Archive for October 8th, 2008

08
Oct
08

A Testament to Freedom

A Testament to Freedom by Darren King [copyright 2008]

For Pfc. Joseph Sturgis, Jamestown NY

I sat next to him on a flight
from Atlanta to Detroit
and closed my book somewhere
over the Tennessee Valley –
he wasn’t ever going to stop talking.
He was going home
on a seventeen-day leave of absence
after basic training,
then onto a twelve-month
stint in Korea.
He was going home to tell his father
how sorry he was,
for the trouble he had caused,
the worry.
He was going home to tell his father
he had become a man
and was someone to be proud of.

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08
Oct
08

Coming Home

Coming Home
By Darren King [copyright 2008]

Traveling for business is odd. At least when you do it as frequently as I do. It’s necessary. But it’s odd. The drama that comes with airports and shuttles. Rental cars and hotels. Sometimes I feel like Steve Martin in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. Take a flight, add in a lay-over, a whacky flight attendant and an irate passenger, throw in some bad weather and you’ve got the makings of a screenplay.

But traveling for me is necessary. There just are some things you can’t do over the Internet. You can not replace the value of time spent with someone face-to-face. Yet, while I am traveling, building relationships elsewhere, the relationships back home are on-hold in the same physical sense. I can communicate with my wife and children by cellphone and emails. But it’s not the same as actually being home. I don’t kid myself about these things. When I’m away – I’m away. And after a few days days, being in a hotel room without your family? It gets old. Fast. And because I travel so frequently, when I do I enter into a whole other life. A very different life. Alone and with a whole different set of habits and routines that kick in as soon as I hit the airport.

I always fool myself into thinking I’m going to catch up on sleep. This is usually a sign that I’ve started the trip already sleep-deprived. However, as soon as I get to my hotel room it’s a different story. I unpack my clothes. I set out my toiletries and find a plug to charge my cellphone. I pull back the bedding, unpack my laptop and sit cross-legged on the bed while flipping channels on the television. I read. I write. I catch up on emails. The news. I prepare for the next day’s set of meetings. I call business contacts who have left messages at two phones. I call my family to say good night. I stay up too late. I have the whole routine down. Like other habits, it’s all very easy. After a few days of this, I’m ready for home.

This week I was back in the great state of North Carolina. One of my frequent trips to Durham. Making the time away a little more bearable, I stay across from Papas Grille right in Durham. The friendly couple who own and run the restaurant also own and run the coffee house next door. She makes my morning coffee. He makes my dinner.

“Hello Darren!”, she says, when she sees me on the first morning of my first full day.

“Can you turn my light on dear?”, she says.

Six-foot, three, she is asking me to reach up and pull the little chain for the light at the front of the cafe’, like I’m the Abominable Snowman in Rudolph, putting the star on the Christmas tree. “And he doesn’t even need a step ladder!” She stands behind the espresso machine watching me; a large, skim, hazelnut, latte’ already in the works.

“How long are you staying this time?”

“Four days,” I say, “through Thursday evening.”

“Oh good. Then I will see you for dinner?”

“Yes,”.

“Good,” she says. “We will make you something very special.”

So this is how my week away from home went. And will go. I rise early. I stay up late. I work. I hear a lot of funny conversations. I miss my family. But I see her each morning when she has already started my coffee and asks me to pull the little chain for her light. And I will see them at night when he makes my dinner. And when things slow down, we’ll watch CNN on the flatscreen in the corner of the bar. We’ll talk about politics, the stock markets. We’ll talk about her grown sons and my young boys and compare the weather here in Durham to home, in Greece and Michigan.




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