As with any large undertaking, the successes of this trip are incremental in nature, and sometimes they surprise us. Getting over that first long bridge (the seven-mile bridge) felt like a success. Getting out of the Keys, another. Out of Florida. Through our first rainy day. But getting to Elden’s house is, in a way, the first really major goal met.
Elden is an old friend who used to live in Vermont, now lives in Charleston. Jerry worked with Elden before he met me, so – yeah – old friend. Elden is one of those guys who you get to know quickly, because he has a big personality, and he’s not shy. A couple of telling Elden moments:
I wasn’t there for this one, but Jerry’s told me: they were at an anesthesia conference one year, out in Las Vegas. They were at a dinner that had been organized for people associated in some way with their department. One of their colleagues had taken some medication for a dental issue, and then not eaten enough, and then had a drink. He began to feel ill, stood, announced, “I think I’m losing my afterload,” and passed out cold. Without a pause, Elden said, “Is anyone going to eat his dinner?”
Here’s another: Elden is from New Orleans and he’s a thoughtful and spiritual person, but maybe not an organized-religion person. When he returned to the south after leaving Burlington, he was quickly reintroduced to the experience of being told by people that they “would pray for him” – more a southern thing than a northern thing, I think. Maybe he found this a little self-righteous. Or maybe I’m putting words in his mouth. In any case, when people would tell him they’d pray for him, his standard reply became, “Good, and I’ll think for both of us.” He later decided this wasn’t kind, and so he stopped saying it. (I personally think he’s both kind and hilarious, but that’s me.)
We can go for months or even years without being in touch with Elden, but when we see him, we pick right back up where we left off. He’s a generous host – giving up his bed when there’s no guest space available (because his three children live with him some of the time, and the house is either filled or has space for guests), making a fantastic breakfast or snack hour (wine, cheese, nuts, chorizo) when you come to stay, making sure there are fun things to do. These are not the reasons that seeing Elden feels like a success on the trip. I think that has more to do with having him answer his door, and feeling like – by virtue of being with this old friend whose Burlington roots overlap with our Burlington roots, we’ve made great strides toward arriving home. In some ways, this is not true. Charleston is still well over a thousand miles from Burlington. But getting to Elden’s makes us feel like the rest can be done, in a way we haven’t perhaps quite felt up until that point.
Spending a little time with his kids, who hadn’t yet been born when we lived nearer to him and saw more of him, is a real bonus. These are kids you want to get to know better. Like their Dad, they welcome us into their home and genuinely convey the idea that they aren’t at all put out by our siphoning off some attention from their Dad. Each is, in fact, interested to speak with us, curious to know us better.
And so, at Elden’s, we park our bikes in the garage and settle in for a bit of R&R. We rent a car, and prepare to drive up to see Jim, Mary and Rosalie Viapiano – other very good friends in nearby Rock Hill (but not near enough to bike, once we had the idea to drive!) – about whom we’ll write a new post soon.
Shelagh, Jerry, and Elden Elden’s Kids: Zach, Kate and Joey