Sunday, February 22, 2009

Room Service

I just returned from a few days in Boston, a couple of which I spent at a hotel in the Back Bay. I love Boston, and the Back Bay, and on occasion when I visit I like to splurge to stay in the middle of it all. For me it most closely mimics the life I had there when I was a resident, when I park my car in the hotel garage and spend a couple of days without it--walking, taking cabs and the T-- since my life now depends on a car and I can't get from point A to point B without it. Of course the similarity ends there, as the luxury of eating out three meals a day and staying in a luxury hotel is nothing like my life there at all, although the business trips I used to take from Logan trained me well.

Truth be told, I didn't stay in a hotel until after college. I never went away on spring break, and I didn't vacation with my family during the summer. I took to it quickly, however, and my comfort level with room service and concierge queries has been a frequent source of laughter at my expense, especially with the late, great Jimmy J (father of my brother-in-law, Liz's husband, also named Jim), who knew that staying in nice hotels was an acquired taste. Mr. Johnson (I called him Jimmy J to make him chuckle, but it still seems more respectful to call him Mr. Johnson) always got a huge kick out of my room service stories and my credo that time is money. I'd tell these stories and he'd laugh. "Oh, Herself!," he would chuckle, and as soon as he would regain composure, would ask me to repeat the details of my high school employment at Roy Roger's, where in the drive-thru I would have to say to customers--while donned in pseudo-denim wrap around skirt, red polyester shirt and straw cowboy hat--"Howdy partner, may I take your order?"

Jimmy J/ my brother-in-law's late father/Mr. Johnson was a great man. It was serendipitous, really, that I knew him at all and that he had the affect on me that he did. He kept me humble and made me proud in the same breath. He enjoyed living and faced every day in a way my brother-in-law emulates and tries to pass on to my niece and nephew. I have more than once seen a note Jim has left for my niece that says "Pay attention, I want you to get ahead," his father's credo. How I would love now to sit at dinner with him and talk to this man who devoted his life to his family and to education, but died shortly after retiring as grammar school principal. Among the dozen things I'd tell him, all sure to evoke a Herself! response, I'd also ask him for advice on how to talk to Meredith and Charlie about him that would celebrate his legacy without being morose. Maybe I'd simply ask him for the strength not to tear up when I tell Meredith that when she lights up with genuine excitement I see her grandfather in her.

This February vacation marked another anniversary of Jimmy J's death, but I believe I thought of him more because of my stay at the Hilton and my room service order than because of the passing of another year since his passing--as I'm sure he would want it...And which why I am trying to coordinate an afternoon in La Jolla this April vacation--for Liz and Jim and Meredith and Charlie and Jill and me--where Mr. and Mrs. Johnson visited on my recommendation after his retirement during a trip west. "Oh, Joanne, George's at the Cove!" he said when they returned....

If you look close, Meredith, I'll say, you'll see those rocks aren't rocks at all. They are sea lions. We can take a walk down later, if you want. And see those trees? Dr. Seuss used to see them when he wrote his books... Your grandfather liked it here too. I wish he could be here with us. He'd be so proud of you. He'd be so happy to see how happy you and Charlie are; he was a happy man, too.

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