Year five

(Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport)–I was nervous at this time in 2005. I’d been asked to spend a week in the Bahamas writing about poker. I’d been asked by people that I held in such high regard, my thoughts were less about how I could impress them and more about how I could somehow avoid messing it all up. At the time, the $1,500 plus spending money I was getting seemed like a small fortune. I didn’t know that the money I was getting was a drop in the petty cash fund. My spending money, forgotten until the end of the trip, came in the form of a $500 chip out absently plucked out of somebody’s pocket.

When I got to the Bahamas, I considered it a one-off week that might help me hone my skills a little. My son was an infant at the time–just five months old. I knew next to nobody at the tournament (except the good friends who flew in and surprised me a few days into the event). At some point during the trip, I stood in my hotel room alone. I listened to a birthday party going on a few floors below me and developed such a sick sense of loneliness that I remember thinking, “Well, at least I know what I don’t want to do for a living.” I wish I could remember what made me change my mind.

I do, know, however, that by the end of the trip I had made some friends that I still have today. I also know that whatever had made me think I’d be glad when the trip was finished had vanished and I was suddenly entertaining the idea of quitting my job in television. I didn’t tell many people that. Instead I made a brief allusion to it in a post I wrote upon my return.

I know this: I find myself living in many an alternate universe and often times have a difficult time of jumping from plane to plane. It used to be a lot harder. This time, the jump was a lot easier. After I’d breached the pain of thinking my kid thought I was a stranger, we slipped into a familiar routine and I felt like I was at home.

I realize this about my recent good fortune: it’s meant to teach me something. It may turn out to be no more than a few months good luck, what we in the gambling world call a rush. However, I think I’m learning what I love and what I don’t. It’s not always been easy for me.

I mentioned a few months ago that I had an unexplained sense of optimism, and it appears my senses were right on.

That was code. What I meant was I expected a job offer within a couple of days. It came, I gave my notice at the TV station, I went to Denmark for a few days, and the rest is a long, many-chaptered tale that I have barely scratched in my writing here. That little one-off trip turned into tens of thousands of miles of plane rides–Denmark, Austria, Monaco, England, Italy, France, Costa Rica, Mexico, the Bahamas, not to mention Dallas, Houston, New York, and Vegas more times than I could count. I stopped counting how many months out of the year I was away and started counting the months I was home.

And so now, here I am again. I’m sitting in the airport preparing to go the Bahamas for the fifth time. My wife didn’t go with me in 2005 because she had to work and take care of our baby boy. She went in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Now, she is pregnant again. She is staying home to gestate and keep an eye on the infant-turned-kid.

This morning as I got my things together, my boy sat on the floor and gave me a look I’ve grown to expect. It’s the “I want to cry but I’m going to be tough” look that makes me want to blubber. I went through my speech about why Daddy has to go to work, being careful not to lay any of the reasons on the unborn brother. The kid toughened up and joined me for the ride to the airport.

As we rode, he asked, “Daddy, can I tell you a fictional story?” and then proceeded to tell me about his friend coyote, a squid, and his adventures with Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. The boy is a story teller. That makes me even more happy than the fact his four-year-old vocabulary contains the word “fictional.” It makes more happy than the fact he can be tough when I leave…again.

By the time we pulled up to the terminal, he was in a good mood. Whether he sensed something in me or something else, he said, “Don’t be sad, Daddy. It’s just a few days.”

And so, here I am again. I’m going back to a paradise I barely know, despite having already made four trips there. It will be eight or nine days of pretty grueling work. I’m trying to follow the kid’s advice.

Funny thing, though. Last time, it took me going to the Bahamas to develop some odd sense of optimism about things ahead. This time, the optimism is coming early. Unlike last time, that’s not code. I don’t expect any major changes in the next few weeks that will have me jetting off to Denmark. I simply have this feeling that I’m really going to like the next year or so. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but damn it if I don’t have an unexplained sense of good things coming.

A guy can dream, right?

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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4 Responses

  1. Dr. Chako says:

    Somehow my quote of the day is appropriate to your post:

    A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.
    – Sidney J. Harris

    Let’s hear it for optimism!

    -DrC

  2. Da Goddess says:

    Nothing wrong with having an interesting job.

    And nothing wrong with having a smart kid. Until, that is, they look at you one day and say, “quit hyperbolating already, would ya?” Seriously. My kid pulled that one on me a few months back. Took me by surprise the same way his onomatopoeia speech in Kindergarten or 1st grade did.

    Let’s face it, our kids are going to be smarter than we are sooner than we were and we’re going to have to pretend that they aren’t until they’re well into adulthood.

    Safe travels, Otis.

  3. Drizztdj says:

    Making dreams a reality is what makes a person stronger and able to look at themselves in the mirror in the morning.

    Cheers to getting there.

  4. Lee Jones says:

    You will have more time with the boy than most dads have with theirs, and that’s an unimaginable blessing. And when the Paradise Island trips are over, you will look back on them (and Denmark, and Monte Carlo, and…) and say, “Wasn’t that a time?”

    The boy will be just a week older when you get home, and you’ll have a week of stories and memories, for him, for yourself, for us. Be in the moment there, enjoy the rum, and focus hard so you remember the stories.

    We will tell them to each other time and again on porches and in airplane lounges and on beaches to come and be glad to share them.

    Carpe Diem.

    Lee

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