I met up with A and her two children at an S-buck's in Oregon's capital. Two seconds before I was going to order, she told me that she'd already ordered for me. It was exactly what I was going to order. One might think that it's pretty nice when somebody not only pays for your drink, but knows you well enough to guess what you'd order in the first place. On the other hand, one might also be terribly flattered when somebody remembers the previous day's Facebook conversation and orders you a drink based on that conversation, their memory of that conversation, and their generosity. I fell into the second category, and I think that was one of the neater experiences I've had on this trip. For some reason, that really jumped out and stuck in my mind. So, thanks for that, A.
Talking with A was fascinating. When you haven't seen somebody in over two decades, it's easy to see the huge changes and progress that they've made in their life. But I get the feeling that, if I were to meet with A in a week, I'd still feel blown away by her growth. Additionally, she is really smart. Often, since I'm a narcissistic jerk, I tend to think that people are better off for knowing me. When I was with A, I definitely felt like I was getting the better end of the bargain. It's as if I was getting more intelligent just by being in her presence and hearing her thoughts.
As I've done with others on this trip, A and I discussed some weird, less than pleasant memories and shared experiences. I sometimes wonder why I keep doing this. What am I trying to accomplish by discussing these unpleasant memories? At the end of the day, I did things that I regret and I've had things done to me that I wish weren't done to me. Maybe A has some regrets and had bad things done to her as well. But fortunately, these things don't have to define me or A, even if they are still part of our lives.
So maybe that leads me to where I'm at now, doing what I'm doing. And maybe it leads me to believe that this journey might have some sort of redemptive power, for me, and perhaps for a couple of the people that I am seeing. I doubt that I can cure any big problems simply by using my brain power, but one of my hopes is that my times shared with people can make me feel more human, and more connected with others. It's easy to be unkind to somebody with which I share no connection or bond. It's easy to berate, belittle, and dismiss. But once I've sat at their dinner table and played with their kids, I start to see things a little bit differently. I catch myself looking into somebody's eyes and thinking, "Yeah, they are just a person, like me, trying to do their best. Quit being an asshole and thinking asshole thoughts about them, M." So that's my goal, for now anyway. I do hope to change the world and take away everybody's pain at some point, but for now, I'll start with not being an asshole. Baby steps.
I met up with my aunt and uncle, J and R, in their southern Oregon town this afternoon. It's as far away from wife/home as I am going to get during my first phase of this journey. Afterward, even if it's an indirect route that I travel, I will at least be getting closer to my wife/home. Like the rest of my appointments, I had my reasons for choosing to see them. It was not a mistake or accident.
I've begun to notice, especially among older people, that those I meet up with will often talk about other family members rather than talk about themselves. I'm really starting to wonder why this occurs. This happened with J and R, so I asked them why they thought it was happening. They offered a couple of possible answers. First, they reasoned that since some family members are such a big part of one's life, one cannot necessarily separate their life from the family member's. Second, they explained that as people get older, they live less for themselves and more for their family, especially younger members of their family. In other words, older people don't have as much going on as their younger family members, so it is natural to speak more of their activities.
I don't have the answers. J and R could be right or wrong. Either way, it doesn't affect my thoughts here. My concern is that people may choose to speak of others instead of themselves because they do not think that I genuinely care about them or their answers to my questions. So I want to be perfectly clear. My meetings with people are not the result of me simply being in the neighborhood be-cause I was on my way to the market. By this time next week, I will have traveled over 6,500 miles, spent a fair amount of money, and taken a substantial amount of time away from my other life (which I happen to love). I'm doing this for you. I'm doing this to hear your voice, your thoughts, your feelings. I care about you, value what you bring to my life, and want you to feel free to share with me.
B is my cousin. We haven't had a ton of interaction for many years. She moved, with her family, away from my town of residence around the time I was entering high school. But even before that time, we didn't have a strong cousin-esque relationship that exists in some other families. I don't think I've ever felt good or bad about that fact. It just was, and it was all I had ever really known. Still, I have some funny memories of our time together and, apparently, there was a great moment that involved my brother and I pantsing/depantsing (those two words mean the same thing. . . weird) her. Oh, to be young and have a cousin that doesn't tie her shorts.
We met tonight and she bought me dinner. For the third time on this trip, I ate teriyaki chicken. For the third time, it has failed to satisfy. It was tough for me to get a read on her. Maybe she felt the same about me. I think we may have very different ways of communicating. Sometimes, people have these differences. No big deal. The next morning, because I love receiving feedback, I checked to see if she had left any sort of review on Facebook in regard to our dinner date. She had. Again, I had a tough time trying to get a read on what she was trying to say. I felt a bit disappointed, though there was no reason to feel that way. I pondered this for awhile, then remembered the best advice I've ever given anybody, courtesy of the Gin Blossoms. If you don't expect too much, you won't be let down. B's review was complimentary: "...but I hope he realized I appreciate him." There was no need for me to expect anything more. There was no reason for me to feel let down. We were able to spend time together, catch up, share some laughs. Who cares if we communicate a bit differently? I got what I wanted out of it, and I hope that she feels the same.
I went to a lot of trouble and pride swallowing to send a Facebook friend request to R, my brother's father-in-law, about a day ago. Yes, an entire day. Maybe even two. R had the audacity not to respond. He eventually gave some reasons that might have sounded legitimate to somebody that was not as paranoid/astute as I am. That might have been the end of our tumultuous relationship had I not needed a place to sleep that night. The desire to have a roof over one's head while they sleep is a very powerful motivator. So I did something totally out of character and sent R a text. At that point, I was practically bending over backwards for the man.
He responded, invited me over, let me crash in his guest room, and even fixed me breakfast. But he still hadn't accepted my Facebook friend request, so I cancelled the request. My plan was to show him, as the kids would say, what was up. I couldn't maintain my tough guy persona for long though, eventually confessing my entire sordid plan to him, begging for his forgiveness, and re-sending the Facebook friend request to him. A smug look of victory washed over him as I scurried away, feeling defeated but well-rested and not at all hungry.
After I drove away from R's home, I quickly came to terms with what had happened and how he had asserted his Facebook dominance over me. I moved on. Then, earlier today, I received a notice from Facebook. Guess who had just accepted my Facebook friend request? And just like that, I was the Facebook alpha male again. Checkmate, R.