Sunday, June 27, 2010
I have found myself at the figurative crossroad recently. I have a hard time speaking about a crossroad without hearing Eric Clapton playing an A chord riff; but let's stick to the subject. I spent two years serving as a Hospital Corpsman in the United States Navy. When I got out in 1986, I worked in several hospitals over the next ten years as a phlebotomist (the guy in the lab coat that draws your blood for testing). In 1998, I was no longer in that field and, with the encouragement of my wife and a few loved ones, decided to go back to college.
I completed my degree program in 2001. I spent most of the next eight years working in software/hardware quality testing. I now currently work in technical support. There have been some bumps in the road along the way (i.e. layoffs). Overall, I would definitely have to say that it has definitely been worth the investment of my time (and my family's time) to pursue that degree. Nearly ten years later, I find myself in my mid-forties at the aforementioned metaphorical crossroad. I know that it is MY crossroad because I can look up and see a pair of sneakers hanging over the power line. I could continue to maintain my current career in Information Technology (while picking up new skills along the way via experience). Alternatively, I could begin to move things in a different direction in the interest of acquiring new skills and becoming a better-rounded individual (and feed people a straight line about my physique). The one option I knew I did not have was to just stand at the corner and watch life pass by. I had to follow the wisdom of Yogi Berra: "If you come to a fork in the road, take it."
My family has been telling me for years that I needed to find a way to mesh my hospital experience with my information technology experience. I finally found a degree program that appeared to do just that. Further research (with the assistance of my wife, Renee) showed that I could even pursue this degree entirely over the Internet (with the exception of internships). In the space of less than two days; my wife had called the college, we had filled out financial aid forms, and I had applied for admission to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Health Information Management. The college told my wife that they were waiting for my transcripts from my two year college. They told her that in approximately two weeks, I would receive a packet that would confirm my admission and tell me how many credits transferred from my two year college.
I patiently waited a few days before I decided to get antsy. Mind you, my wife would probably suggest that I am apparently working on a different solar cycle (with much shorter days). I became the kid in the back of the station wagon destined for the family vacation spot. Every day I went by I would ask my wife if the acceptance letter had arrived. Very day she would patiently respond with "Not today, honey". Another day would arrive and the process would start again. "Did the letter come today?" "Not today, honey." "Do you think it'll come tomorrow?" "I dunno, honey. We'll see." If my wife was not available, I'd ask my daughter. Some days, Brianna would anticipate the question and just say "No, Dad. It didn't come today" You could almost FEEL Brianna rolling her eyes when I asked her.
This waiting game is only exacerbated by the fact that I am beginning to notice there are a lot of artists singing songs about sending or receiving a letter. These artists include (but are not limited to): REO Speedwagon, The Box Tops, The Marvelettes, Brad Paisley, Pat Boone, John Prine and Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods have prompted me to get something off my chest here. So, please forgive me while I go down a brief bunny trail. Billy, I don't know who you are. What I DO know is that your young and lovely fiancée does not wish for you to be a hero. Can you please just tell the little lady that you WILL be a hero and to go on with her life? Otherwise, she is just going to get a letter and throw it away and we will still be hearing about it 35 years later. Therefore, I ask you, Billy. PLEASE cut us a break.
So, the days pass (as well as two weeks) and still no letter. The daily call-and-response continues between my wife and me. I know that any day now, I am going to ask my wife about the letter. My wife is going to turn to me with those gentle eyes and say: "NO! NO, YOU DID NOT GET YOUR STINKIN' LETTER! AS A MATTER OF FACT, WHEN THE POSTMAN CAME TODAY, I PUNCHED HIM IN THE MOUTH FOR NOT PROVIDED THE ONE THING THAT WOULD GET YOU TO SHUT UP!" When this happens, I will just have to lovingly look at my wife and ask: "Do you think it'll come tomorrow?"
I did follow up with the college. They confirmed they DID (finally) receive my transcript and should receive something "any day now". I guess they work on a different solar cycle too. I think they have shorter days in the Arctic North. I guess I will just try and relax for now and maybe listen to some music. OH, MAN! They are playing that song AGAIN. Come ON, Billy. I can't take much more of this.
