My Dad and I pull into the driveway. My joints ache, I can't feel my feet. I wish I could say the same about my rear, sore from a near-4 hour drive south from home. I'm in Hampton, Virginia, where the July afternoons are hot and muggy, the roads are pale and cracked concrete, and life is slow. Nobody rushes down here. Its life in the Northern part of the state that makes one forget what the south is; that Virginia is the south. The hustle and bustle of metropolitan and suburban life makes a person stiff, grey, edgy and anxious; yet tired. Tired of the grind and zero time for family a feeling I know all too well after seeing my parents coming home day after day, and so I’ve prayed that life will not be my fate. It's a destiny accepted by too many kids raised in the tumult of big business- and frankly- small excitement. That being said, a city kid like me might be shocked at what some miles away from home can do to create a whole new world. They say the south has its troubles; you've got your good areas and the bad, as with anywhere else in this country, but there’s a pleasant simplicity about it. Especially here, the people are surprisingly happy considering they aren't so well off, in comparison to even the lower middle class of their northern citizen counterparts. You wouldn't expect that all of these people, who you see flocking small family eateries, laughing and conversing and exuding pure joy in life, were struggling in the recession that affects us all. In a town that visually looks like it’s been hit the hardest, it's family-oriented spirit and deep-rooted southern hospitality has never been stronger. If you live here, you know everyone, and everyone knows you- a sense of community could not be more clearly defined. Despite the occasional tragedy that plagues the nightly news, the sun always seems to shine with extra radiance in this low lying beach town of Hampton, Virginia.
And so with a little background knowledge of my surroundings, it is time to return to my situation as I try to pry my creaky joints out of this metal trap of pure discomfort and make my way up to the front porch to ring the doorbell of this place which is to be my lodging for the next two nights.
Stepping out of the vehicle, I make my way up to the front porch of the house. Before I even get the chance to knock on the front door, it’s already opened - and behind it stands an old man, pot bellied and generally unkempt. It’s evident that he’s spent his Sunday on the couch watching TV, and by the smell of it, smoking a pipe. Despite his age, he stands with the posture of one thirty years younger, characteristic of a military man. He lacks that tired and stale look in his eyes as you would expect from the elderly. Through the lens of his glasses you can see a glassy array of green and gold. The light dances in sparks with a brightness that is made even more apparent when paired with his current expression. The man in the door smiles wide as he lets out a chuckle that can only be identified to him; a chuckle that I know all too well every time I make a visit.
As I return his smile, he says to me in a cheery, southern drawl,
“Well hey there sugar! How ya been? It's been too long since I last seen ya, grown like a weed as usual!”
My grandpa grabs me into a big bear hug, the same ones I've been given since I was barely four feet tall. The hug smells like tobacco and cologne, something I'm all too familiar with and will never forget about him. As my dad makes his way up to where we are, my grandpa's focus shifts to him and we move into the living room where I spend the evening listening to stories about the day's round of golf and the old days of the Navy.