I was working at Logan International Airport. Aah, typical teenager looking ta, have money for the, set a wheels that I had just bought that I thought were so expensive at twelve hundred bucks. N I hd negotiated down to that. 74 Impala. And I was, low guy on so I got the overnight shift for a while. Turned out I loved overnights. Well, the mechanic uh, for the shuttle busses- Logan is one of those airports where the terminals are set back away from uh, your renta cars your hotels. Jye actually have to run a bus service to get the people back to their cars. N pick em up when they’re done. Mechanic was falling behind. N he- I was the only one there. So he grabs me he sys, “I need you to take- help me take buses down, to the maintenance yard about three n a half miles away.” Which was a huge, car bus, ah, their rental division. It took carea lot a their vehicles for the Northeast. I said, (higher pitched) “I aint never driven anything bigger than my car. You gotta be kidding me.” He says, “Whatever you do, don’t, get out of my tire tracks.” Meaning wherever he went, follow him exactly. And I did. We did that for ah three different- or I did for three different vehicles.
Well the next day this five-foot-six, Polish woman about (holds up a pinkie finger) that big around- God bless Kim she was, sh- beautiful, uh, w-woman. Comes up to me. N I’m towering over- she, looks up. “I hear yew drove one of my busses last night. N fact you drove a few of them.” I’m thinkin, (hand to forehead) “Oh God. I’m gonna get fired.” (to Kim) “I know I shouldn’t have.” N she said, “Na na, Jimmy said there’s something aboutcha. Come with me.” She took me out, to the training field, and next thing I know it went from that to semis and, driving paid fr flight school. And I got caught in that mess in the early nineteen-nineties when Eastern collapsed n it took a whole bunch of airlines with it. I was competing fur- wa ah right seat meaning low man on the totem pole jobs. With captains that had hours I was dreaming of getting. N were starving to death for bout three years. Driving on the side n I finally said, “Well, I need to make a l- a decent living. Lot more than I’m making now. Ahonly got the license to pay for school maybe I can take care of me for a while?” Next thing I know, I’ad my own trucking company that Thom n I built n my own house n married to Thom n two dogs. All that we were missing was the white picket fence.
Talk about a friendship that turned into, as most people called us, ‘The couple that if there was one there was the other.’ Which I used to laugh at those people. I really did. I thought, (higher pitched) “How can you be that close? It’s gotta be for show.” Well, when I moved down here permanently, I finally decided to nest somewhere. I really didn’t have a, place to call home after flight school I mean I stayed in Boston for a while. Uh, had a place a small place in Florida. But really hadn’t landed yet. Uh, figuratively speaking. And I wound up in Tallahassee. N shortly thereafter I met Thom an we hit it off. We were good friends. UhI was dating a professor from FSU, at the time. Um, who- now who’s in Texas n thank God he’s OK after th-t-uh-tornadoes. Been following the weather n keeping an eye on it. And ah, when that went bad Thom was always the friend that was there. And ih was six four. And I can never describe the color blue his eyes were. I mean glacial blue. They just immediately grabbed your attention. N even from that many years ago his hair would go from white ta this light blonde. It would go back and forth. It was really weird. Sometimes it would happen over a course of, a week or two. Other times days. Never did figure out what the hell caused that. But it was just funny ta watch.
And ah, oh Gawd, itws ninety-eight. I ca-eh-Novem-Thanksgiving ninety-eight I came down with PCP. I had no idea I had it. I only had Jake at the time. Uh God Fozz-e wasn’t even a twinkle in his dad puppy’s eyes. And I was out in, Lubbock Texas. N every time I went to lay down I was getting sick. Sit up I’m fine. Had no idea I was drowning. I never had pneumonia before. I wasn’t even thinking it was the virus kicking in. Hell I only’d be diagnosed, diagnosed three and a half years. Couldn’t be this soon. And, went in to eat something. And ah, I called my dispatcher. Uh I one of my r- my one of three rigs I had. And I said, “You gotta get me back ta Tallahassee.” I said, “I don’t care how do it. Get me home.” Sh says, “What’s wrong?” N I sys, “I need to go see the doctor.” N sh freaked. “You wanna go see the doctor?” Sh says, “I can’t get you to take up time off as it is.”
Ih Hell it was just me. I the place I was at was at was, ws a rental. Yknow n there were other people ta take care a-I had someone took care of the yard an all this so I really didn’t need to go back. And ah, truckers were at the forefront of technology so I was taking care of a lot of my bills online. Ya know, back during the CompuServe days. Myspace. All that computer ancient history.
Ah, she got me a load home. And it was in Memphis, ah, I went to lay back. Jake went insane, until I sat up. N I lieryIoIsOK if he’s upset something’s really wrong. Watching I said talk ta the- I told the dispatcher “Slike look. If that truck is not moved by seven-thirty in the morning,” s-this is central time, “You’re gonna find-” I said, “Send someone out.” Said, “I’m not feeling right. Something’s really wrong.”
