Livin’ Out of a Suitcase
Last month, Marcia and I had one of the most unique vacations we have ever taken. It was longer than any of our previous ones, extending almost three weeks, and we did not simply stay in one location. No, that would be way too simple, straightforward, and reasonable. Rather, we had planned a total of ten stops in our road trip, and were living out of not one, but FIVE suitcases, along with tote bags, my guitar, and other accessories.
Our first stop was Louisville, Kentucky, to catch up with a close friend and fellow deacon with whom I attended Aquinas College. His ordination in 2010 was an inspiration and nudge for me to pursue the diaconate. After dinner together at a nearby restaurant, Marcia and I made our way back to the hotel through the freezing rain, which continued throughout the night.
In the morning all of the cars in the Louisville, Kentucky Radisson hotel parking lot were coated in ice from the night-long freezing rain. Putting on a coat, gloves, and hat, I went down to the car. I shoved my elbow repeatedly into the car door, cracking the half-inch thick sheet of ice around the door/body gap, working my way around the perimeter of the door. After getting the driver door open, I started the engine, turned on the defroster, and after more than a half-hour of defrosting and scraping, the car was finally ready to load. It was at that point when I began to ponder a couple of questions, “Where did the lapse in our sanity occur that led to this point? And, “Is it really wrong to think bad words if you don’t actually say them out loud?”
Many of us think of vacations as getting away from work for some down time, relaxation and refreshment – reading a book at the beach, golf, swimming in the pool, dining out, etc. On the other hand, vacations sometimes can be adventures into the outdoors – hiking the Camino de Santiago, mountain climbing, fishing, or how about running with the bulls in Pamplona? OK, I digress, but it was clear that this vacation was going to be altogether different. There was no flight to get ‘there’ quickly. It was a long road trip where we visited brothers, sisters, and close friends who, in retrospect, have deeply impacted and shaped us over the course of our lives into who we are. And, although the itinerary was full, it was surprisingly relaxing as we drove leisurely from one spot to another. The biggest hassle was packing up and loading the car…over and over again.
We stayed in hotels, some really nice – one ‘flea bag’ inn, a retreat house, condos and homes of our family and friends throughout the trip. The visits flowed into a sequential route, leaving home for Louisville to Hanceville, Alabama, where we attended a threeday marriage retreat at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament hosted by Dan and Stephanie Burke. From Alabama we drove to Tallassee, Florida, and throughout state, looping around and down to Naples before heading back north, making two more stops on the way. We dined out, cooked in, swam in the pool, played cards and board games at night, prayed the Office with couples, puffed a Cohiba (Dave) paired with some 21 -year-old Balvenie, and mostly relaxed, laughed, and thoroughly enjoyed the time. We even were able to attend the Sun Coast Broadway Dinner Theater and take a nostalgic trip (no pun intended) back to the 60’s with an imitation Beatles – Fab Four band performance. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!
If you are still with me, you may be thinking, “OK, great, but why are you writing about this in the parish bulletin…what’s up with that?” Besides coming back fully rested, relaxed, and ready to serve, there was something about that vacation that I think speaks to all of our lives. At each of the stops it felt so good to settle in for two or three days, but then we had to pack up and continue on. Everywhere we went, it was obvious that we were not home. We were on the go, on a ‘mission’ of sorts. So, it made perfect sense that even when we returned ‘home’ to Jackson, this ‘home’ itself is just another stop on our journey to God – only a little longer. Isn’t that the way we should look at our lives here? We are not really ‘home’ here, since this world is fleeting, and it makes sense to view our time here as “livin’ out of a suitcase.”