(In The Life Of The Church)
There and Back Again: A Travel Log of Blessing and Letting Go
Last weekend, I went to the Tomahawk, WI, to help my mom pack up and move out of the childhood home I grew up in. These are my reflections on that experience.
12:42 P.M. I drop Wendell off at a friend's house. His school does not start until next week. I love him and will miss him and my family, but 4 kids ages 10 and under. 2 hours in the car and a podcast download. Is it my birthday?
3:17 P.M. DFW Security Check. I could take off my bulky broken arm sling, but i think there's a chance TSA agents will move me through a special line and I love attention. I leave it on.
5:01 P.M. Spirit announces they have overbooked our flight. 4 passengers too many. They are giving away 2 free future flights and promise to put you on the next available flight to MSP ...
*** A sea of people make a mad dash for the ticket counter ***
ticket lady continues "... that next flight is Sunday afternoon." An audible record scratch. Sea of people return around and return to seats. I wonder if we will have one of those viral videos of a security guard pulling someone from their seat. I think this might be my 15 minutes of fame.
5:13 P.M. I have a "B" seat. This is the middle. My full figured frame and broken arm sling are disappointed. My companions are a couple of from Austin who hoped by choosing seats "A" and "C" the one between them would remain vacated. They give me the window seat and confess that this life hack never works. I win.
8:07 P.M. My recently-graduated-Univerisy-of-Minnesota nephew picks me up to take me to my sister's house in Zimmerman, MN for night. He's 21. I realize how much cooler than me he is. I hide my insecurity by over talking. Later rationalize "he's just a millennial."
8:45 P.M. A late dinner to go from Noodles & Co. How does Waco still not have one of these?
9:15 P.M. Arrive at oldest sister's house, which includes 4 of her 5 teenage children on a school night. "DEAR GOD!" I realize this is my life in a few years.
10:07 P.M. Sister and I share concern that mom's entire house of 32 years will not fit into 26 foot long moving truck.
8:02 A.M. My contribution will be taking a car to Wal-Mart for an oil change. I'm warned it will take a while. I'm offered a coupon to go to Valero instead. It will cost me 10 of my own dollars. Wal-Mart will be covered by the $20 my sister left for me. I go to Wal-Mart because i'm cheap. It's takes an hour and half. No one is in front of me.
10:27 A.M. I'm gifted my sister's Camry and 4th son who will be my travel companion. He's 15 ... a kind of savant. A genius and extreme introvert. As I talk to him for the first 45 minutes of our 4.5 hour drive to Tomahawk, WI, I can see him trying so hard. Head nods and "uh huh"s. He's visibly wilting as I repeatedly express my enthusiasm for Minnesota weather.
11:01 A.M. Stop by my college roommates multi-national renewable energy company at which he's approaching senior management. Tell the security lady that "I'm Victor from Solar Solutions here to see Greg." I'm astonished, she rings him for me. It goes to the voicemail. I ask for the phone. I'm astonished again. She hands it to me. I leave him an immature message. It will be a nice surprise for Tuesday morning when he gets back into his office.
11:30 A.M. Lunch with my old boss Michelle @ Lee Ann Chin. How does Waco not have one of these? Michelle is like the best person I know. Like a Minnesota Jana Parker. Her kids are along. I've never met them. They are great.
1:13 P.M. Drive to my old college campus. My friend is now a religion professor there. I find his office and surprise him. I greet him with, "looks like they'l hire anyone around here!" Guffaw. I now realize this is exactly the kind of thing a middle age man would say. I do mental check. I'm 36. Yikes.
2:30 P.M. We leave campus. My nephew has given up. He reclines his seat and puts on his earmuff headphones. I sometimes think he pretends not to hear me. I drive down to Summit Ave. A street famous for it's mansions. I look for, for sale signs. I imagine myself in a top hat, part of a Victorian Christmas Carol group singing on this street. I want to buy the mansions.
*** 4 hour car ride ensures across WI farm country. I'm startled by how many times I find myself asking, "I wonder what Jo Jo would do with that?"***
7:07 P.M. I arrive at my mom's house. I'm not emotional. But I begin taking photos with fury and download the Lord of the Rings soundtrack so I can listen to "concerning hobbits" on repeat. It helps with the nostalgia. I talk my mom into taking me and nephew out for fish fry at a restaurant on a pristine lake.
8:03 P.M. Greeted by some church people at the restaurant. She's into farming and he's a fiduciary. I love this because I get to ask her farm questions before asking him about moving my depressing retirement accountant into a Vanguard mutual fund. I sincerely want his help, but also want him to be impressed that I know what a Vangaurd mutual fund is.