When I sit up I’m fine. So I prop myself up. I-s-actually slept sitting up, sea- ah, seated. Back ta Tallahassee. Ah, friend of mine whose, long since gone, his mom, brought me to the house. Again slept sitting up. We went to the hospital. The hell of a day to way- what a hell of a way to spae-spend Thanksgiving. It ws the Friday after, it was the next day. I didn’t wanna go in on that day. Sh dropped me Friday morning. An they crash carted me. I ws seventy-two or sixty-eight on the, oxygen meter, sumnlike that. Anum I begged them not to lay me down. Ifthey did, I die. I drown immediately. Theywere able ta bring me back n all that nthn, threst of it was kinda of blur. Tellin me I’d never work again. The whole nine yards tht went with it. The big panic attack.
So, now, it’s after Christmas. My family meant well but, a pneumonia patient who lives in Florida, in Boston in New England. (higher pitched) In the wintertime! (teeth clenched on Eh) Eh! Never left the house. But that’s OK. Got back and, I wl really having some, issues with this. Eha cause now here it is end of year n Imean is this how it’s gonna end n? Is it really all over?
Got back ta Tallahassee. Well I went tua support group meeting. Which, I hadda wait a week for becausea the way the holiday fell that year. Walk in the door. N it ws jus me n the facilitator n not even two minutes later, Thom walks through the door. Now I had been living in South Carolina, temporarily fr the job. So I hadn’t seen him in a while. N here comes the bean pole for hell with the ice blue eyes, holding his M&- Uhh! The M&Ms. Loved peanut M&Ms. Eneywould always sit there (shaking closed hand at stomach level) n hold em like, n do this with em to loosen up the chocolate. You know what it looked- whne whne kept his hand ya know what it looked like he was doing? So I o- It was one of the things you always remembered about him. “Yeah the onetht plays with his M&Ms all the time.” Ya know. And ah, he walked through the door.
We had the meeting. And he was as shocked to see me as I was him cause he was very sick when I left. He’d already been, positive since eighty-eight or eighty-nine, at that point. I know it was early. An we went out for coffee. We closed the place down. We went back to my place. We’re sitting n talking. And very early in the morning, bout one-thirty r two, looked into his eyes and, this is gonna sound so corny. But it was the perfect moment of time. Everything around us stopped. Nothing existed but us right there right then in that moment. N it was just us. N both of us had the same thought. The same emotion. Nsaid “We’ve gotta run with this. This is more than friendship now isn’t it?”
And, that started a twelve-year marriage. N it was wonderful. Imean I’ad always- I’ad always thought people told me that, perfect moment, ‘Oh you look into his eyes er I looked into her eyes.’ They were, so full of crap. No they weren’t. I had literally just connected with my soul mate. Fr the rest of my life. Without question. And it was, absolutely amazing. N even knowing if I could go back, ta that day, n I hada relive as a price, relive every thing that happened, teh get back here the same way, knowing what I know, I’d still do it. Because, it was that, worth it. We took care of each other. I wasn’t used to that. N it was wonderful. Yehad a- (beat)
Oh my God the wedding. We had thee a the, neighbors didn’t know what ta make of it. I think there were four females at the wedding period. Sorry, six. There were six. His sister n her lover. Ah another couple we knew. Our minister, n a friend of hers. That was our officin- she was gonna be officiating at a gay wedding, of er own. N we wr- ours ws, done in traditional American Indian style of the Southwest. So, iwa- the neighbors were just going, (loud higher-pitched whisper) “You guys got married? No wonder the property value’s are going up.” That was their way of we of being told we were accepted. En the pro-cause we were here the property values were gonna go up. “Cause you guys fix things.” Gawd, did Thom love ta garden. So our house ws always covered with, flowers n bamboo, n Imean, it always looked great.
N then ah (beat) we developed a very bizarre sense a humor over the years. Most’wd call it morbid. We just called it reality. Ah, this was towards the end. Thee hospice nurse is over the house. Actually, he actually died the same way he lived. On his terms. (counting on fingers from pinkie inward) At home. Right after a cigarette. Asleep. I couldn’t believe it. He did it exactly that order. “Ya know, what ya have a- ya have a special connection with, whoever controls what time ya go?”
He’s laying in the bed, ahnd, he was having all kinds of problems, especially intestinal. N sometimes manually override was required. They’re in one of those positions. The nurse is there ta help me. N he- hews on his side n he’s looking out the window. N I’m going, “Oh God. I can’t believe I’m doing this ta somebody.” N he looks over his shoulder, “So, ya love me?” N I lookedem square in the eye n said, “Ya picked a hell of a time ta ask.” N we both lost it. We both lost it. The nurse thought we were out of our minds. An, she was relatively new. An sh, asked me later, sh said, “Do you guys do that all the time?” I said, “Look, one of us is gonna go first.” I said, (counting on fingers) “I’ve done it to him, he’s done it to me. Done it to him, now he’s doin it to me again.” I said, “We take bets.” I sd, “I’m not gonna lose my humor over this.” I sd, “It’s partath- it’s part of the journey might as well enjoy it.”
