Life isn’t always like we plan

Published 7:36 pm Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I had checked into my favorite hotel this week in Montecito, Calif. It was built by Charlie Chaplin in 1928 as a retreat for his closest friends.

Architectural detailing such as graceful domes, crafted ceiling coves, arched windows and French doors all complement the hotel’s Mediterranean charm. The Inn maintains a complete library of Chaplin films.

I was having dinner with a Hardee’s franchisee from Maryland and the president of Hardee’s parent company. Both are good friends, and I was looking forward to a relaxed dinner.

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I had just enough time to shower and change before dinner. As I was putting on the pair of slacks I had picked up at the cleaners just before leaving home, my brother, Ernest, called.

“You didn’t pick up my clothes at the cleaners, did you?” he asked.

It was then that I realized there were still 7 inches left on the legs after I had pulled the pants up to my waist.

I might have been able to roll the pants legs up like we did with our jeans in elementary school except that most of the extra 7 inches he has in his legs turned up in my waist. Combined with the fact that his arms are 2 inches longer than mine, it was clear that I would be wearing something else to dinner.

Ironically, I had stopped at a clothing store on the way to the airport and had bought a couple of shirts that I put in my bag. Thankfully, I didn’t spill any of my meal on my slacks during the bumpy plane ride. Combining the old pants and new shirt, my clothes matched close enough to make my way to the planned dinner.

This wasn’t the first time I failed to check my cleaning before departing on a trip.

Mary Lou and I were attending the wedding of one of her closest friends in Atlanta years ago. We had gone up the night before and were dressing for the 11 a.m. wedding when I pulled on my dress shirt.

The arms were about 4 inches too short. I could have covered that with my jacket except that I was about 3 inches away from being able to button the shirt. With less than an hour until the wedding, I frantically pulled off the shirt and looked at the label.

While I may never have been able to fill his shoes, I certainly more than filled the shirt of former Mayor David Fain. I quickly drove downtown, parking on Peachtree Street in a no parking zone, and ran into Brooks Brothers. Yelling my size to the salesman, he had me out of the store in less than five minutes. Amazingly, I got to see the beautiful bride go down the aisle.

Life is full of unanticipated surprises. It has been my experience that most of the time things work out. Not only that, they can often result in unexpectedly good times. Such was the case with my family this weekend.

Mary Lou, Catherine’s family and I planned to meet Friday at Compass Lake. This would be our first visit of the budding spring. All of us look forward to this particular visit because it signals that winter is over. The water is always crystal clear but particularly so at this time of year.

Without getting into details that might get me in trouble, it turns out that all of us forgot our keys. Not only could we not get into the house, we couldn’t even get in the gate. The emergency key I had hidden for just such an occasion, had been used the last time I passed through. I had accidentally broken the box hiding the keys and took it home to replace. It was still sitting on our kitchen counter.

With our weekend nearing a meltdown, we called my mother and asked if she would like some company at the beach. We met her at a restaurant with a 2-year-old that was tired and hungry. The restaurant was crowded and loud. It was clearly a recipe for potential disaster.

Henry doesn’t get to see his great-grandmother that often so some initial shyness would be the norm. Instead, she asked him if he wanted to go find some crackers. He nodded yes, slipped out of his chair, and took her hand as they walked away to hunt some saltines. Watching them walk away, I knew he had just made her weekend.

Henry discovered the playground across from her house. He visited the deli and inspected the yachts at the Bay Point Marina. He ate at the 19th Hole restaurant, made friends with at least 10 golfers in the pro shop, and watched several take their mulligan on the first hole.

He met two greyhound dogs whose sheer size caused him to climb up to my shoulders seeking protection. He watched the pelicans in the water and chased birds on the putting green.

But most special, he learned to drive the golf cart. I took a dozen photos of him driving off in his great-grandmother’s lap. I have the same pictures of Catherine in her lap while first discovering the joy of driving the golf cart.

On a beautiful weekend that was almost a disaster, we experienced an unexpectedly wonderful time. Such is our journey through life. It doesn’t always workout like we plan, but that doesn’t mean the result isn’t just as good. Sometimes, it is even better.