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  • This tale is going to meander a bit, but stay with me throughout. It’ll be a good journey, I promise.

    When I was getting the Home Hospice care set up for Mom a couple of weeks ago, brother Brian had suggested that I contact some of our cousins through facebook personal messages, to let them know what was going on with Mom. Good suggestion, Red! I wouldn’t have thought of it myself - I was more focused on doing everything to get things set up there and to make sure Mom had what she needed. Since Dad passed 16 years ago, Mom has been the primary point of contact for the broader “family”.

    And, it’s pretty broad. We have a ton of cousins. Mom was the oldest of 6 children, each of whom had large families. Dad had 8 sisters, 6 of whom had children, some as many as the 7 in our family. I counted once, and I believe it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 42. I wasn’t going to contact all 42 of them, but I was “friends” on facebook with at least one member of each of the families except one family, that of her little brother Mike. So, I contacted one from each of those families. Ironically, within days of making the contacts, Mike, who’s been out of touch with Mom for at least a couple of years and hadn’t heard anything from anyone else yet, called her out of the blue last Saturday. His daughter was planning to take him on a road trip to get to the 8 states he’s never been to, and he’d decided that he’d like to swing by to see his big sister at the end of that trip, and was calling to arrange that. Mom told him what was going on. Serendipitous!

    But, the serendipity gets better. My cousin Sandy, daughter of one of Mom’s sister’s, Flossie, immediately got back to me and said she’d like to come down from North Carolina to visit Mom, if it was o.k. “Sure, it’s o.k. She’d be thrilled if you came down.” So, we set it up for Sandy to come this Saturday for a visit. She has about a 4 ½ hour drive from Asheville, North Carolina.

    Sandy’s always been one of my favorite cousins, and one of Mom's favorite nieces. She and her daughter, Jennifer, came down to Debordieu during our annual family gathering on the beach last summer for a couple of days. I hadn’t seen Jennifer since she was a little girl, and she was now in her mid-30’s. They both had a great time visiting with our family at our annual gathering of our large clan (there’s usually between 35 and 50 of us – just between me, my siblings, and our families). The last I knew, Jennifer was up in Asheville, NC, living near her Mom.

    So, the other night, when me and my intern had dinner at the House of Blues, he showed me how to say on facebook that I was having dinner at the House of Blues in Dallas. I usually don’t go in for that kind of crap. Who gives a shit where I’m having dinner, really? That’s why I don’t twitter, and besides following the “Cowbirders” group and keeping up with a few friends, I spend very little time on facebook, either. But, Rick really wanted me to learn how to do this – (Interns!) – so, I did it, just to make him happy.

    I get back to the hotel and check my e-mail. There’s a notification that I have a facebook message from my cousin-once-removed, Jennifer, the one in Asheville, NC. Only, turns out she’s not in NC, anymore. Just moved to Dallas. “Hey, you’re in Dallas? I live here now. My uncle (Sandy’s little brother) David lives here, too. (I’d forgotten about that – hadn’t seen David in 17 years). Want to get together?” Sure, let’s get together. How’d you know I was here? “I saw your post about eating at the House of Blues in Dallas.” Oh, yeah, that.

    Next message was from Jennifer’s mom, my cousin Sandy. “Hey, Pete – Jennifer tells me you’re in Dallas. I’m still planning to visit you and your Mom in South Carolina on Saturday. What are you doing in Dallas?” Yeah, Kathy came down to South Carolina to take care of Mom, insisting that I come out here to this meeting. I’ll be back in SC on Friday.

    David swung by the hotel in his pick-up truck to go out for Mexican with he and Jennifer last night. What a memorable evening it was! He’s the cousin who’s closest to me in age, we’re just 4 months apart. He’s looking good and quite fit for 57 - like me. Turns out, like me, he got sober a bunch of years ago. I never knew this, but he attributes his sobriety in large part to the influence of Mom and Dad (Aunt Rosemary and Uncle Jim to him), along with Aunt Dottie, all of whom had significant communications with him, both when he was still drinking and when he was first struggling to get sober. Turns out, like me, things were a little rocky at first, when he was trying to get there. He’s also, like me, played some adult softball, but unlike me, is now an avid golfer. I explained how I hung the clubs up, in the best interests of public safety.

