Personal

The Path to a Broken Promise

 

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I know that I left readers hanging with a “Name these insects” post last month, but I must address a timely topic.

Approximately 8 1/2 months ago, I issued this decree: if Trump wins the presidency, we’ll make Ireland our new home.

That was back in February, when the kids and I were enjoying an Irish road trip, and the chance to stay sounded dreamy. (Sidenote: I did not consult Martin before making my grand announcement.) At the time, six Republican nominees vied for the top spot, though Trump’s outlandish comments and quotes dominated the news cycle. Despite his treasure trove of whacky soundbites, Trump was generally regarded as the big joke. Not a “real” candidate.

Which is why I made a bet I couldn’t lose. For certain, Trump’s political success had a short shelf life. And if by some miracle he bested his Republican brethren, so what?  What were the odds that he’d actually win?

It was impossible.

I didn’t worry a whit, even as the party’s nominees fizzled in the primaries and Trump stood atop the rubble. I didn’t fret during the summer or even yesterday morning, as the kids parsed the hypothetical move overseas — which barn cats would go or stay, which horses would make the move, and would we buy or rent a house. I remained confident about my sure-fire gamble.

Until last night.

As I watched the results roll in, I mulled over the fact that I’d bought the media hype and blindly assumed that Trump’s presidential success was impossible. In truth, it was implausible and improbable. But never impossible.

I decided that a salve for the kids would come in cash reparations. And I figured that $200 was the fair-market price for a broken promise of this magnitude. Sure, I’d be out $600, but it was worth it to buy back their trust.

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This morning I awoke the kids and prepared to grovel. But first, I turned on the TV and let them soak in the results. They were astonished and dismayed. In an agonized chorus they shouted, “Noooooo!” in response to the news.

Actually, they appeared to be in physical pain over Trump, and I hadn’t even mentioned my plans to reneg on my promise.

Hadley was dismayed to discover her hopes for a female president dashed, but she was easy to placate on the Irish front.

She accepted my apology. However, she declined a cash settlement.

“I don’t want money,” she said.

“You don’t? Well, what do you want?” I asked.

“I want a sleepover, with one of my friends.”

Manageable, certainly economical. “Done,” I said.

Brynn wasn’t nearly as conciliatory. In fact, she was outraged over both the outcome of the election, and my bait-and-switch tactics. “You promised! You CAN’T break your promise!” she yelled, slapping the coffee table for emphasis. “You said we are moving! So we are moving! We. Are. Moving. To. IRELAND!!”

“I know I said that, but we’re not. And I’m sorry. But what about money? I’ll give you two hundred dollars, instead. Two hundred dollars.”

“I don’t want money! You said we’d move to Ireland if Trump becomes president!”

“Brynn, we are not moving,” I said firmly. “It’s not happening, okay? What about a vacation? Another trip to Ireland this winter? How about that?” Cayden nodded with approval, while Brynn glowered.

“Fine,” she muttered with disgust. “We can go to Ireland on vacation,” she said, pausing before adding, “…as long as that vacation lasts for four years!!”

I sighed and tabled the topic so they could ready for school. But the issue remains unresolved.

And while my money is probably safe, my word is devalued, especially in Brynn’s eyes. It will take time to repair my tarnished reputation.

I think that I can bolster my back-pedaling, by pointing out that there’s really no escape from Trump. His footprints are everywhere — even on Irish soil.

He owns a golf club and hotel resort in Doonbeg, County Clare. There too, Trump plans to build a wall — a 20-meter wide barrier — to combat coastline erosion.

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Pigpen’s Demise

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Fear not, our car Pigpen is not dead yet.

But we have a do-not-resuscitate order, and the end is approaching.

This summer, when the exhaust system started rumbling and the main control panel failed (disabling every operable knob except the radio), we had Pigpen triaged.

The findings weren’t good. If Pigpen were human, he’d be on hospice care. Repairs exceeded the car’s value, but the auto guy shrugged and said, “It is drivable. It’s not like it’s going to explode or anything.”

That’s when I decided to drive Pigpen to the bitter end.

And this is a horrible image — especially egregious from a horse owner — but I liken Pigpen’s impending doom to the carriage horse in the movie, Gone with the Wind.

Remember when Scarlett is desperate to reach her family’s plantation, Tara, and see if it survived the Union’s siege? Scarlett pushes this wretched horse to his breaking point. In a silhouetted scene, we see the poor animal give out; Scarlett flogs the horse until he collapses and dies.

That’s kinda how I picture Pigpen’s final moments: rattling down the road, until the car can’t manage another mile and slows to a silent stop.

Other times I imagine a Hollywood ending: we are cruising down the road when suddenly, the axle cracks, the wheels fly off, and the car vomits a flood of engine parts all over the pavement.

Then a tow truck driver scrapes up Pigpen’s remains with a giant spatula.

That’s my prognostication.

So why mention it today?

Because it was particularly chilly this morning. And when the kids piled in, I said, “Remember riding in Pigpen this summer without AC? Well, we’re facing a similar problem. There’s no heat.”

The solution seemed obvious: use our newer, functioning car. And I assumed that the kids were on board when Had announced, “I know what we can do!”

But instead she said, “Blankets! We’ll wrap ourselves in blankets!” There was no objection from the other two sitting back there.

“Okay,” I said, “We’ll be just like the Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. But in a car, not a carriage.”

That’s what I said, but personally, I couldn’t see myself bundled in blankets. And there’s something that the kids don’t know: one other button still functions in that pathetic car.

The driver’s seat warmer.

Of course a faintly-warm cushion is a paltry source of heat, but it’s fine for now.

And who knows if Pigpen will reach winter without self-destructing and spewing belts, hoses and gaskets all over the road.

We’ll just have to see.