Monday, June 7, 2010
I had settled in my sister's house quite nicely. My sister and her husband have a very nice finished basement which includes a TV with two recliners, a separate room with a nice pool table, and another separate room that has couple of dressers, a few knick-knacks, and a bed. The bed rests on a bed frame that has been in the family since around 1973. I can still vaguely remember when my parents bought it. Over the years, it was handed down to my sister who has had it ever since. The wood is painted dark black. It seemed gigantic when my parents first got it. That may have been because I was 7 years old and a runty kid. The bed frame looks nearly the same as when my parents bought it. I say nearly the same because there is one difference. The frame came with a post in each corner that is about 7 feet from the floor at its tip. About two years ago, my Dad was putting some things away in that room. Dad lost his balance and grabbed at one of the bedpost to break his fall. He not only broke his fall; he broke the bedpost. In the end, my father was unharmed and the bed became asymmetric. I still envision my parents putting it together whenever I look at it.
I spent the next day with my brother from another mother — Stephan aka "Happy". Happy and I hugged when I got to his place. We hugged again when I left. We spent pretty much every other second between those two points reminiscing about old times, bragging about our kids (whom are bound to collectively save the world), and point out how much the other has begun to age. After all, only a loving brother would point out that some apple juice, hair treatment, and some iron supplement would be worth some consideration.
The following day was just as eventful. My sister has scored some tickets to see the Atlanta Braves play against the Pittsburgh Pirates. We left to go to the game. I couldn't help but notice that my brother-in-law, Larry, was driving in the opposite direction of Turner Field. They eventually pulled into the parking lot of a hotel. My sister, Marlene, got out and entered the lobby. I patiently waited and chatted with Larry in the car. I saw Marlene coming out accompanied by a young lady. She opened the door and said: "Jenny, this is my brother —Shane." Jenny graciously shook my hand. "It's nice to meet you, Shane." Suddenly, in the backseat next to me sat a man who looked me in the eye and "SURPRISE!" It was one of my closest friends from high school — Bill. Bill and I had not seen each other face to face in 25 years. Jenny, it turns out, is Bill's lovely wife. My sister had planned to surprise me by having Bill and Jenny come to Savannah and visit with me. I say she planned because I already knew about it. For starters, Bill had inadvertently let it slip when we chatted over the Internet the previous week. Also, I had recognized Jenny from pictures Bill had sent. I just wasn't about to tell somebody's wife that I recognized her from the pictures I saw on the Internet. Bill and I kept mum until we were about half way to Turner Field. After all, I didn't want to ruin the surprise for Marlene.
Now, I had looked forward to this game since I bought my plane tickets 3 months prior. Reuniting with Bill was icing on the cake. We even took a picture together with the bust of Hank Aaron. I mean, c'mon. When you have three Georgia legends side by side, you MUST get a picture. It was shortly after this that things changed. A few drops began to fall. Suddenly, it was pouring. We ran to the gift shop and Bill scored us all some rain ponchos. 81 minutes later, we all headed to our seats. A talented chorus of kids from Dacula Middle School sang "The Star Spangled Banner". The Braves lineup was introduced. The stadium was full of fans waiting with bated breath for the game to start. Then, it happened again: drip, drip, drip. The grounds crew began covering the field with tarp again.
The game resumed a short time later. Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, Yunel Escobar, and the rest of the Braves were in top form. We were riding the wave of this great game. Perhaps I should have not let the image of a wave enter my mind. It was the top of the 9th inning. The Braves were ahead 7-3 and had already given the Pirates one out. Then, it started again. Rain came down fiercely and suddenly. The raindrops were as big as your thumb. People got up in droves and made a mass exodus to leave their seats. We tried to hold out and keep hope alive. I was very thankful for the poncho Bill provided. A couple sitting in front of me whipped out umbrellas. Had it not been for the ponchos, the runoff from the umbrellas would have soaked my pants. We finally relented and began to make our way out. An announcement came over the PA system: "ONLY TIME HAS BEEN CALLED. WE STILL INTEND TO RESUME THE GAME. WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE."
About halfway to the hotel where Bill and Jenny were staying, we found the game on the radio. It was clear the commentators were getting quite tired as they kept fumbling their words. Finally, at 12:32 AM, the Braves finished the inning and finalized the score of 7-3. As of this writing, the Atlanta Braves are at the top of the National League East. I knew there was something special that night when Bill and I took that picture with that bust of Hank Aaron. When you get three Georgia legends in the same place, you KNOW it's going be fun.