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  • Yesterday was certainly a day of mixed emotions for me. It had the whole range of emotions, from sadness to joy to amazement to gratitude to unexpected treats. We were up and on the road early, driving from our home in Vienna, Virginia to Maryland, to pick Kathy’s mom up, and then up the road to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to spend a couple hours at the 23rd annual Mother’s Day Truck Caravan/Make-A-Wish Foundation carnival event there.

    The trip up was like a trip through time, for me. I was, of course, thinking of Mom a lot. I love to drive on long trips as it gives me time to think and ponder and to let threads of thought just unravel and go where they normally might not go. The music on the radio kept nailing me with songs that reminded me of things past, and of Mom, and produced some of my moments of sadness and joy, all mixed up together at the same time, as we drove through an incredible landscape on a beautiful Spring Day, driving through what many call “God’s Country”, the beautiful Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish lands of that area.

    On recent trips up and back, I’ve taken to a different, more direct but back-roads route, which makes the journey so much richer. I can do without all highways all the time. The journey really is as important as the destination. This route takes me back, as it winds right past the old, now abandoned Bainbridge Naval Base, perched at the top of a hill, where I spent 6 crucial months, nearly 40 years ago, that turned around my Naval career at the time, and showed me I could do whatever I set my mind to do. That was the “port stop” of my career where they told me upon arrival that I had the least chance out of the entire class of 300 of making it through their program, based on entry testing, and tried to ship me out before I ever got started. I instead, determined to make it and prove them wrong, spent most of my time there competing to be the top student in the class.

    Down the steep, winding hill just past that base is one of the oddest little towns I’ve ever seen, Port Deposit, Maryland - a town so odd that it used to be in the Guinness Book of World Records for its oddity. I believe it was listed in that book as the narrowest town in the world. Bound by sheer cliffs on one side, and the mighy Susquehanna River on the other, it is literally a one street town. Even though it used to be a somewhat thriving little town when the Navy Base was still operating up the hill, we used to call it Port Decrepit back in the day. These days, it really fits the nickname, as it no longer appears to be very thriving, as many of the old houses have fallen to disrepair. It still has a nice little “historic district”, and they’ve built some brand new condos right on the river, but overall it appears as a town well past its prime.
  • It was in a little pool room/bar in this odd, little town on a hot July day in 1974, drinking beers and shooting pool, that I heard the news that Tricky Dick Nixon was resigning from the presidency the next day, and I quietly celebrated the downfall of the villain I had vigorously opposed and fought hard for his competitor, George McGovern, for that White House term that he never completed, just a year and a half earlier. I felt vindicated, to no one else but myself. I had been right, but had failed to convince enough other people of the vileness of the man who now had to resign to avoid impeachment and removal.

    Driving through there brings it all back to me – pride for my accomplishment up that hill, and damned proud for the memory of my standing up for what I knew to be right, in the face of impossible odds and conventional wisdom.

    The Truck Caravan Event that we were driving up for in Lancaster was mainly to see our grand niece Noelle, and her whole family, in a grand carnival like event that her aunts, my nieces, have volunteered for, for a number of years, and which Noelle was now one of the Make-A-Wish kids that it was raising funds and awareness for. Noelle was going to get to ride in one of the trucks in the Caravan/Parade! We found them in one of the large tents, having lunch, and we got to spend a little time before they had to go join in the festivities of the day.
  • Noelle was doing so much better than the last time I saw her. She had the energy of a normal, little 4 year old (almost 5!), and was very excited. Without that huge tumor inside her any longer, and with the treatments far exceeding even the most optimistic hopes, outcome-wise, there was brightness and cheer all around. She’s still getting treatments, but the doctors are most encouraged by how well she is responding to everything, and her fighting spirit is pulling her through it all, as is the amazing support of family and the entire community, and the giving spirit of people all over. Her eyes lit up when I told her about a certain unicorn from across the ocean who sent her wishes – there wasn’t time to read that unicorn’s letter to her, amidst all the hoopla already going on, but it meant a lot to her, just the same.

    It was a very special day for Noelle, and seeing her doing so well, and able to just be a little kid and enjoying the things that other little kids enjoy, really made the drive up and back worth every minute. She wanted me to lift her high in the air, which I did, and we just hung out for a little while with her and her cousins and parents and aunts and grandmother. She, of course, highjacked my Iphone and snapped off a few pictures herself, including the one of me, and even made a little video, which I still haven’t figured out how to do with the thing, myself!

    With aching knees after the drive back down to Maryland and Virginia, I was not looking forward to playing softball last night. Gladly, my games were cancelled due to muddy field conditions, so the day ended with a quiet evening at home, enjoying the company of my lovely wife. All in all, a fine day in May!
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