Trip to New Jersey

I’m back from the trip to NJ.

And what a trip it was!

A 98-year-old man in our church (we’ll call him SB) has been corresponding lately with a brother with whom he had been out of touch for a couple decades.  This younger brother is the only sibling he has left.  He wanted to go see him in person, reasoning that because of his own age, it may be the last time in his life that he would see his brother.

I told him I would take him, and I set aside Monday and Tuesday for the trip.

So, yesterday at 6:00 AM I picked up SB at his apartment and we headed out for the 9-hour journey.  The drive down was great.  There was very little traffic, the weather was pleasant, and we got better gas mileage that I expected.  We made really good time.

One thing I noticed, though, was that the further south we drove, and the further on in the morning we drove, the warmer it became.  Then “warm” turned into “hot” and “hot” turned info “suffocating”. 

I discovered, too, that the air conditioning in the 1999 Dodge Caravan we just bought does not work.  Normally, that’s not a big deal.  In Maine, we might need to run the AC in the car 2-3 days out of the year.  In fact, it’s been years since I owned a car with working AC.  However, when it hit 100 as we came into NJ Monday afternoon, it would have been really nice to have some AC.

We arrived in NJ and I found out that SB did not know where his brother lived.  I thank God (literally) that He moved me to go to Google the night before and print out directions based on the return address on the correspondence from SB’s brother.  The Google directions took us right to his front door.  Thank you, God!

 I went to the door and rang the bell.  SB’s brother came to the door and was quite surprised to see us there.  SB had not told him we were coming.  But, God had worked it out that he happened to be there when we arrived.

God had his hand in every aspect of this trip.

To my surprise and delight, SB’s brother turned out to be a very sharp and eloquent man.  He has been a hard worker all his life, been through the Great Depression, and served in the U.S. Army during and immediately after World War II.

Their mother had been on the Carpathian, the ship that picked up the survivors from the Titanic, and was right in the middle of the work, pulling women and children out of the lifeboats into the ship and handing out blankets.  Later she survived both the Nazi domination and the brutal Soviet occupation in her home country in eastern Europe.

SB’s brother was very polite and accomodating, but within only a few minutes SB began picking at him, bringing up things that happened back in the 1940s and 1950s.  He picked at his brother’s children.  He picked at his brother’s wife, who had passed away decades ago with cancer.  He picked at his brother’s friends.  I very quickly understood why these men had not stayed in touch.  It was not by accident, but by choice.

SB’s brother was polite (maybe because I was there), but he didn’t just take what SB was handing out.  He corrected SB and refuted him at every word.

After about 30 or 45 minutes of back-and-forth, SB stood up and said, “I want to go home now.”  Nine hours (one way) on the road, gas at $4.29/gallon, two days with no work getting done back home  — all for a short meeting and quick “good-bye”.

We headed out from SB brother’s home with the heat still at a stifling 100 degrees.  Taking I-95 back up through NYC, we hit the Cross Bronx Expressway at 5:00 … rush hour.  We drove at 25-35 mph (when we were moving at all) in suffocating heat and bumper-to-bumper traffic, all the way up to New Haven, CT.

At New Haven I turned onto I-91 and headed north.  The traffic immediately thinned out and I was able to get back up to 65mph, which made the heat much more bearable.  There were a couple minor slowdowns for nighttime construction on I-495 in MA, but for the most part it was really smooth sailing after New Haven.  I took SB to his place, then got back home about 2:00 AM.

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