The Journey Ends

This entry is part 13 of 14 in the series Father and Son Cruise

Well, here we are — the end of the trip. It had to end, which is a problem shared by all good things. I hope you aren’t expecting much in the way of cruise stories in this particular installment, as all we have left to do is get off the ship.

It seemed that as soon as I closed my eyes to sleep, the alarm was going off to wake us up. I have no idea how late Ryan was out celebrating Halloween, but he seemed no worse for wear.

A quick look outside revealed that we had indeed come full circle. Miami was going about its early morning business. The day looked rather foreboding, and I hoped we’d fly out before the thunderstorms arrived.

We cleaned up and dressed for the early winter weather that awaited each of us at the other end of the day. November first marks the unofficial beginning of the long New Hampshire winter. In an email, Kris mentioned that it had snowed more than once since I left just a week earlier.

“Are you all packed up?”

“Yup,” replied Ryan.

“Sure you got everything?”

“Yup.”

I swept through the cabin checking drawers and closets. I found several things belonging to Ryan.

“Don’t you want these things anymore?”

“Oh, yeah…Thanks.”

I repeated the process, checking every nook and cranny. Under Ryan’s bed, I found a nest of snake-like objects. Like the skunk, these things used odor as a defensive weapon.

“How ‘bout all these socks? Aren’t you going to take them?”

“I guess so,” came the none-too-sure response. It might have been better to abandon them altogether, but I hadn’t tipped enough to cover hazardous material handling.

We were supposed to vacate the room no later than 8:30. By 8:00, everything was packed and ready to go. We made our way topside, picked up some food and coffee and sat out on the rear deck. There were very few people in evidence anywhere. The Majesty of the Seas sat immediately behind us, just where she had been at the beginning of the trip.

Over the top of the Cruise Terminal, I spotted the RCI logo adorning the side of a building just a few blocks away. I presume it marked the location of the corporate headquarters for Celebrity as well. I was still mystified over the failure of “Mr. M” to appear on the cruise or make contact in any way, and seriously considered walking over to introduce myself to both he and “Ms. M”, the Director of Marketing who first contacted me about making the Mercury trip. I’m not sure what stopped me – chicken, I guess.

The PA system came to life, and began announcing ticket colors for disembarkation. Thinking back, I don’t recall hearing the PA at any other time except to announce the muster drill a week earlier. Although a lot of color codes were announced before ours, we became eligible to leave the ship no later than 8:30.

“We’d better go,” said Ryan. He seemed concerned that I hadn’t jumped to attention when our color was called.

“Nope. I’m staying right here for another cup of coffee.”

“O.K., I’ll get some more food then”

“Absolutely. Go for it,” I answered. I knew right then that Ryan had become a cruise veteran. The young learn quickly…

We took our sweet time. It was probably only about ten minutes, but it was deeply relaxing. We made our way to the exit, again seeing very few people. Inside the terminal, we were directed to an airport-style baggage conveyor. Our luggage was probably dizzy from a lot of extra trips around, but we retrieved it quickly and easily.

A guard at the exit made a cursory check of our claim tags, and seconds later we were on the street. Celebrity employees were stationed at strategic intervals to direct us a couple of hundred feet to the waiting busses.

We got caught in some rush-hour traffic on the way to the airport, but still made it hours before our scheduled departures. Ryan and I sat outside the terminal building inhaling diesel fumes – it was too nice a day to sit inside, and we both knew what awaited us at the other end of the trip – normal life in a frozen world devoid of color.

Ryan’s flight left first, sometime around 11:00.

“O.K., dad. I guess this is it.”

“Would you do it again?” I asked.

“Oh yeah. I have some friends who would really love to go on a trip like that. They probably won’t believe me, though. I’m gonna save up.”

My flight didn’t depart for another two and a half hours. I continued to sit outside until it was time for me to leave, standing every so often to let my butt wake up. This would be a long day, and I went over the clockwork schedule in my head:

  • 1:35 – Take off from Miami
  • 4:52 – Arrive Boston
  • 5:05 – Find “Big John” and the Towncar outside the terminal
  • 5:10 – Relax for the rush-hour ride to Londonderry
  • 6:30ish – Have John drop me off at Londonderry High School, find Kris’s car in the parking lot and stow my baggage.
  • 6:45 – Rush up to the press booth at the football field and take my place at a camera for the CATV broadcast.
  • 7:00 – Watch son Wells play football on the 3” LCD screen attached to the camera.
  • 9:30 – Help pack up the video equipment
  • 10:15 – Go home
  • 10:25 – Make a drink
  • 10:30 ‘til whenever – Tell stories and answer questions

I missed the game the previous Friday and felt badly about it. In an email, Kris told me that Wells had scored a touchdown and played well at linebacker.