8:13 P.M. My in-laws walk in. They are sitting at the bar. I sneak up behind them. Lindsay has failed to report that I was traveling to Tomahawk even though I was planning on relocating my winter sporting equipment to their house. They wonder what in God's name I'm doing there.
8:42 P.M. I'm served two pieces of breaded cod and french fries. Why does Waco not have this? I finish eating and approach my in-laws to confirm that in fact my winter sporting goods equipment will be welcomed at their house. I pull them in with both arms for a big hug and tell them I love them.
10:07 P.M. My sister and the rest of her family arrive at my mom's house. After a half hour of small talk everyone goes to bed. I stay up. The pastor at my dad's church has asked my mom if they can pray for her (her last Sunday) and offers the space for someone in our family to say something. This turns out to be my role. I spend the next hour writing a farewell to the church that taught me faith. It's the last goodbye. My dad has died again ... in a different way. The writing is my grieving and my opportunity to bless.
8:04 A.M. My sister knocks on my door. "Get up." My mom sticks her head in, "what do you think, this is holiday in?" My oldest sister has never relinquished nor stopped relishing the role of telling me what to do. I shout, "Kristin loved that," with my groggy voice.
8:59 A.M. I quickly realize that no one takes me or my broken arm seriously. I'm not considered for any jobs. Then an epiphany. I can drive my oldest sister to the next town to pick up the moving truck. I feel meaningful. I'm excited.
9:42 A.M. It's been pouring for the last half hour. We arrive in neighboring town. The Penske place is about as visible as Waldo. Our map says we are there, but all we can see is t-shirt print shop and a tanning salon. Finally, an Alaskan transplant from the real housewives of Juneau informs us that we are in fact at the Penske place. We then spot 1, 16 foot truck in the parking lot. It turns out this is a shirt-making-tanning-salon-moving-truck-rental business. A 16 foot truck won't do. We tell real housewife that we think my mom rented a 26 foot truck. She checks the balance and agrees. She panics and starts making calls. We panic and start making calls. My mom gets Merv, the Tomahawk U-Haul guy who's been promising her a 26 foot truck for weeks, on the phone. Merv comes through. We'll have one later that day.
10:17 A.M. Receive scathing phone call from Lindsay. In recounting our joyous reunion, my in-laws include the detail where I give them a big hug. Lindsay deduces this could only have happened if i wasn't wearing my broken arm sling. In-laws confirm.
11:02 A.M. Sister and I return home without a truck but with Dunkin' Donuts. My sister notes that this result matches a pattern embodied by my dad.
3:13 P.M. After four hours of packing and moving furniture around the house, we concede a standstill without the truck. We mix cocktails and pull Pictionary out of the garage sale pile. I'm partnered with my sister's youngest son. He's 13. We call our team the "youngest-awesomes!"
4:19 P.M. My sister and her husband crush us all. My nephew and niece to the left of us win almost every all play so we are continually skipped. We have about 7 or 8 turns. The game ends in a fight. This is quintessential.
7:22 P.M. Truck has arrived and some loading ensues. Dinner is a frozen lasagna. After dinner another game with my nephews. Linkee. I'm confident I will win and am off to a dynamite start securing the letters "L-I-N-K-E" before the others have more than 2 letters. Then a change of fate. My newly graduated millennial nephew comes back and wins. We play again. He wins again. This bothers me more than I will let on.
8:17 P.M. A trip down to the lake to watch the sunset. My niece joins me. She's the other individual having as hard of a time saying goodbye to this house. After nearly 24 hours of hobbit music I switch to epic movie soundtracks like Braveheart, Last of the Mohicans and Dances With Wolves.
9:33 P.M. Check my church speech to make sure i still like it. Go to bed.
9:27 A.M. Arrive at church early to print off my speech on the office administrator's computer. She's on the worship team singing this Sunday. I'm in a pickle. I find her husband. He knows the code to her door and gets me in. I'm saved.
10:13 A.M. Communion. I pray. My prayer acknowledges all the things ... including our last Sunday in the church my dad built. We celebrate with our tears.
10:22 A.M. Prayer for my mom followed by my speech. It's like a room full of Kareems. They all respond with "amen"s, clapping and "that's right"s. It's enthralling. I can feel their energy and I get way into my speech. After i'm done a hug from the pastor and a standing ovation. I imagine myself as the general from White Christmas shaking hands and giving hugs as I make my way down the isle. Feeling all kinds of pride ... then the Holy Spirit whispers, "they're clapping for your mom and dad's 28 years of sacrifice and love." I join the clapping.
12:00 P.M. A makeshift, we're moving, leftovers lunch.
