Brr - a spring chill blows down State Street. I have just a short walk to the hotel but I feel almost naked, this is the first time in years that I have ever left the office with absolutely nothing to carry home, no briefcase, no computer, all my personal things have been shipped to my new California address. Approaching the hotel the doorman greets me warmly. I proceed over to the concierge desk where David greets me.
"Good Evening, Mr. Coalmen, How was the party today?"
"It was very tiring to say the least, David. After working there for over thirty years saying goodbye is very hard; some of the people I worked with for over 20 years are so much of my life. There was a lot of kidding, and more than enough hugging, that is for sure."
"Sir, all new beginnings have to start with goodbyes."
"Very philosophical, David. David, would you let my daughter know that I'll be down in a few minutes after I freshen up."
"Yes sir, however, sir, I think you are having dinner in the Captain's Lounge, and casual dress is not permitted so perhaps you might consider adding a coat and tie for tonight."
"Thank you, David". I headed over to the bank of elevators and went up to my room.
Having a daughter working in the hotel got me a mini suite at the price of a regular room. I had moved in two weeks ago after the lease on my condo was up. Getting off the elevator I was greeted by Carl, the butler for my floor.
"Good evening, sir."
"Good evening Carl, you don't by change know what my daughter has planned, do you?"
"Sir, I just know that what you are wearing will not be suitable. John, the morning butler, made a note as to your dress upon your departure for your going away party this morning. So we took it upon ourselves to lay out something that would be more fitting the occasion. If you need me for anything else just let me know, sir."
Carl walked over to my door and opened it for me and stood back. Hanging on the outside of the closet was my best dark suit, a medium blue shirt with French cuffs, very polished shoes and a navy tie. So, I guess if I'm supposed to get all dressed up I may just as well shower and get it over with, I have an early flight tomorrow.
Thirty minutes later I was showered, shaved, and fully dressed, and walking out of my room. Carl was nowhere in sight. I almost had the same feelings as the night before I got married. My side of the family planned a dinner, since I had made it plain there was not to be a bachelor party. I knew then as I knew now that in twenty four hours I would be starting a new life. Then it was with a women I loved and now I was going away from everything I had ever known to start anew.
Getting off the elevator I crossed the lobby and I know it was not possible but it felt like every pair of eyes was glancing my way.
Walking into The Captain's Lounge I was greeted by Carl.
"Good evening, sir, my I show you to your table?"
The Captain's Lounge was about half filled with early diners. Carl was heading toward the middle, I surmised, and there at the edge of the dance floor was a table with more room around it than the others. And sitting at the table were three of the most wonderful and self-assured looking women God had put in one place at one time. But that was just my opinion.
Stephanie was wearing a red dress, Shannon was wearing light brown, and Christina was in black.
"Christina, don't you have to work tonight?" I asked.
"Daddy, Carl is covering for me tonight."
Stephanie then spoke up. "Daddy, you don't think that we would just let you leave us without having one last night with you, do you?'
"Well I was hoping to just get out of town as quickly as possible," I said.
"Daddy, there is no way in hell that we could or would let that happen. We don't know how soon we will see you again and this way we all get to see you together," Shannon said.
Christina, it seems, had planned the evening as well as the entire menu all the way down to which wines were to be served. I think she was showing me just how much she had learned in the past year. Now the fact was that she had been promoted three times from just a hostess to now the floor supervisor for food services.
I won't go into all the conversations we had, but the gist was they were sorry to see me move, they were happy with the new me, and the changes their mother had made. But most of all they were happy with themselves.
About nine, a small band started playing; if I had not been with my daughters it would have been very romantic. The band had been playing for a half hour and we were enjoying the last of the wine when Stephanie excused herself, walked to the band and spoke to the lead. Coming back she reached down and took my hand and, without much resistance on my part, took me out to the dance floor. The band started to play a very slow song and I took Stephanie in my arms and we danced just like we did at her first formal Father & Daughter Dance at the country club and just like then I could feel her trembling in my arms and her face buried in my chest. When the song had ended Shannon took my hand and the band played another slow song, Shannon was stronger as a young girl and it showed even now. Then it was Christina's turn. This time it a soft rock from way, way, back, and we danced together. Christina was the odd girl of the family, maybe being the youngest, or just her independence, she was the one I was worried for the world if she would ever let go.
After the dancing I kissed each of them again and thanked them for a wonderful evening and told them how proud I was of the way they had changed and were taking care of their own futures and not just hoping that they caught the "RIGHT MAN" as their mom had encouraged them.
The ride up the elevator caused me to shed a few tears and I'm not too old or too stubborn to admit it. Getting off the elevator I was greeted by what I guess was the third shift butler. He asked if I needed anything and I shook my head no; I just was not able to speak. In my room I was finally able to let myself go and get myself ready for bed and a new day/beginning. I had a six AM wake-up, plus I had to finish my packing - not a lot of packing since all but one large suit case was shipped a few days ago.
At six AM there was a knock at my door. I answered it and John the day butler greeted me, pushing a breakfast cart right in. "Good morning, Mr. Coalmen. How was the party last night? I have taken upon myself to bring you breakfast since I know that airline breakfasts are not that good.
"Sir, while you are dressing and enjoying your breakfast I'll finish your packing. The hotel limo will be ready to take you to the airport whenever you are ready."
I am always taking care of myself as well as others, and this personalized service was just too new to me. But I guess it's part of making a change. Getting showered and dressed took just a few minutes; the breakfast was simple, tomato juice, coffee, fresh fruit, and toast. Before I had finished, John had finished all the packing, gotten everything out of the bathroom, and was putting the bag by the door.
"Sir, to expedite your check-in process I transferred all your change and keys to your carry on case. I also put your ticket and your ID together in the inside pocket of your jacket. The folding money and your wallet are in their usual pockets. Sir, if there isn't anything else, I'll take your bag down to the limo."
I took a couple of envelopes from the writing table, wrote John and Carl's names on different envelopes, put a hundred dollar bill in each, and sealed them. After taking the elevator down, there John was by the limo. He opened the door as I walked up and I extended my hand and then placed the envelopes into his side pocket as we shook hands. "Make sure Carl gets the thank you and, John, thank you for all you have done as well."
"Thank you, sir, I hope we see you again very soon."
The drive across the bay and the ferry ride got us to Logan in plenty of time, check in was a breeze and soon I was waiting to board my flight. Looking forward to see what new and wonderful things I was about to experience.
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to flight 47 nonstop service to San Francisco. We will be flying at 36,000 feet and the flight should take us 7 and a half hours. The weather in San Francisco is predicted to be foggy but with minimum visibility for a standard approach. If there is a reason that we cannot land in San Francisco our alternate landing would be in Sacramento, and thank you for flying United Airlines."
"Gee, if we cannot land in San Francisco, Sacramento is where I was headed anyway," I sighed to myself. I guess I said it a little too loudly and the young woman next to me asked why I didn't take the flight directly to Sacramento that left in just a few hours.
"Well, young lady, it's like this. I'm starting anew and I want to make people think I am going to San Francisco and this would give me a better cover than heading directly to Sacramento."
"Why are you starting anew?" she asked.
Looking at her, I guessed her age to be sixteen or seventeen, with that totally clean look about her. You know, great skin, a clear complexion, long hair, and hazel eyes. I also was thinking how my daughters used to look. The three of them all looked like they came from a cookie cutter, they even tried to dress alike even though they were different ages.
I asked my seat companion, "So, young lady, are you going home to San Francisco?"
.... There is more of this story ...