Tell us about the farthest you’ve ever traveled from home.
By way of the crow just a little more than 500 miles, not far, but allow me to explain.
It was 1966 sitting on the side steps of a World War Two style barracks at Ft. Dix New Jersey. I was young fresh, not savvy or street wise. I was from a Midwestern farm still reeking of freshly mowed hay and cow manure.
I had old-fashioned patriotism and a glint optimism.
It was Sunday morning three weeks into basic training in world that had not existed before this time. I was an easy target for quick-witted and fast talking east coasters who always seemed to be working an angle.
I looked at the ground beneath and held the earth in my hand and let it sift through my fingers and back to the ground. ‘How did I get here,’ I thought. ‘Where next?’ The answer was frightening along with expectation of possible death. I was truly alone and about as far away from friends and family as I ever wanted. The distance and loneliness dug deep into my chest. ‘There is nothing worse than this,’ I thought. ‘I’ve never felt so lonely and distant from anything. I never want to feel like this again.’
A short guy with a v-shaped face and wise guy arrogance came out the barracks door. “Hey, man you’re blocking the steps.”
“There’s plenty of room to walk around,” I said.
He shoved me. “Move over!”
I stood and shoved him back inside the barracks. He fell to the floor and quickly got up. He clinched his fist and started toward the door.
“This won‘t be your day,” I said.
He walked away.
Another guy came up to me. “I’ve been watching you from inside. You sure look like you need a friend. Let‘s go to breakfast.”
His name was Dave and we were friends before, but now real friends. He was a wise guy and quick with his wit and tongue. He said he’d been watching me for a couple of weeks and worried about me.
He took the loneliness and distance away.
A little over five years ago I Googled his name. I thought of calling him and asking about children, grandchildren, and what he did after the army. It took me to a memorial webpage. Dave was killed in action about 18 months after I met him. All these years he was dead.
That same loneliness over 40 yeas earlier suddenly returned. It wasn’t good. The tears I wanted to cry in 1966 came rather easily, but they came at a better time, a time when I was not so far away.
By the way, the photo on this post was likely the last taken of Dave G. Lupien.