1:00 P.M. Moving crew from church arrives. They get all the furniture done in 20 minutes and stay for another hour and a half to talk and fellowship. I decide this is some small town Wendell Berry stuff going on right here.
5:33 P.M. I leave with my niece to go to my in-laws to transfer my winter gear and eventually pick up pizzas for dinner. We are greeted by my father-in-law who demands we eat dinner with them. Them ... a small party at their house. I negotiate down to a cocktail. We stay for an hour and during that time Pat, a woman full of spit and vinegar, confesses to me that she's Jewish. I report that I think that's great, but I will eventually see that this is a larger confession and my reaction did not match the magnitude of her secret. I slowly work up my emotional response until i'm stunned.
7:00 P.M. We arrive at Billy Bob's to pick up the pizza. Ashley the bartender, went to my high school. She is two years younger and reports that "when I saw Carney come up on the phone, I thought it might be you." Kayla one of the servers and I make conversation while I'm waiting. She was in my class in high school. I ask about the Tomahawk woman who won the HGTV dream home. The reveal was at Billy Bob's and Kayla was working. After that Kayla remarks that she saw on Facebook i was home moving my mom. She proceeds to tell me to remind my mom to change stop her mail. It turns out Kayla subs on my mom's mail route. I thank her for the reminder. On the way out the door, the other server, Dee Dee stops me to tell me she loved what I said in church this morning. I'm reminded that this kind of small town intimacy is exactly what I'll miss the most about Tomahawk.
7:15 P.M. Arrive to the house with four large pizzas, which was the subject of a 20 minute debate earlier in the day. It turns out to be way too much pizza. My aunt and uncle are here. We talk. Eventually I join my niece who is already down on the beach. This is our last night ever in the house. Tonight no hobbit music. Just silence. Eventually my nephews, sister, and mom join us.
11:30 P.M. Naturally, the crowd has been reduced to me and my niece. She stayed longer than me last night. I wouldn't be outdone tonight. She retires to bed. I need my solitude. The moon's dancing on Mabel Lake. I named my daughter after this lake. That's how much it means to me.
12:01 A.M. I have to go to bed. I break the silence with "The Breaking of the Fellowship," a tune that includes the melody of the hobbit song, but in a much more dramatic and sad way. It's a appropriate for the moment. I turn my back to the lake and sit on my knees looking up at the 2.5 acres on which my childhood home is sitting on. I think of my dad for the millionth time that weekend. I bend over and kiss the ground. "Thank you," my heart says. To make this final walk up from the lake to my house, I take off my sandals. I will walk on Holy Ground.
5:35 A.M. I'm woken by a pulsating pain in what feels like the tissue of my bicep. I imagine for a second that my broken bone has displaced. Then I imagine Lindsay kicking my ass for not wearing the sling. Then I imagine paying my deductible for the surgery. Then I stop thinking about it because I don't want to ruin my last morning at home. My nose is cold because I sleep with the windows open.
7:13 A.M. Read my daily Eugene Peterson sermon before stripping my bed, which by this point has been reduced to a mattress on the floor. I go take a shower. While i'm gone my mattress has been taken and loaded on the truck. The room I grew up in is now naked and upon discovering it empty I loose my breath like Andy's mom does in Toy Story 3.
8:07 A.M. There are eight of us and four vehicles departing. We are sent out by twos. I'm paired my mom. I'm relieved. I need to leave my childhood home with her. The three vehicles depart. We are left back to do a bit of laundry and a few last jobs.
9:33 A.M. We finally get in our car and leave. I tell my mom that I will walk to the end of our driveway and then to the end of our road. I need to walk off the property. Not drive. On the way up the driveway I stop and snatch a few wild raspberries. This land will nourish me one last time. At the end of Pine Shore Ln. I ask for a picture of myself and the community board that displays the last names of the dead end street’s residents. “Carney” is second and it is faded. It’s time to leave.
9:45 A.M. I realize that I need to print off my ticket and check in. Part of Spirit Airlines "screw you, we hope you don’t really get to fly this cheap so we’ll charge you $100 to print your boarding pass at the ticket counter” strategy. A quick call to my aunt who lives on the way. I’m saved.
11:00 A.M. I begin one of the most exciting conversations of the day. I’ve planned out a day of festive fun for my mother and myself that includes a trip back the mansion street in St. Paul. There, in a historic neighborhood with old buildings, sits Moscow On The Hill, a Russian restaurant. My mom vetoes it. I reason this is lingering effects of the Cold War.
