John Bear jumped out of bed at 7:00 am to feed Fiesta Dave’s meter.
We’d parked in a haze of exhaustion. After spending the entire day in New York City we hit a monstrous traffic jam on the way into Philadelphia. Between reading our iPhone maps and asking cab drivers which turn to take next we couldn’t help but notice the city surrounding us. Smartly dressed couples walked slowly down the sidewalks but it was the magnificent buildings, many of which bore witness to the birth of our nation, that commanded our attention. Our heads zig zagged from the left and to the right, taking it all in and feeling immediately humbled.
“Now this is my kind of city,” I had said as we pulled into our fortunate meter directly in front of the hotel. Minutes later we were fast asleep, barely able to roll over and kiss each other good night. In the morning I felt like someone had hit me square in the head with a sledge hammer. I knew this kind of headache. A smoker’s headache. It must have been the New York City smog or something. Or maybe the stale air in the hotel room. I wasn’t sure but I did know one thing – I needed caffeine, immediately.
“Can you grab me some coffee while you’re out there?” I mumbled to John Bear as he ran out the door.
“Yeah, no problem.”
That’s the thing about John – he’ll do just about anything for me at any time of day or night without complaint. Because of this fact, I reserve the asking only for special occasions. This was definitely one of them.
“We should get going,” he said when he came back in, the door slapping loudly behind him and the hot coffee in his hands.
“Why the rush?”
“You should see it out there. It’s awesome.”
And in less than 20 minutes later I was able to completely agree with him.
We found Philadelphia much slower paced, more our style and could have stayed all day but we had to get back on the road. My ex had called earlier to tell me Benjamin was really “missing Mommy.”
Just minutes after leaving the city I called my little brother, Eliot, to check in on his wedding. Just a few days away now, he was telling me about something pretty important when I hit a gargantuan pothole on the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Toll Plaza. It wasn’t even a pothole, more like a chasm or a crater. I screamed and my brother heard it all go down.
“What the F*&% was that?”
“I don’t know,” snapped John, “Just get back over into the other lane.”
“Oh my God, that couldn’t have been good.” I said into the phone.
“Oh, sorry El. Listen, I gotta go. We’ll talk later.”
One hour later after John had been driving for a bit I took over again. But before we even got out of the parking lot I pulled over.
“There’s something wrong with the car,” I said. “It feels totally weird.”
I jumped out to check the tires and found the right front tire completely flat. After a few calls to Ford Fiesta Movement Mission Control they decided to put us up in a Bed & Breakfast in the nearest town while we waited for a new tire to be shipped over. My model of the Fiesta takes custom summer tires, not stocked readily at every Ford Dealership in the country — so, we were stuck, indefinitely, until the tire arrived.
The Fiesta had landed in Bedford, Pennsylvania – the home to George Washington’s headquarters during the Whiskey Rebellion but the place is best known for its healing springs. We made our way up into the Bed and Breakfast, Oralee’s Golden Eagle Inn. John knocked on the door, once, twice and then three times. A few slow country minutes later, Oralee herself greeted us at the door.
And led us up through the upstairs screened in porch
to our room
As soon as we dropped our bags John Bear cued up a scene from Groundhog Day on his computer and started laughing.
“Stop it, at least we have the Internet,” I said, “Besides you don’t have to be at work until Friday.”
“Yeah, but this place gives me the creeps.”
“It’s not creepy, it’s just old and it’s so romantic,” then I think I pummeled him with a kiss because he didn’t complain about our extra night of vacation again. And when Oralee whipped us up a breakfast fit for a King, I think John Bear came around to the charm of the Golden Eagle Inn.
Turns out the Mission Control people are just as awesome as their car because the tire arrived at Bedford’s Ford Dealership soon after our breakfast. The Bedford Ford guys there were so excited to see the Fiesta they had to test it out. Brian jumped in first.
But can you blame him? Really? Have you seen this car?
I forget sometimes how lucky I am to be driving one.
After whizzing by Cumberland, Maryland we zipped down to West Virginia and then up into Athens, Ohio where we found my little Benjamin. When his father handed him over to me he was barely even using words, just mumbling and crying out for me. My heart sank into my feet as the guilt fell over me. Once a year I leave him with his father for longer than his standard 36 hour visit and every time I do, I regret it terribly. His hair was a mess, his hands and face were covered in dirt. Back on the road again and on our way to a restaurant, I looked at John Bear as this boy in the back seat growled and hissed at me, literally, and then said through tears, “Where is he? Where is my Benjamin?” I wish I was making this up.
His father loves him and Benjamin loves his father, but Jesus, when will he learn how to care for his son properly? When the food came Benjamin devoured every bite, actually filling both of his little fists and stuffing them both into his mouth simultaneously. His father is unemployed again, I haven’t had a penny of child support in two months now and I wonder out loud if he has money for groceries.
I continue in my thoughts, some in my head and some out loud. Maybe I’m just the mess and I’m being overly paranoid. Maybe Benjamin had been playing outside in the dirt and had also skipped his lunch. And maybe he was just acting like this because he was copying the actions of his six-year-old semi step-brother. Suddenly I remember John is bearing witness to this entire mess, my mess. The one I bear responsibility for every day of my life – wearing it proudly but also wondering, often, if I even know what I am doing.
Typically I would rather hide than allow someone else to see my scars so wide out in the open like this but unlike any other man I’ve been with, John has never once asked me, “Why were you with that guy? Why did you marry him?” He doesn’t live in the past or hold mine against me in any way, and for that I will always love him.
We arrived in Columbus as the sun set over the skyline. John Bear snapped this blurry picture
and then we were home, but not for long.
After only one full day back we were off again… this time to Athens and my brother’s wedding. Little did we know the snafu of all snafus was waiting for us, and that John and I would finally reach our breaking points.
Get a sneak peek with pictures in the wedding photo album. I haven’t labeled the photos on purpose.