The Melon Report

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It’s 8 am Saturday morning (hour 3 of Xtreme Hike) and I’m slogging up a muddy trail, in sodden socks…with 15 pounds of fruit on my back.

This year’s 27+ mile hike involved a watermelon. I toted it for 7.2 miles. Me & the melon shared Moonstomper trail and Homestead together. We stood atop the rocks at Bear Cliff Overlook — where there was nothing to overlook. Just fog.

But I wasn’t tramping alone with grocery store produce. I partnered with Craig, one of our hikers, and of course, Maisie the Wonder Dog. Martin and 38 other Xtreme participants were scattered along the trails as well.

To back up, my Xtreme Hike 2016 book report begins on Friday morning, with our 4 1/2 hour road trip to the mountains near Blacksburg, Virginia. Along the way, we stopped to grab energy bars and drinks.

And browse the clothing racks.

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Mike Johnson snagged some reading material.

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When the 5 of us (me, Martin, Annie, Mike and Maisie) finally ascended the mountain road to our destination, “Mountain Lake Lodge,” we could barely see the resort through the fog. (Or “clouds,” as Martin kept saying.)

Fog, clouds, whatever. The hotel and its cottages were blotted out by hazy white. But we had the details: Mountain Lake Lodge is an old resort, dating back to the mid-1800s. And it is best known as the filming site for the 1987 movie, Dirty Dancing.

Hence, the watermelon. Movie fanatics should be familiar with the scene: Jennifer Grey (“Baby”) and Patrick Swayze (“Johnny”) meet, and Grey awkwardly explains her presence in the staff quarters by saying, “I carried a watermelon.”

This spurred Dave Lemen, Xtreme Hike participant and committee member, to create a secret fundraising challenge, which he revealed Friday night: an extra $1,000 donation to the team willing to tote a 15-pound watermelon from start to finish.

Folks weren’t exactly clamoring for the honor. Everyone just glanced around the room. I caught the gleam in Mike Johnson’s eyes and we volunteered “Team Brynn” to ferry the fruit… to the relief of others (and the dazed astonishment of those at our table.)

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Fortunately, I was reminded that Craig Connolly was part of our crew. Not only is Craig a veteran of this event, but he’s speedy. Xtreme Hike isn’t a race, but he has finished in front the last three years. (Staff from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation chart each participant’s time through the hike, to keep track and account for everyone involved.)

After dinner on Friday, we readied our packs. And Saturday morning came way too soon. We convened at 4:30 am.

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All of us at oh-dark-thirty

Craig volunteered for Leg 1 of melon transport. And as it happened, Maisie and I kept pace with him for those first 7 1/2 miles. Our headlamps bobbed in the dark and we paused periodically, to snap the light sticks hung the previous day, to guide the way.

In the early morning light, we reached the rest station first. And after a quick snack, we transferred the watermelon into my backpack.

During the first leg, I’d asked Craig about the added weight. He claimed, “It isn’t that bad.” He even said, “Sometimes, I forget it’s there.”

Well, when it was my turn, I did not forget it was there — a solid, 15-pound orb riding my spine. We departed at 7:35 am, and I felt every bulky minute and every weighted incline, until 10:30 am, when we completed the 7.2 miles of Leg 2.

Two sections down, two to go.

I was downright giddy, freeing that fruit from my pack, and I happily left it for the next volunteer (or victim) from our team.

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Ready for the handoff

Melon-free, I was energetic and recharged. Maisie, Craig and I blazed through Leg 3. We didn’t discuss the fact that we were leading. Because Xtreme Hike is not a race. The goal is to finish, not to win. But silently, we were thinking: we’re in the lead.

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The old golf course; a respite from the mountain trails.

We took a longer break before the last section, propping up our feet. I fed Maisie beef jerky. Then we began the most difficult portion, with the steepest, lengthiest climbs. As the front runners, we had cracked the light sticks in the dark, and adjusted ambiguous signs for those in our wake, but on Leg 4, we suffered a setback:

We were sent out in the wrong direction.

The rest stop staff and volunteers realized the error when the next set of hikers arrived, and questioned the route. They were sent the correct way, while we were radioed to turn around and start over. Stunned, Craig and I retraced our steps as quickly as possible.

Ultimately, our detour tacked on 2.5 additional miles and wasted time. At the rest stop — our start-over-again point, we learned that the two hikers who had trailed right behind us all day, had a 30-minute lead.

We had 6.5 miles to make up the difference.

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And that’s when we abandoned our fake, blase attitude about when and how we finished. Though exhausted and sore, we speed-walked at a ludicrous pace, half jogging/half stumbling when we hit rocks and roots. We barely talked — we were too winded — and around each turn we peered ahead for the leaders. When we didn’t see them, we wondered how long we’d sustain our crazy pace.

The hikers ahead of us — nice people, who’d maintained a consistent pace all day — would’ve finished first, had they not been pursued by demented, excessively-competitive maniacs.

At some point along the mountain trail, we caught up with them. They kindly yielded to us on the narrow path… though they had little choice with Maisie trotting behind them, panting heavily and practically nipping their heels.

So, extra miles aside, Maisie, Craig and I were first to hear the cow bell and whooping and clapping at the finish line. That was at 4:23 pm. Afterwards, we shed our socks and shoes, sat down, and cheered the other hikers as they celebrated their final steps. Included, were our teammates who’d heaved the watermelon over those grueling miles to the bitter end.

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Our melon carrying crew

My thanks to every hiker who hoofed so many miles this past weekend, despite aches, pains and blisters; and also thanks to the volunteers who kept everyone fed, hydrated and motivated.

Finally, my deepest gratitude to the supporters who contributed to Xtreme Hike and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. You’ve taken a step, as did we, in helping Brynn and others with CF.

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