Travels with Charley (and Jack and Travis)

On the Ring of Kerry in Ireland. Travis, at left, set the timer for the picture and stood on a rock so he’d appear to be tallest. (He nearly is, even without help.) Then there’s Charley and me and Jack.

There was a time when I questioned my sanity. It came as I contemplated a plan I’d had in motion for a year: taking my three adolescent boys on a road trip through Scotland, England and Ireland.

I would be the sole adult. I used the term ‘adult’ loosely, since the person-of-age here is me — not always the most practical guy in the world.

We flew into Edinburgh, rented a car, drove around Scotland and England, then flew to Dublin, rented another car — a nice BMW — and drove around Ireland.

Nice, simple trip. No real plan. Pure serendipity.

Here’s a brief scene from inside the car:

Aside from learning to drive on the other side of the road, everything went pretty well.

The trip  is done now and I think the three weeks we spent together will loom large with me for the rest of my life. I’m not ready to write about it yet; I’m still digesting. But I will post some photographs here today and will post comments (and other pictures) now and again.

It was a long trip — perhaps a bit too long, we all agreed, but could not imagine doing it in less.

Charley at Blarney Castle

It was not hearts-and-flowers the whole time, either. There were some difficult moments.

But you know how … years after you’ve lived a certain day, you come to realize that that day was one of the important ones. That on that day, everything was right and you know why you were here on the earth. I’ve had that feeling before, when I took my Highway 61 trip, and I had it on this trip.

This was time I will always treasure with Jack, Travis and Charley.

So, for now — here are some pictures.

The boys with the stoned Beatles on the Liverpool docks.
The view from Stirling Castle.
It was hard not to have ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ playing in my head at all times.
With Travis and Charley at the Tower of London
Now when I hear ‘my heart’s in the highlands,’ I know what they’re talking about. This was on the way to the Isle of Skye.
Jack on the Liverpool dock
With the boys at Stonehenge
Crows at Stonehenge
With Jack
Charley roamin’ in the gloamin’.
Charley and Travis engaging in silliness. For some reason, they don’t often smile when their pictures are taken. It’s a McKeen Family trait.
Jack with another roadside attraction in Scotland.
American icons, painted on the walls of an underpass in London.
This made it all worthwhile

Let me think more of my neighbor

Trigger warning: For those of you who have trouble with expressions of gratitude, go no further. This was a note I posted on my birthday in 2016 — sort of a health update for friends.

Thank you for all of the birthday wishes. I feel blessed. There’s no doubt it’s been a difficult year – my mother died, I’m single again, I’m still dealing with lingering health issues — but when I start counting my blessings, I soon run out of numbers.

People ask, so here is the health update:

A blessing: granddaughter Mabel

I spent two days at Dana Farber Cancer Institute this week, getting my semi-annual tests, scans and probes. I remain cancer-free.

However, all of the cancer surgeries created a row of hernias, so I had an operation in May to repair those. (I have a cool picture the doctor took of the inside of my guts and the hernias looked like space aliens. Let me know if you want to see it.)

I had kidney surgery last week and will have another kidney surgery some time this fall. I still have neuropathy in my feet and hands, a side effect of chemotherapy.

I also have mysterious pains in my knees and forearms. The arm pain, it turns out, might date from my time at dear old University High School. I broke my left arm one year while wrestling with John Day and broke my right arm the next year by diving into a wall while playing volleyball. I never noticed until this summer that I can’t straighten either arm.

Granddaughter Pearl: another blessing

But that’s small stuff. I feel great and there’s so much for which to be thankful:

I work in a wonderful American city

I do work (writing and teaching) that I love

I have great colleagues and friends

I live in a Norman Rockwell village and my children are safe

I have seven magnificent children and two grandchildren (one still in utero)*

I get off the train every morning at Fenway Park, my happy place (bless the Red Sox)

I have a fantastic mattress ….

You see why I run out of numbers.

My daily operating principles remain those expressed in song by Glen Campbell so long ago:

Let me be a little kinder.
Let me be a little blinder
to the faults of those around me.
Let me praise a little more.
Let me be, when I am weary,
just a little bit more cheery.
Let me think more of my neighbor
and a little less of me.

Thank you everybody.

Seven more blessings: Mary, Charley, Travis, Sarah, Graham, Jack and Savannah

(*) This has since changed, with the birth of Pearl.