The Story Hall
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The Story Hall

Port Stop — Virginia Beach

We Interrupt this Pandemic for a day of reflection and relaxation at the beach

This morning looking out from our balcony at the sun and the waves

I’m sitting here on my balcony overlooking the surf, listening to the Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl” on my 60’s channel radio station. This is the beach where I once arranged a family vacation to when I was 11, back in the middle of the 60’s. I am now in the middle of my 60’s, 65 actually, and still very much a man in the full of my life, though admittedly, on this second day of Fall, beginning the Fall of that life. My life plan is to keep going until I get to triple digits. I may or may not make it there, but I promise you, I will die trying!

I had two dreams growing up — one was to grow up to be a ballplayer. I fulfilled that dream, in my 50’s. I played competitive softball from age 50 to 61, playing up to 120 games a year at my peak, and doing all the things I’d ever dreamed of doing on a ballfield. Through hard work and passion for the game I had turned my uncoordinated, awkward body into a force on the playing field, mastering one of the most difficult positions to play, third base, and reigning down at the “Hot Corner” for several years after being told by a coach that I had the instincts and the footwork to be good, but lacked the arm strength to play the position. I built up that arm strength (after breaking a shoulder), and mastered it. I loved that part the most from my playing days. I led a number of my teams to league championships, first tasting that sweet success at age 55, having made the championship winning catch in spectacular fashion.

More sun and surf

My other dream, which was first born at age 18, was to be a writer. Again, in my 50’s, I wrote and published my stories every day for 8 years, averaging 1500 words a day, everyday, producing a body of work that I plan to convert into 5 or 6 full-length books when I retire from my day job.

My day job is another thing about my life that has exceeded all expectations from early in my troubled adult life. After a tumultuous 4 year career in the navy as a nuclear propulsion mechanical operator (i.e., machinist mate/reactor operator), I went through 17 jobs in 4 years from age 25 to 29. In eleven days I will celebrate my 36th anniversary working for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. I started as a GS-4 Supply Clerk/Typist, at a $12,465 annual salary. I have been a senior executive for the service for the past 5 years, with an annual paycheck of around $185,000.

Back in my 20’s, romantic love in my life was but a dream that I could never realize in reality. I dreamed big but fell hard for loves that never quite reached fruition. I can think of 3 big loves that never made it past the initial infatuation phase, completely incapable of surviving the first few moments of true intimacy. Either I’d blow it then, or have fallen for someone incapable of the intimacy I felt so ready for. Earlier this year, Kathy and I celebrated our 35th anniversary of marriage, and 36 years together.

Yesterday’s shot from our balcony

None of this is meant to sound like bragging. No, because I didn’t do all of this. I just showed up for life, and followed wherever my spirit led me, at least for the past 43 years or so. Somewhere along the line, I learned to do that, and life has been an ever-growing lesson in honing that ability. I attribute everything I have in my life to a loving and caring power much greater than myself, that I’ve learned to trust and to lead me to an interesting, full life. It has never let me down, and I have never been capable of completely screwing it up, though at times, I have tried.

My 60’s have been my life class in learning to pace myself for the long haul. Each day I work at doing things that will help sustain this good life I’ve come to enjoy so much, at least for another 35 years. I want to keep it going, and make it last.

My biggest challenge today is figuring out when the best time to retire from my “day job” and begin to fully embrace all of the things I love to do in my life, will be. Not that my job is that bad. I love most things about it too, but there are enough things I don’t like about it that it is more or less a necessary evil that I long to be free of.

Kathy and I love to travel, and have travelled the world extensively, especially over the past 27 years of our marriage. This year, for the first time, we haven’t travelled more than 3 hours from home, and we’ve only done that twice, both times down here to Virginia Beach. This has supported my desire for longevity. My age, and several health conditions we both have (me asthma, she pneumonia and several other risk factors), have dictated our staying home during this global pandemic.

We’ve handled being stuck at home quite well. We used to have cleaners come in every two weeks to clean. Until yesterday, they haven’t been there since early March. We’ve been taking no chances. I haven’t cut my hair since January. I’m still not getting my hair cut — I don’t know where that barber or hair stylist has been — but we did finally break down and had the cleaners in to do a thorough top to bottom scrubbing of the joint. We were heading out as they were coming in. Two days down here on the beach will give the house a chance to air out after the cleaners came and went.

Getting long

One of my ways of handling being stuck inside was to put it into the perspective of when we went on long cruises when I was a sailor. Coming down here to Virginia Beach for this “port stop” seemed appropriate, as my second ship was home-ported right over in Norfolk, pretty much the next town over from Virginia Beach. My first week back from a cruise almost always included a day on the beach here.

But not this long, yet (drawing from 1982)

I could just sit here all day, reflecting, enjoying the great 60’s tunes (another Beach Boys number, “God Only Knows” is currently spinning), the sound of waves pounding the surf, a gentle breeze blowing the wonderful sea salt air smells my way. But, my feet are getting itchy for a long walk on that beach. I think I will follow them there. I’ll check back in later on!



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Hawkeye Pete Egan B.

Hawkeye Pete Egan B.

Connecting the dots. Storytelling helps me to make sense of this world, and of my life. I love writing and reading. Writing is like breathing, for me.