    Here's that story. I can drive the ball hard, and far, I just never know in which direction it’s going to decide to go, and have had one too many close calls with hitting other people with the ball. One time, me, brother Chris and brother-in-law Jim were playing with a 4th, a stranger. I was hitting my ball, the stranger was up ahead, seemingly out of the way and off of the fairway in his golf cart, waiting for me to hit before he went on to his ball. My ball headed straight for his cart on a screaming beeline. I yelled “fore!” like you’re supposed to, the ball smashed into his cart, right near where he was sitting, and caromed back out onto the middle of the fairway, landing in a good spot, “a good lie”. “Hey, buddy, thanks for the bank-shot!” I called out to him. He gave me a whithering look. Brother-in-law Jim sidled up to me, and calmly said, “Next time, it’s better to say you’re sorry before you joke about something like that.” That’s the other thing I never got about golf. The “golf ettiquette” thing. I’ve tried. I am just not “cultured” in that way, I reckon. I’m just out there to have a good time while chasing that pesky little ball around 18 holes. I’m not an honest player, either. It’s too humiliating to be. I generally stop counting strokes when it gets ridiculous, which it always does. 9 on a par 4 is about as far as I’m counting. My “130” scores, if I were honest, would be more like “150” or 160”. Here’s how I like to keep score. I keep a “Plus-Minus”count, like they do in hockey. It goes like this. If I start out with 20 balls in my bag, and finish with 10, I had a “minus-10” day. If I finish with 30 balls in my bag, I had a “plus-10” day. How does that happen, you ask? When I hit my ball into the woods – which, if there are woods, it’s a given that I will – and I go in looking for it, almost inevitably, I find one or two other balls in there that someone else lost there. I come out of there with 3 balls, plus my own, that was a “Plus-3” hole. THAT’s my kind of scoring.

    My nephews love playing with me, especially Brian. I’m fun to play with. Brother Chris on the other hand, a serious golfer, is never amused. I know I irritate him no end on the golf course, although he keeps his irritation to himself. He doesn't have to say it - I know. So, after the carom-shot-near-miss, I decided it was time to hang my Arnold Palmer clubs up. I left them at Chris’ house, for anyone who comes down without a set of clubs and needs them. Golfers throughout South Carolina heaved a sigh of relief the day that I did!

    But, I digress. We had an incredible evening, catching up on everything under the sun, the end of another amazing day in Dallas.

    The work here, by the way, has also been amazing. It’s a labor-management meeting. These parties had previously met on three different occasions, over the course of a couple of years, three days at a time, in attempts to establish this Department- and Executive Order Mandated Labor-Management Forum. I’ve read the transcripts of those meetings. It was ugly. Talked in circles for 3 days each time, never came away with even a charter, the pre-requisite to having a workable forum. Too much history, bad blood, and entrenched positions on both sides of the table to forge a collaborative working relationship, at the time. I got involved almost a year ago, and set out to change that. It took nearly a year to get everyone back to this table, to try one more time. We got ‘er done in two days, this time. By the end of the day, yesterday, we had a charter. Today, we will begin to tackle the issues, in a new, collaborative manner.

    We’ve actually been working in this fashion, to a degree, for the past 8 months, as I’ve gradually gotten more and more support for what I was trying to do. It all started when I sat in a room with the Union President, mano a mano, and we hashed through 80 issue items in 3 days, came out of the room with a signed agreement and a mutual pledge to change the world, as we knew it, and the rest is, as they say, history. This week, we changed the world. Many gave this relationship up for dead a long time ago. Many think it is still dead. However, today, many more see that it is very much alive, and this week, we felt the tectonic plates beneath our feet shifting, as the momentum of the world changing gathered steam.

    I love what I do. I’m glad Kathy came down to South Carolina and insisted I come out here this week.

    End of another fascinating day in Dallas!

    (Photo - the Debordieu Woods - where I have spent many a fine time on the golf course, looking for balls, upping my "plus-minus" rating - sadly, no more found balls for me!)
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