2:02 P.M. We arrive at a famous pub with a “quaint lunch menu and a darling patio area,” my sister tells me. She's right about all of it, but there’s a 45 minute wait. The Russian restaurant is across the street. They too have an outdoor patio. My mom agrees to give it a try. I imagine Toph being proud of my lunch choice.
2:51 P.M. Lunch is exquisite. A few vegetarian cabbage rolls and a Jim Beam and 7Up have my mom trusting the Russians again. My Russian restaurant lies just a few blocks from the start of my mansion street. I talk her into a walk so I can dream about where I’ll retire as we comment on Gilded age architecture like we know what we are talking about.
3:55 P.M. I’ve scheduled one last stop on the way to the airport. Fort Snelling National Cemetery. Second only to Arlington in size, it’s where my dad is buried. I haven’t been there since Labor Day last year. His grave is covered by grass this time. He’s all tucked in. My mom and I have a brief dialogue about Joseph's request to carry his bones.
4:52 P.M. I’m now through security and sitting at a table in the food truck court in the airport, which has surprisingly good food. For now I’ve just ordered carbonated water. Saying goodbye to my mom is relatively painless. A luxury of her new schedule, which will deliver her back the Wacoans in October. I have to get work done. I’ve already missed a whole day and sermons don’t write themselves. I decide to work on the newsletter. Who’s turn is it to write? Mine. Crap.
6:01 P.M. What should I write about? .... Nothing .... Still nothing. I think about my weekend. What would David Foster Wallace do? I have an idea. A travel log. I jot down a title: “There and Back Again: A Travel Log of Blessing and Letting Go.” “That’s really good,” I think to myself.
7:24 P.M. I’m now caught up to the present. I haven’t moved or stopped writing. I know about this. It’s happened a few times in my life. It happened when I wrote my speech for the church on Friday Night. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about it in this video. What to say now? I get a little teary eyed in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. I think about my wife and children. I’m now present to their absence. I miss them dearly. I think about all my friends. I think about UBC. I think about Rapoport Academy and my wife’s passion for those kids. I think about the fact that I live next to my sister’s family. I think about tex-mex and brisket. I think about the Mayborne Museum and the zoo. I think about all the great people in Waco.
7:25 P.M. I’ve said goodbye and now I’m going home … to Waco.
8:31 P.M. After purchasing a gyro and running to my gate, I discover I’m the last to arrive on the plane. I look at my ticket as they scan it. “6E.” Crap. "E" is the symmetrical wicked step sister of “B” I’m in the middle again and it’s no life hack. This time between two burly dudes with square shoulders. I remind myself that I saved $5 by electing to not purchase my seat selection. That’s a quarter of a poker buy in. My choice is redeemed by my thought process.
1:15 A.M. I give all the kids a goodnight kiss. I stop in Wendell’s room last. Like me, he is the youngest. Like me, he has the most time to form memories and meaning in this house. I kiss him good night. In the morning he will get up and walk on Holy Ground.
UBCYP Game Night
"Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, One Night Ultimate Werewolf. If you ever heard of these or are just intrigued by their name, then please come ready to get your board gaming on with some fellow UBCYPers and their guests! Space fights, solving murders, surviving deserts, being a spy....yes, we got your crazy imagination covered as we bring those closer to life through artistic cardboard, intriguing cards and colorful dice. All are welcomed to come, of course, even if only to observe or relax with a glass of wine. Tonight!!!! Please email Jamie@ubcwaco.org if you have any questions.
Family Weekend Breakfast
Family weekend at Baylor is coming up, and we would love to meet your family! If you are student, bring your fam to UBC at 9:30 on the 17th for a free breakfast on us. If you are not a student, we need your help providing the breakfast food. You can sign-up after church to help out, or email email@example.com . If you have any questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are new to UBC in the last 6 months, we would love to have you stay for lunch after church on the 24th. We will tell you more about UBC’s history, how you can plug in, and there will be an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have. There will be a sign-up sheet in the foyer after church, or you can email email@example.com
UBC Kids Ministry Training
Orphan Care in McLennan County
This fall UBC will collectively look at the orphan situation in Mclennan County. What this means is that we will gather for a potluck on three different Wednesdays (9-13, 10-18, & 11-15). For this first meeting we will be doing a interview and Q/A with Erin Wheeler from Generation Adoptions. So if you are at all interested in how you can impact the orphan situation in Waco, please consider coming to this event and bringing a dish to share.
Work is Worship
Coffee Makers: Emmy & Caroline
Mug Cleaners: Teddy & Wesley
Money Counter: Josh M.
- Sunday Sermon: Matthew 18:15-20
- 9-17 Family Weekend Breakfast
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- 9-24 NUBCer Lunch
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