The Second Coming of A First Chance
Tom Rockwood lost his job less than a year after the death of his wife of thirty-years, Betty. The timing felt like a cruel joke for Rockwood who had no interest in re-entering the workforce at age fifty-eight so he surprised his adult children by selling the large family home in the suburbs of Arlington Virginia and embarking on a one man road trip.
"Rocky" let the kids take whatever they wanted from the house and he sold off the rest before the relator closed on the property. For the next four months, Rockwood traveled to various cities, visiting former Navy friends and work associates spread across several states. He accepted the hospitality of such friends when offered and he stayed in cheap motels when it wasn't.
Rocky enjoyed stops in Charleston South Carolina, Jacksonville and Pensacola Florida, Gulfport Mississippi, New Orleans Louisiana, St. Louis Missouri, Chicago Illinois, Buffalo and New York City, New York and Newport, Rhode Island.
The unemployed widower relaxed in the solitude of the road and the company of the friends he visited but he also wondered if his life had reached the end of the road or if he was simply turning the page before starting a new chapter in this juncture of his life. Sometimes, Rockwell wasn't so sure. He missed his wife immensely and now that he was out of work he felt obsolete, useless and old as he faced his late fifties alone.
Newport, Rhode Island was the last stop on Rocky's planned itinerary. He considered returning to Virginia, perhaps renting an apartment or buying a small condo although his daughter offered him the use of a mother-in-law's apartment off the side of her house but Rockwell wasn't sure if he was ready to end the road trip just yet. Newport was only a couple of hours away from the area he grew up in and Rocky decided a return to Blue County for the first time in nearly forty years might be a welcomed distraction from the current uncertainty of his derailed life.
Memories fade over time but there was a familiarity in Rocky's mind's eye once he reached Blue County, faded recollections of places and events as he drove through Hillsboro, the town where he grew up. He was glad to see that Johnny C's Diner was still in business but most of the store fronts failed to ring any familiar bells as he glanced about. St. Patrick's Church was still there, of course, and the town hall, but there was a new high school, a new fire department, and various other buildings and businesses he didn't remember when he lived here.
Rocky was able to find the house he was raised in although he had trouble remembering it and it definitely felt like someone else's life. His parents had sold the place years ago and there was no point in returning once he left Hillsboro for the Navy as a young man. Being back after such a long absence felt Twilight Zone-ish and Rocky realized there was nothing left for him here.
Rocky drove thirteen miles to the north - to Sun Rise Lake - which ironically was much more familiar to him even now. He spent four years there as a boarding student at the Sun Rise Lake School For Boys Prep High School and he worked at the public beach in the summers once he got his license and could drive from Hillsboro.
The campus hadn't changed much in Rocky's mind as he passed the familiar buildings - maybe there were a few new dorms and an updated science lab here or there but the basic layout remained frozen in time and Rocky felt like he had just left the place last year instead of forty years ago. Although he hadn't been back for a reunion in the ensuing years, Rocky remained friends with some of his schoolmates to this day. He didn't weigh all that much more now than he had when he walked the campus back then – he hadn't been eating much since Betty stopped cooking for him – and his once blonde hair was light gray now. Was he really as old as he felt?
Rocky held no illusions that he would find any missing pieces from his past when he drove along shore drive and slowed in front of the former Wolf house. He wasn't surprised when he saw the name "Beck" on the mailbox. The former Wolf place had been completely remodeled and updated and the present structure barely represented the house he so fondly remembered. But he was sure if he looked closely he'd see the face of Esma somewhere in one of the windows.