Blog 1454 – 09.11.2019
The Journey Of Ten Thousand Smiles
They say that the journey of a thousand or ten thousand miles begins with one small step. Almost fifty years ago I began one of the longest journeys of my life. A thin, shy, fearful and tearful nineteen year old soldier, I boarded a plane in Chattanooga, Tennessee, waving a sad good-bye to family and friends and two women I was convinced would always love me and be anxiously awaiting my return, my mother and my brand new wife. How I hoped I would return to them in one piece.
That first step out the gate to the plane would be but the first of many steps and the first of several planes that together would take me to the other side of the world from my beloved Tennessee, all the way to South Vietnam and eleven months later would bring me back to a very changed and different world, where only one of those women anxiously awaited my return. She, my mother, insisted that the little wife who had not written me the last four months of my almost year-long summer vacation in ‘Nam be there to see me return. But even as clue-less a twenty year old as I was, I could see that my wife was not happy to see me. For about forty-three days, several passed the thirty-day leave I was supposed to take before reporting to Fort Bragg, for my last ten months of active duty in the Army, I tried my best to change that look and talk her into going on to North Carolina with me. Alas, neither was to be.
The next leg of my life’s journey like that longest of my young life would be without her. But not really, I suppose, for I have carried that little girl and many others – men women, and boys too, all lovingly along with me on the journey of this lifetime. Though Barbara no longer wanted to be my wife, others did and would and though painfully I then thought that I would never love like that again, I did, I do, if perhaps a little more reservedly or cautiously at least in the beginning, and thus the steps of my journey continue.
Fourteen hundred and fifty or so blogs ago I began what I hope will be a journey of ten thousand smiles – ten thousand encouraging word blogs. How am I doing four plus years in? You, dear readers, must be the judge of that. Like the light brigade British Cavalrymen of a by-gone age, “Mine is not to reason why (I paraphrase) mine is but to write encouraging words till I die.”
I did not know as I boarded that plane headed west across the width of the U.S. and then another across the Pacific Ocean, on those cold January days, if I would ever return but I did. Each time I write a blog I do my level best to make it my very best and hope it reaches its intended audience. I am considering setting up a trust to try to make sure these encouraging word blogs are available long after I am not to write anymore. Will I make the ten-thousand I set early on as my goal? Who knows or even if it really matters. I once thought that I could not live another day if my Barbara did not want to be my wife. I have lived many love-filled days since then. She married another, had two beautiful children and died years later of a stroke on Halloween in 1999 at the age of forty-seven. We were still friends when she passed and I found out long ago that my heart is big enough and that there will always be a place for her in it, room enough for everyone really.
I am grateful for everyone that I have gotten to know and love along my life’s journey and those I will yet. I once said loud enough for all listening to hear at an after college-reunion dinner where I met again the woman whom I would court longer than any other and stay married to the longest (thirty years and still counting) that I married every woman I ever had sex with. (It was not true – but sadly it was too close to the truth to be all that funny.) I think she took that as sort a challenge and so felt she had to look up Ole “Larry” (she mistook me for a Larry – we still smile about that one) and see where that might lead.
I am forever glad and grateful that she, my Linda Lee, did – that she took that small step that changed for the better both of our lives bringing so many encouraging words especially to mine. She is one of my toughest critics but also my most devoted fan, friend, and lover. How many steps either of us has left I do not know but I hope we get to share the road for many years to come.
And I hope I get to share many more smiles with you.
Your friend and fellow traveler,