Forty-two years ago a young know-it-all in his late twenties accompanied by his wife and three year old daughter left our nation’s capitol late one afternoon on US50 headed west. Sometime around midnight after too many miles of dark, narrow and crooked two-lane highway they found a room at a cheap motel in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Did I mention the rain?
The next morning, following a cool shower and breakfast with a bunch of rowdy mountaineers and coal miners at a smoke filled greasy spoon they found a partially completed Interstate and made their way to Kentucky. Immediately upon entering Kentucky I looked at Sharyl (you probably already guessed it was us) and said, “If I ever cross West Virginia again it will be at thirty five thousand feet”.
Never say never; I did the 35,000 feet thing a few times over the years but I am writing this from ground level (not level ground) in Morgantown, West Virginia. I need to apologize to the entire state. The landscape is very attractive, the people aren’t very friendly but maybe someone told them what I said all those years ago. I am enjoying my visit.
Why am I here? I came to help that three-year-old daughter’s son celebrate his 21st birthday. He is now officially recognized as an adult; life has forced him to mature well beyond those 21 years. He is here playing the sport he loves and continuing his education as a West Virginia Mountaineer.
I have developed a new appreciation for those guys and gals known as student athletes.
We have spent time together as his schedule permitted. He pitched a couple innings in an inter-squad practice Sunday afternoon. For you baseball buffs, he had a good outing. We had dinner and spent a couple hours visiting later in the evening. Monday his day started with an 8:30 am class, he had time for his birthday dinner at 8:30 pm. He wrote a paper after dinner and was in the weight room at 5:45 Tuesday morning. We squeezed in breakfast between the weight room and a 9:30 class. Dinner was at 8:30 again. I didn’t ask about his Wednesday schedule; I know it is one of his real busy days, after dinner we said a difficult good-bye.
Wednesday morning I looked in the rearview mirror as I merged with traffic on Interstate 79; I didn’t see the hilly town with the crooked and narrow streets. When Morgantown became a city it wasn’t about north, south, east and west. It was about following the terrain and getting from point A to point B, that practice has continued. It really is a pretty town.
I saw a reflection of the past 21 years. I saw the good times and the other times; a lot of smiles and also the tears. I saw a young man of whom I am very proud. He was on his way to class to continue his education, then to baseball practice to pursue the dream, and maybe some dinner about 8:30. I said a little prayer thanking god and his mom and dad for the young man he has become.
I looked through the windshield, and yes I saw the Appalachian Mountains, the fall colors just beginning to evolve, but my focus was on the future. I saw a family; a very close-knit family beginning to regain their emotional balance and footing and learn to walk again. With god’s continued help I am confident we will be OK, never the same but OK.
My focus returned to the foliage and traffic, after all I had about 4 hours of West Virginia to enjoy. I hope to come see you guys again real soon.
I spent Wednesday night on the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Tennessee. I mooched a
meal and a bed from my nephew and his wife. We talked about family, old times and genealogy among other things. I’m still resisting the urge to spend some time checking my ancestry. They have two dogs, Sammy is a “pound puppy” one branch of his family tree is Basset he liked me better over there. Toto is a “found her standing beside the road puppy”, she liked me better close up and personal. Thank you Gary and Cathy for putting me up and for putting up with me.
I am back home, I enjoyed the trip and plan to do it again, but the flatlands and streets that run north, south, east and west, where most of the corners are 90 degrees sure look good. I guess once a flatlander always a flatlander.
Please keep me in your prayers. Good Night and God Bless.