I didn’t wake up that Saturday morning intending to go to Denver. It just happened.



But let’s start with Friday. It was graduation weekend at Texas A&M University, and my oldest walked across the temporary stage at the basketball arena along with more graduating Aggies than there were residents of my hometown. Seriously, almost nine times more. We were fortunate A&M broke its graduation into six two-and-a-half hour ceremonies or we all might still be there.

Author’s note: This is the first of four parts.



I didn’t wake up that Saturday morning intending to go to Denver. It just happened.

But let’s start with Friday. It was graduation weekend at Texas A&M University, and my oldest walked across the temporary stage at the basketball arena along with more graduating Aggies than there were residents of my hometown. Seriously, almost nine times more. We were fortunate A&M broke its graduation into six two-and-a-half hour ceremonies or we all might still be there.

I’m not kidding.

This is also the first graduation I attended that sold nachos.

I’m still not kidding.

“You might want to take something to do,” my daughter said before we left her house. “It’s going to be a long day.”

She was right. It seemed like everyone filling the 7,500-seat basketball arena brought something to take their minds off the thousands of names of people they didn’t know, waiting for the announcer to call the one they did. I brought a book. How old fashioned – everyone else carried a Kindle. I hoped someone complained about their batteries dying, because my paperback worked just fine.

While I was visiting College Station, my daughter took me to all the interesting spots: the A&M campus, which was the size of a New England state (everything’s bigger in Texas, right?); a couple of amazing restaurants; Kyle Field, where the football Aggies were preparing for their first year in the SEC; and the Chick-fil-A where Chuck Norris eats.

I’m going to take this moment to stress exactly how “not kidding” I really am. Occasionally, a Chick-fil-A drive-thru worker minding their own business will look out the window and see Chuck Norris expecting his food.

Fast food tip No. 271: The secret to getting extra ketchup at the drive-thru lane is to be Chuck Norris.

The day after graduation I woke in College Station, Texas, at 4:30 a.m. to the most obnoxious noise I could set  on my cell phone alarm. My flight back to Kansas City left at 7:30 a.m. and the car ride to Austin might be two hours, unless my daughter drove. Then the trip might take about 20 minutes. Her boyfriend drove, so it took two hours.

“You want me to walk in with you?” my 3-year-old daughter asked as we sat in the car at the terminal*. Sure, she was about to turn 23, but she was still my 3-year-old little girl, which will make it really awkward if she ever gets married.

I shook my head. I don’t care for long goodbyes. They make me weepy, and inside every middle-aged man is a guy who’s afraid of being laughed at.

“No,” I said. “Just call and let me know you made it home safely.” We hugged, she climbed back into her boyfriend’s vehicle and they drove off.

As I walked into the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, I knew she’d call after I’d already landed in Kansas City and gotten to my car.

What I didn’t know was the hard part of my journey was just beginning, and that I wasn’t going to Kansas City after all.



Next week: TSA.



*Really? Who thought calling the place where people board gravity-defying death machines “terminal” would be a good idea?