Avenue of the Stars

Published 2:22 pm Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I plopped down in my leather chair exhausted. After arriving home from a long day, I picked up two empty cans thrown into our yard and then rolled the trash can to the curb. Just that little bit of energy left me drained and sweating enough for my skin to cling to the chair.

It has been such a busy week that literally I haven’t had a minute to think about what I might write about this week.

“Just tell about your week,” Mary Lou said.

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Responding to her that would not be interesting, she replied, “You might be surprised.” So here goes.

I flew to California and back, had three meetings at the church lasting at least two hours apiece, bought a Hardee’s restaurant in middle Georgia, attended an anniversary dinner, met with a candidate for governor and kept my 11-month granddaughter for three days. Maybe that is why I am too tired to think of anything interesting to write about.

My flight to Los Angeles last Wednesday was typical for me. I arrived at the Atlanta airport with less than 45 minutes to spare before my flight departed. I wasn’t nervous because the Platinum line is always short and the plane is usually at a close gate. For some reason, Tuesday they opened up this secret line to anyone that could find it. The plane was at the end of concourse B. Two of the three guards checking ID had chosen this particular time to go on break; at the same time.

I glanced at my watch every 30 seconds or so. Before long, I realized I was going to miss my plane unless it was late taking off. I made it through security, caught the train to the terminal, and then walked briskly to the gate. Thank goodness it was late.

The flight is one of the many that Delta now has that provides Wi-Fi. It is among the most productive times to work. No phone. No walk in visitors. Just quiet time catching up on all the e-mails that you have delayed responding to. Four hours later, I was in Los Angeles and my inbox was empty.

The Avenue of the Stars is the address of the Century Plaza Hotel, just across the street from the location of my meeting. How Hollywood does that sound? Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Ford and Bush have stayed there. President Obama works out at their spa when in town.

Continuing my long-standing good luck with hotels when Mary Lou isn’t with me, I was upgraded to the Penthouse. What a shame to have such a beautiful room with no one to share it with.

I was on the plane headed back east after lunch. It was an international plane built in France and different from any I had ever traveled on. My seat let back literally into a bed, and the personal TV had more movies and television shows than you could possibly watch. Deciding to do no work at all, I watched “Tooth Fairy” and “The Hangover.” They definitely weren’t in the classic movie category but they did help the time pass.

As for the three church meetings, all I can say is trying to discern God’s will by committee can often be a long and laborious process. The Presbyterian meeting motto seems to be don’t say anything in five minutes if you can say it in 45. Most church leadership meetings probably have the same process. It is a good thing that elders and deacons of all denominations don’t get paid by the hour.

As for the new Hardee’s joining our company, it is located in Nashville, Ga. Two weeks ago a longtime friend called and asked if we wanted to buy it. Monday it will be ours to sink or swim with. Almost everything about the many details of such a quick transfer was handled by someone else in our company. I am very proud of the team we have built that allows me to do other things.

We attended John and Doris Vanstone’s 50th anniversary dinner in Thomasville, where our grandson and theirs, Henry, added a loud “Amen” at the end of the prayer in front of a hundred people. His running to me in front of that crowd when we walked in was even more special.

But nothing in my whirlwind week compares to keeping my beautiful precious granddaughter, Laura. A month short of her first birthday, she has long since given up crawling in favor of running. The house is just an obstacle course for her to challenge, knowing Granddaddy or Granny will be right behind her.

She learned to climb the long staircase without stopping. She would look back to see if I was there and then keep on climbing. We never mastered how to come back down.

We swam in the pool early because she had gotten up even earlier. Eastern Time must not mean anything to babies, because each morning she was ready to go ever closer to sunrise, much like her mother at that age.

She ate like a horse, slept through each night, and faithfully took her naps; just in time for her out-of-shape grandparents, I might add. We read books, played ball, chased the dog and ran everywhere we went. I carried and tossed her around enough that my already scheduled orthopedic doctor’s appointment this week is well timed.

We learned how to say dog, Harry, ball, and we are most certain that Granddaddy and Granny were uttered clearly from her mouth. There is no gift in the world I could give Mary Lou that would mean more to her than for me to be holding Laura when she reaches out for her Granny.

“She loves me more than you,” Mary Lou would say with delight.

Then I fed her. With her favorite music playing in the background, she took her bottle while looking up at me. With nothing but the nightlight on, she reached for my face and stroked it with her finger.

She finished her bottle quickly and then just snuggled, looking at me, and slowly closed her eyes as she went to sleep. I held her oblivious to time or how busy or tired I was. She felt safe and I felt content. Nothing in my busy week, or life, is more important than those moments. Nothing shines as bright on the Avenue of the Stars as the twinkle in this grandfather’s eye when holding Laura as finally time stands still.