I took my medication about 2 hours before departure. Next thing I knew, it was 5:00 p.m., and I was struggling with my luggage heading toward the exit of Terminal B at Logan. I can only assume that I got there by plane…

The automatic door hissed at me, perhaps as a warning to stay inside. I should have listened. When I stepped on to the sidewalk outside, the air hurt. It was a good 70 degrees cooler than it had been in Miami.

I looked to my left, where a line of limousines stretched out of sight. Big John said he’d be there when I arrived. It would not be hard to spot him.

I fought the prevailing wind and my imbalanced luggage as I marched down the line looking for John. Drivers sat inside the comfort of their idling cars. Hastily made signs sat atop dashboards, naming intended passengers. Not a single one said “Mr. X”, and none of the drivers filled the front seat so completely as John would have.

I went up and down the line a few times, pausing for a couple of minutes between each pass. After the first two trips, I chanced leaving my luggage unattended. This is not a behavior that is looked up favorably at airports, but the State Trooper standing watch gave me an understanding wave of approval.

I waited longer than I should have to start digging through my bags for the business card that John had given me. I found it much more readily than I found a pay phone. I still refuse to get a cell phone, though it seems increasingly difficult to conduct life without one.

I was patched through to the dispatcher.

“Big John was supposed to be waiting for me, but I can’t find him.”

“What was you name again – Mr. Z?”

“No – Mr. X.” I spelled it for him.

“Well, I see where we picked you up last week…”

“That’s a good sign,” I thought.

“…But I don’t have an order to pick you up today.”

“Well John showed up a day early last week. Did you send a car for me yesterday?”

“I don’t see anything here at all,” replied the dispatcher with finality. I think he sensed the end of this conversation, but I wasn’t ready to give up.

“Do you have a car available?”

“Hmmmm, let’s see. Hold on…”

I listened to some hideous music on the phone for a while. Outside, people walked by briskly with their heads down, some shielding their eyes against the biting wind.

The music stopped, much to my relief.

“I can probably get a car there in about 30 minutes.”

“Fine, I’ll take it.”

“I’ll need your credit card number…”

When I finally hung up, it was after 6:00 and my carefully laid plans were in ruin. In my mind I could see the TV crew scrambling to find a replacement cameraman. Kris might be wondering if I chucked it all and joined the sea faring circus.

Half an hour later I was finally on the last leg of the journey. Traffic was mercifully light, the rush hour having passed while I was waiting for a ride. Given the time and temperature, I directed the driver to the house rather than the high school.

I dumped off the bags and got a warmer coat and a hat before setting off for the football game. The halftime show was just winding down. I apologized to the rest of the CATV crew — they had found a replacement and I was off the hook.

Kris was sitting in the bleachers, probably for my benefit. She is normally a little too worked up at these events to sit, but I never would have found her otherwise.

“Hey. Where were you?” was her greeting.

“Long story.” Kris had a blanket and opened it to let me in. “Gee, we haven’t sat together like this in years,” I continued, thinking back.

As a matter of fact, it was way back in 1996. Londonderry was playing in the state championship game, and we sat in this same spot. The local network station provided live coverage of the game – helicopter camera and everything. The local cable station was prohibited from covering the game, so I played regular spectator. At home, the VCR was recording…

Ryan was in his senior year, playing middle linebacker. The game was a nailbiter, and Kris was just the slightest bit agitated. I pretended not to know her.

In front of us sat the quarterback’s father, chomping on his trademark unlit cigar. The TV station sent a reporter into the stands to interview him near the end of the game. Just then, a particularly bad call by the referee went against the home team. Kris went nuts, and in a moment of uncontrolled emotional outburst let loose a string of expletives. She wasn’t the only one to do so, but I moved a little further away.

As we discovered when we later watched the tape of the game, the camera angle during the interview had Kris’s face in full view over the father’s shoulder. Suddenly the crowd roars, and although she can’t be heard Kris’s lips can be read quite clearly. It was amazing how many friends, acquaintances and clergymen saw and commented on this episode, all with a chuckle. Motherhood…

Londonderry won that game, 21-18.


Ryan is number 56 on defense, 15 seconds left, in the endzone. Big play…

Tonight’s game was tied at 14 apiece, and neither team was getting anywhere as it wound down. “Wells scored in the first half. You missed it,” said Kris. It figured.

Another play began, and appeared to be over quickly. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a lone figure emerging from the pile.

Kris jumped up, pulling the blanket off – something I’ve become very accustomed to in other venues. “Run, run, run.”

Although I’ve always doubted the effectiveness of instructions shouted by individual spectators during a play, the runner followed Kris’s instructions. Before everyone else jumped up and blocked my perfect view, I knew it was Wells – scoring one for the old man. Fatherhood. Home again. (Click here for video clip of touchdown)

One Response to “The Journey Ends”

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