Now We’re Up in the Big Leagues

The drive from central Pennsylvania to Philadelphia is beautiful.  I’d never seen that part of the world until that Monday morning.  It reminded me very much of East Tennessee.  I was on the PA Turnpike and had a brief scare when I got so low on gas that the “refuel now” light came on.  With limited access to the highway, the next service plaza was still several miles down the road.   I made it, but just barely.   I could see it all flash before my eyes…a car laden down with all my belongings, including a blond boufant wig and a bike, broke down and janky at the side of the road.  Pretty.

The trip was short and I got off find Susan’s and drive through Princeton.  I’m normally good with directions but not this time.  The Jersey Turnpike confused me and I ended up seeing much more of Princeton than I had wanted.   The trusty iPhone and its GPS function got me to Cranbury without further delay.  I got to her place, got a ride in and showered before she arrived.   We cooked dinner and caught up on the porch over several bottles of wine.

Susan is one of my oldest friends.  We’ve known each other since I was a junior in High School.  She was Eleanor’s coach and she, her star pupil.  Teeter kept a close, protective eye on Eleanor but apparently I passed the test as we became fast friends on a houseboat with beer in the middle of Ft. Loudon Lake.  She serenaded me with “Soldier Boy” as I prepared to go off to Auburn on my ROTC scholarship.   As fate would have it, she followed me there after taking the assistant swim coach job.   As my freshman year unfolded, she roped me into managing the team, ironed my shirts, took me to football games and became a good friend and drinking buddy.  Our friendship has been an easy one to pick up on over the years as we both have lived our lives.  Susan has done extremely well as the head women’s coach at Princeton, becoming one of the winningest coaches in college swimming.  I am so proud of her but love to bust her chops when her head gets a bit big and the cockiness begins to show.  I love it all, nonetheless.

Her friendship is a constant that tells me that I’ve done something right with my life.   It reminds me of what I’m capable of.  Through whatever — Navy, Coming Out, changing careers — she’s always been interested, supportive, objective and encouraging.   Our visit this time was no different.  It was rich and full and close.   When she left for a class in the City on Wednesday, she grabbed both hands and looked me in the eye and told me she wished me luck and that she loved me.  That’s the kind of person she is, a straight shooter who’s never been afraid to look at herself or others squarely in the eye.  The way it should be.

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