N then I got the call one night, from my dispatcher he said ah, “Karl just called me.” Our friend Karl was living with us watching Thom at the time. N there was only one reason that he was supposed to call him. Immediately got home. And ah, it was over.
(pause) So, I took- there was a trip coming up. I took it. It was nine days to Michigan. I, dispatcher, “Are you sure?” I sd, “Look, everything is on automatic. He only had to finish one more thing n that was to pass. I can’t do anything for ten to twelve days anyway. Until I know what’s goin on. How soon can they get the family together, s-i-it’s gonna take a while cause their scattered.”
And, one night, I thinkiws two three days into the trip the security guard at the hotel- it was up in Holland Michigan. Nice place that time a year. Nice n cool. Well ta me cool. And ah (beat) security guard stopped me nsys, “You alright?” I sd, “Yeah I’m fine. I’m jus, exercising.” He sd, “You were on your eighth lap around the hotel.” This place is en- summer resort like you’d find on Hyannis er smthin there- wasn’t small. I went, “How many times?” He says, “Eight.” I sys, “What time is it?” It was three-thirty in the morning. I’d starting walking at eleven. So, obviously I needed the time.
Nex- few months af- most of that I don’t even remember. We were that- cause we were that close. In fact, I didn’t sleep much. N then at the memorial, that night a friend of mine brought me a bottle of (with hands shows height of bottle was appx. a foot tall) Jack Daniels about like this. I finished it. In two hours. (shows appx. one inch with thumb and forefinger) Bout that much left. Still have the bottle. (hand down) Slept like a baby that night. Got up the next morning, his brothers n sisters though, God I wish I could- Thom was a ss, civilized redneck is the best way da put it. He actually took the dishes outta the sink before he peed in it. Most of the rest of em would jus pee on the dishes. Or out the back door. And ah, which he did himself every now n then. But ah, they were all blaming each other. N I said, “I finished it.” They all jus stared at me. I said, “That was the first and last time.” I said, “If that’s what’s gotta take ta have ta get me ta sleep every night, I’ll stay awake the rest a my life. I’m not going through that again.” I’ad, had a lotta problems in my early twenties with alcohol. And ah, haven’t touched it since. (shows inch with fingers again) Still there’d remind me, “Don’t do it.”
I don’t think it would’ve taken much ta put me over the edge. But, if Thom could keep going n didn’t do it himself as bad as he was, I could do it. And I jus go through another day. Another one after that. N jus try to keep going as best I could. Ah, the lesson from that is, (short “ha” laugh), what was that cheesy ah, movie line, never give up never surrender from that Star Trek parody. Galaxy Quest that was it. It ws never give up, never surrender! Ant, actually that’s the truth. Yknow. Because life is a hard road anyway. It’s supposed to be (slight laugh while saying “I guess.”) I guess. But there are those moments thtcho come across, tht, only happen once. N you know in the moment that’s the only time you’ll ever experience it. N it’s worth it. It really is worth the journey. It’s not about how-where you wind up in life. It’s about how you got there.
I’ve cried at sunsets from a b- boat deck in Key West over the coral reef. Right after Thom died. I’ad a tour down there. And it was a champagne toast. I was off fuh the night. We were staying in Key West. And I had a champagne toast, right there in front of God n everybody by myself. As the sun starts (puts hand out, pam down) breaking inda the water, it’s ws a gorgeous thing ta see. (raises same hand above his head as if grasping champagne flute) I raised my glass. Toasted Thom n said, “I wish you were here beside me.” N started crying. I don’t do that in public. Especially when I’m in uniform. N I’m with the group. I don’t do that. That’s- I was supposta be the rock, for everybody.
You never know what life’s gonna throw at you. N I look back, an believe it or not, I think the turning point, that changed my focus that way is when I became positive. I don’t think I’d be the person I am if I hadn’t. In fact I’m almost certain of it. Um (beat) course back then it was still considered the death- quote death sentence. I’ve beaten the odds. I’m still here. I’ve gone another twenty years almost twenty years now. And, still here. Still functioning. (smiling) Still wondering how I can contribute. I’m not givin up yet. May not be driving transconanenal anymore. N again, sights I’ve seen.
But (beat) jus keep getting up in the morning. I’d like ta’ve been remembered for that if I’d be remembered at all. (beat) Job like mine ya don’t leave many marks. Ya leave little thoughts. Because you only meet these- you’re in n gone. Well that’s how my whole career was. I never had a home life. Thom was an absolute blessing. For all those years on the truck, ya thought we would’ve killed each other. It was us n two dogs. There was n ah- an old seventies song Me You and a Dog Named Boo. That was Thom n I excep we had two dogs. Ew- we loved it. I got, becausa him, I got ta see th country all over again. Cause, he’d never been, outside of Florida. So he got ta go to forty-eight other states, is-n-n-joy every one of em. So, including a few snowstorms in Wyoming when it was his turn ta walk the dogs.
I didn’t mean ta ramble like that. It turned into a damn soliloquy.