Suicide Knob, 2024

I left town after the divorce, intending to make it back one day, but the boy stayed deployed most of the year, every year, and the girl married her college boyfriend right after graduation. He is a successful college basketball coach and they moved every few years as he kept winning and better job offers came in. So the 442 and I got to see most of the country together and alone.

It wasn’t my first choice for later life, but it sure as hell hasn’t been a bad second choice. Use your imagination.

Now I’m meeting the boy in Atlanta, at the airport. He’s done operating. We’re going to spend the night and then road trip up to Boston where my daughter and son-in-law just brought my third grandson into the world. My ex moved there so I might run into her. Haven’t seen her since the last birth. She started gaining weight and I think drinking a lot after the divorce and probably hasn’t stopped. It’s impossible not to care because who she is and what she does impacts the kids, same as I do.

People are pouring off that steep escalator between the two baggage claims but I see him immediately. He walks with purpose and no presumption and the crowd just parts for him. The truth is that I’m just glad he’s alive because he and his sister are my favorite people.

We hug and walk to the parking deck. I pull the key fob and hit the unlock button, and the car beeps. My son smiles, pulls that old suicide knob out of his pocket and holds it up.

“This thing has seen four continents,” he says.

I laugh. “Can’t believe you didn’t just bury it in the sandbox.”

“Thought about it,” he says and hands it to me.

“No,” I say. “It’s yours. Do what you want with it.”

He says, “Are you sure?” I say I definitely am and he closes it in his fist, shoves it in his pocket. He’s looking around for the 442.

“Here,” I say as I open the tailgate of a big black Yukon and take his bag.

“What the fuck?” he asks. “Where’s the Olds?”

“In your pocket,” I tell him as I toss his bag in. “Sold the rest to a doctor last year.”

“Well holy shit,” he says. “Holy fucking shit.”

Two days later we stop off in the District of Columbia for a couple days to take a driving break and to see some of his operator buddies. On our last night there we go for dinner at a crab house restaurant in Virginia on the Potomac. We stand out on the deck with drinks and look at the water while waiting for our table. Without saying a word he pulls that silver skull from his pocket and holds it up. We both smile as he chunks it high and far out over the river and watch it fall.

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