Late last week Dear Diane and I returned home from an almost month-long trip to visit children and grandchildren. The trip was precipitated by two events: one grandson's Confirmation in Massachusetts, and another's First Communion in California. Unfortunately, both events were scheduled for the same day, and the need for grand-parental attendance at each demanded some creative scheduling. We drove from Florida to Massachusetts, spent some time with one son and his family in New Bedford, then visited with one daughter and her family in Hyannis. After several days Diane flew to San Jose, California for the First Communion, while I remained on Cape Cod for the Confirmation. She then returned so we could spend a weekend with our other son and his family on Nantucket Island. Miraculously, we actually managed to spend some time with each of our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren. I suppose that makes it a successful trip.
Adding to the success was the opportunity to swap houses with another deacon and his wife. Deacon Joe, who was ordained about 30 seconds before me back on May 24, 1997, and his wife, Ann, wanted to spend a few weeks in The Villages and we wanted to do the same on Cape Cod. He and Ann have a lovely, old Cape Cod home in South Chatham, just about three miles from where Dear Diane and I lived for 25 years. It's also just a short drive to our elder daughter's home in Hyannis, which she shares with her husband and five of our grandchildren. And so the exchange was made.
I think we got the better deal. Despite the weather -- 40s, 50s, and too much rain -- every morning Maddie (our little Bichon Frise) and I would get up early and take a long walk down to the beach. I think she enjoyed the change of pace from our usual strolls around The Villages. I know I did. After our walk I'd feed the dog, then sit by the bay window, pray Morning Prayer, and sip my coffee while enjoying the songs and flights of the local bird population. What a wonderful way to begin the day.
Taking a few weeks off from a busy retirement in sunny Florida was exactly what I needed. Our temporary home turned out to be the perfect refuge from worldly cares and the pressures of multiple ministries. The only downside was Dear Diane's absence which put Maddie and me into a five-day funk. And to top it off, Dear Diane had to suffer the consequences of my cost-saving travel arrangements which resulted in plane changes going and coming. She's a real trooper, though, and despite some tight connections, made it to San Jose and back to Providence on time, along with her baggage. I had blessed her and her luggage during check-in and had full confidence that all would go well. God is good!
One evening during her absence, and more tired than usual, I turned on the TV and stumbled onto the NFL draft. I did something I had never done before: I actually watched it. It was the first night of the draft, which included round one and part of round two. Why I watched this I cannot say. I'm not a big fan of professional sports. The huge amounts of money involved only create a breeding ground for corruption and distorted values, just one more effect of original sin. I also believe our professional athletes, like most of today's celebrities, are generally poor role models for young people. Yeah, I know...I've turned into a curmudgeon.
Anyway, watching the draft was mesmerizing. Just observing these future professional athletes -- their over-the-top clothing and jewelry, their attitudes and comments -- was both fascinating and more than a little depressing. Many of these young men, barely out of childhood, seemed completely wrapped up in themselves, convinced that they actually deserve the millions that will be thrown at them in the weeks to come. Sadly, if experience is any guide, despite the millions, many will be flat broke ten years from now.
As one young man said, "Football is my life!" I suspect he is not alone in believing this, even though many NFL draftees will never play in a regular season game. And among those who actually make the team and sign a rookie contract, most will play for only two or three years. And then what? Did they really get an education that will allow them to succeed in a world that places little value on their athletic prowess once they're off the field? They certainly possess some level of physical courage, but did they develop the moral courage needed to live good, productive lives? One can only hope they will come to an understanding of what is truly important in life, and do so sooner rather than later.
The trip up and down the East Coast also provided an opportunity to spend a few days with dear old friends in Virginia, the Lees, and in South Carolina, the Hathaways. Now that I think about it, our trip was characterized by what can only be called mooching. We exchanged houses with friends, visited other friends en route, and didn't spend a single night in a hotel. Ah well...at least all our friends know that they are welcome to do the same when they come to Florida to escape the cold and snows of winter.
We had a wonderful time, but as Dorothy said, "There's no place like home."