I just celebrated a birthday. When I was a kid, I always looked forward to them. But as an adult, each year that passes just means I'm getting older, and I don't need any reminders of that. Plus being on the road can be very lonely, and so hoping for a Happy Birthday is usually setting up for disappointment.
My Cousin Chris called me and asked where I was on the day before my birthday. I told him that I would be arriving in downtown Charleston the next day, and he said he wanted me to know that he'd be thinking of me. Chris and I grew up together, and in many ways I was always closer to him than I was to my own brother. We shared a special connection, and I would do anything for this guy. He's just the best person I know.
On my birthday, I delivered the car on the coast of South Carolina. When I walked out the door of the office building where I had delivered, a limo pulled up in front of me and the back window rolled down. "Hello, cuz," said my Cousin Chris, who was in the back of the limo.
After I picked up my jaw off the pavement, I began to stammer. "How did you... how are you... where did you come from?"
"I flew into town on the corporate jet." Chris is the CEO of a huge international corporation, and his job involves a lot of travel all over the world. "Thought I'd come and spend your birthday with you."
"Seriously? But I don't understand, how did you find me?"
"You told me that you were delivering in Charleston."
"Yes, but it is a big city. I didn't tell you the address I was delivering the car to."
"I have my ways. But like a good magician, I'm not going to reveal the magic behind my tricks."
"Then we'll just leave it at that. Get out of that car."
"Why don't you get in?" he asked.
"First you get out." He obliged, and I grabbed him and gave him a big hug. "Thank you so much, I am so glad to see you."
"Likewise. Now can we get in the car?"
"Yep," I answered, as we both climbed in. "Where are we going?"
"Wherever you want, it is your day and you get to decide. My first thought was that we'd go to the beach."
"Well then, let's go!" And off we went to the nearest public beach. He had towels and an ice chest full of drinks. When we got there and settled down on our beach towels, I must have told him several more times how delighted I was to see him. "We only get together maybe once a year for dinner."
"So this is a real treat, I've got you to myself for the day."
I got a little choked up. "I'm just trying to figure out what I did to deserve this."
"I think you deserve it because you are you. To me, you are special, and you maybe need someone to remind you how much you are cared about. I read all the blogs, you know."
"No you don't."
"I sure do. Why would you doubt that?"
"Because you are a busy guy. Because you run a huge company and have a wife and kids to tend to."
"I always have time for you. And I love the funny stories about people you meet, but I especially like the ones where you help people. Where you show kindness to others. You are a good man."
I shook my head. "I ain't no saint."
"I never said that you were. But come on, when you helped that young woman in Mississippi when you got trapped in her town for 24 hours. Or when you gave your motel room to the homeless family on a cold night. Or how about spending your weekend off working in a soup kitchen feeding poor folks?"
"If you read that story, you know that I got fringe benefits for that one. I spent the weekend in the bed of a beautiful girl."
"OK, well I say good for you. You earned that one."
I shrugged. "Sometimes I'm just not sure what I'm supposed to be doing. I drive all over the country, but I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. I feel a bit lost and listless."
"Easy answer: you lack any real stability. At some point you are going to have to get off the road and get a steady job with benefits. But I don't think you're at that point just yet."
"When will I be?"
"You'll know. See those Waverunners over there for rent?"
"Sure, I see 'em."
"Want to go for a ride?"
"Yes I do!"
And so we rode two Waverunners in the Atlantic ocean for an hour. Then we lay out on our towels til we got dry. After that, we went bowling, and then found a place we could play miniature golf. I had forgotten just how competitive Chris could be. I guess that is what makes him such a great success in the corporate business world. We topped off the day by going to a very classy restaurant and eating the best Delmonico steak I've ever tasted. Medium rare for me.
After dinner, Chris offered to take me anywhere I wanted to go in the corporate jet. He said he would drop me off anyplace in North America. "I haven't been home to Birmingham in a while."
"Birmingham it is," he said as we climbed back into the limo. I sat for a while, quietly staring at my cousin. "What? Why are you giving me the evil eye?"
"Oh, there is nothing evil about it. I'm just feeling a bit overwhelmed that you cared enough to come out of your way to spend time with me."
"It's your damn birthday, so deal with it."
"I know, I know, it's just... I'm not used to it. Not even close."
"You are a good person, Bill. You have a good heart, a good soul. You love others and you show it. And you have to remember this: you are loved. Got me?"
"I hear you loud and clear. Did you know that you mean the world to me, cuz?"
"Yes, I had a general idea you felt that way."
"Same time next year?"
He laughed. "Whoa now, I can't promise you that."
"I'm just joshing. This birthday would be pretty hard to top."
He smiled. "Well, that sounds like a challenge to me. We will just have to see."
We got to the private airport and boarded his jet. And then he told the pilot to take us to Birmingham.