bother to spend much time in Anderson. I’ve just driven 1,000 miles to see you – you, who have never once come to Boston to see me in the 11 years I’ve lived there, even when I’ve offered to pay your way – but maybe you can make time to see me later, when it’s more convenient for you.

So I suggest we take the dogs for a walk in a park I haven’t visited in probably close to twenty years, and we stop for coffee on the way. I’ve been dying for some good coffee. Turns out, the ‘good coffee’ is so disgusting I walk back to the trash cans to throw it away, just a couple of minutes after setting out on our walk. Blah. Another disappointment to pile on my day.

memorial

kay_dogs_statue

The park is surprisingly pleasant, and the dogs seem to enjoy walking around instead of being stuck in the car all day, but Kay is stressing about the money. I eventually suggest that he put his phone away, and spend some time in the moment, because whatever happens, there’s not going to be a surprise bonus check from work, so we need to figure out the rest later. In the meantime, I’d already been turning over numbers in my head – depending on what he hears back from work, I think we can make the trip anyway. It’s less than ideal, but we should be able to swing it with the careful application of credit. And I know how much he needs to get away.

After a nice little walk around the park and the adjacent lake, we climb back in the car and pick up lunch from a spot where I always want to eat when I’m in town. And while I’m waiting for the food, my grandpa calls, and he’s home from running errands, so we plan to head to his place with the food to hang out and visit.

arts_roast_beef

The sandwich is just as I remember it. It tastes of nostalgia. Yes, I can get a thousand better meals elsewhere, but few options can transport me to my childhood quite so well.

My grandpa is… not as I remember him. Growing up, he was always a vigorous, robust man. Now, he’s… if not frail, exactly, on his way to becoming frail. We have a nice visit, but he’s tired, and by the time Kay returns from shipping back the medical alert unit that we couldn’t get to work, my grandpa is nodding off in his chair while we talk to him. So only a few hours after finally connecting with him, we leave to give him a chance to rest.

I am forcibly reminded of his age, and his health, and all the diabetes-related issues he’s suffering from… and I wonder if this will be the last time I see him. By the time Kay and I get in the car, I’m in tears, and I ask Kay to drive us back to the hotel. On the road, though, I ask instead for a little drive around the countryside. My grandpa and I spent pretty much every weekend driving around the countryside when I was growing up, and I still find it comforting, even while giving Kay the extended tour of my hometown. By the time we get back toward the city, I’m feeling a little better, if mellow.

I’ve come to a weird point regarding my hometown. When I was growing up, I felt disdain for it. I didn’t feel I belonged there, and I chafed to get away. Yes, I looked down upon many of my fellow residents. Once I moved away, when I’d go back to visit, I still wanted to be anywhere but there. I’d have pleasant conversations with the few people I cared about, but the rest of my time there was just… depressing. I didn’t want to be there. I couldn’t relate to the citizens. It just felt like a place to escape, even still.

After this visit, though… I must be getting older. I don’t feel the disdain anymore. I feel like no matter how far I’ve gone, these are somehow my people. Maybe I can’t relate to them now, and maybe I’d seem like an alien to them if they heard about my life, but they’re still the people I grew up among… and there’s nothing wrong with them. For the first time, I see them as people who are doing the best they can in a difficult place. There aren’t a lot of good jobs, and a lot of the people aren’t educated beyond the high school level… but that’s ok, because a college degree would be overkill for the kind of work they’re doing anyway. I can finally understand that they’re people who love and hate each other, and go to work, and struggle to make ends meet – just like similar people all over the country. For the first time, I truly understand the Trump supporters. Most of them aren’t actually the hateful people I’d expect based on his rhetoric and the behavior of some of them at his rallies… they’re just struggling people who want something better for themselves and their family. It’s not their fault they’re hoping for a magic messiah who can solve it all for them. They don’t have a lot of good tools to improve it for themselves.

Maybe this is me still being emotional after my visit with my grandpa, but for the first time, I find myself feeling compassion, empathy… and even love for the people and hometown I used to disdain. And ashamed of my younger self for being so judgmental and negative about all of it.

About Kay

An old-school geek, addicted to travel, with a love of programming, writing, Esperanto, and starting businesses. -- @masukomi on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *