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  • A Random Travel Ramble

    Random ramble while sitting in a JiffyLube on a Saturday...

    Over the past 5 weeks, I've been out of town more than I've been at home. Work and family have taken us to Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, and California, plus drive-thrus of Maryland (east and west), Delaware and New Jersey.

    One kid went to college. One filmed a movie. One went on the road for his job and the other started a new one. Jill and I spent great time together and more than a full week apart.

    The next couple of months bring the same level of intensity, as the situation flips and Jill embarks on a series of fall trips for work.

    Lots of stories and memories will find their way onto my website and Facebook business page in the coming days. Ironically, I now have 1986 likes on that page.

    1986 is the year I turned 21, never imagining for a moment I'd live this kind of life. To everyone who has made a contribution to that life, especially my family biological and extended, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  • Honda Odyssey: 2007-2015

    At one point in my journalism career, I wrote obituaries for a living. This one, written today, is more difficult than I thought:

    The Cook Family Honda Odyssey, age 8, died Wednesday after a lengthy and valiant fight with mileage, age, and excessive schlepping. It had 151,404 miles.

    Purchased while our children were participating in a dance recital, the Odyssey was preceded in death by a Ford Galaxy and a Nissan Quest, the latter of which carried the four Cook children for more than 100,000 miles as well. Appropriately named, the Odyssey saw much of the United States during its lifetime, traveling up and down the East Coast from North Carolina to New York. During its final year, it made last gasp trips to Chicago, Cleveland, Manhattan, and Orlando, loyally carrying its cargo despite the failure of multiple organs/parts/pieces.

    The family decided not to pursue further life-saving measures when it became obvious that the cost of doing so would greatly outweigh the benefits. Given the fact that the children have, are, or will be moving on in the next year or so, the owners decided it was time to downsize and put the vehicle out of its misery.

    A brief goodbye was held Wednesday afternoon in the parking lot of Hendrick Honda as Jill Cook, primary driver of family vans over the past 18 years, delivered a short but touching eulogy. She was last seen driving off in a new CR-V, singing aloud to a Maroon 5 song on Sirius XM radio.

    In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to a special fund set up to pay off said CR-V. Contact the Cook family if you are interested in making a donation to offset the replacement costs incurred during this exhaustive process.

    Sincerely,

    Glenn Cook, Lorton, Va.

  • Trip Planning 101

    Thanks to a dose of nostalgia, and a desire late at night to return to the days when I didn't have four teenagers, I’ve been going through old files and rereading essays I’ve written about the kids. When you have three in a single calendar year and a fourth who is just four years older, there is much to be observed and chronicled.

    So much of those early years are such a blur that it’s been good to look at what I wrote then, largely because I have no idea how we survived.

    Here is one from the summer of 1999 that was published in the Greensboro News & Record:

    Taking trips with my family makes me appreciate how the Allied leaders felt when they planned the invasion of Normandy.

    My wife and I have an 18-month-old daughter and 6 1/2 month-old twins, making even the most innocuous of errands an exercise in organizational management. But after a full week of playing solo mom, my wife has such a bad case of cabin fever that she would do anything short of dropping napalm on the surrounding area to get out of the house.

    So we take trips. Little trips. Long trips. Side jaunts. We even go out to dinner, leaving patrons to do the math — “Two and one, that poor mother” — and waitresses dreading our arrival at their stations.

    Of course, this takes preparation. We need to rent a U-Haul so we can take half the house with us, but we can’t afford it. So we jam everything into the van and my wife goes over the checklist.

    “Diapers — check.”

    “Bottles — check.”

    “Change of clothes for babies — check.”

    “Two changes of clothes for mom and dad — check.”

    “Toys — check.”

    “12 pack of Valium — check.”

    And so we go, hoping against hope that the children will fall asleep at the start of the trip, rather than waiting until we are almost at our destination before nodding off. My wife and I take bets on how many people will come up, shake their heads and say, “My, you’ve got your hands full.”

    Most of these longer trips so far have involved holidays, which require modified planning because there are even more things to take along. At Easter, we drove 2 1/2 hours to Boone, and I am still finding plastic green grass in places that I never thought possible.

    On the Fourth of July, we took the kids out to watch the fireworks.

    The 5-year-old, who visits on alternate weekends, was fine. The 18-month-old jumped up and down and squealed with excitement. The twins just sat there, bug-eyed and thinking: “OK, Mom and Dad have us up past our bedtime, and they’re forcing us to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey.”

    As we returned home that night, children finally to sleep three hours past their bedtime, I took a minute to look at each of them and wondered if they were dreaming about their day.

    Even though they won’t remember these excursions with mom and dad, we will. And our lives — though hectic — are greatly enriched by these gifts that are these children.

    It makes me think of all the times we pass parents with one child in a stroller, seeing that look in their eyes that says, “Good grief, that could be us.”

    And I strain to remember what it was like — just a few short months ago — to be them.