It’s been five days now since we’ve had any hot water at the farmhouse. We’ve tried putting a big heater under the crawlspace to heat the pipes up and a couple of other things, but it hasn’t worked, and so far it hasn’t got warm enough here in Tennessee to unthaw the pipes naturally (but it should in the next day or two). So Indy and I have been taking baths at my sister’s house next door every evening. But the truth is, it’s been kind of fun. We’ve enjoyed spending some special time with Marcy and it’s made me more thankful for what we have. But still, it’s cold here. Not Montana cold, but pretty darn chilly.
Montana is one of Joey’s and my favorite places to travel to and spend time. As a family, we’ve made a number of trips out west for shows and for vacations... and more times than not, we’ll find ourselves in Red Lodge—a small western town in a pretty valley just over Beartooth Pass from Yellowstone. A year and a half ago, Joey’s three sisters and their families joined us for a vacation there and I shared a blog post about it.
This chilly weather we’re having now makes me think of our many trips out west and especially the last one I took there this past October with a half-dozen or so men that I have coffee with every week.
Every Wednesday morning, I gather with a group of men for what we call “porch time.” It starts a 7 am sharp, unless you can’t get there til 7:30 or 8, and it ends at 8:30—unless your job has some flexibility like mine—and you can go to breakfast after. In that case, it gets over around 10:30 or 11 am, or til the last-man-sitting is talked-out or more often than not, coffee’d out.
Originally, when we started porch time in the early spring of 2016, we met on our neighbor Gabe’s porch. I wrote about that that first get together in another blog post that April.
Honestly, I think one of the reasons Gabe started it was so I could have some men around me for support, since I had just come home from Indiana after five wonderful, but heart-breaking months in Indiana. He didn’t say that, but the healing that happened there, was special for me. And so were the friendships I made. That I’m making still.
Some of the guys I knew somewhat already and some were strangers. There has been some conversations in that group that have changed me. Changed all of us. Porch time is like a Seinfeld episode... it’s about absolutely nothing. And everything.
A few months into porch time though, the porch started getting phased out. The guys who supply the coffee for the group own a great little coffee shop in Columbia called Muletown Coffee, and just off the the town square is their roasting facility, and somehow that place has become our designated ‘porch.’ Air-conditioned in the summer, and heated in the winter, it’s a bit of a “gentleman’s porch” I think. Not much roughing-it goes on. But there’s always room to pull up another chair and there’s an endless supply of conversation topics, and fresh coffee that comes hot out of the roaster.
Now and then, someone will pull out a guitar, or walk over to the piano and play a song. But most of the time, it’s just a room full of stories and men sharing them. Listening to them. Talking about dreams they hope for, jobs they lost, women they don’t understand... and everything in between. It’s not a Bible study, but we find ourselves talking about God a good bit. Sometimes praising Him, sometimes questioning Him. Usually both at the same time.
But a couple months ago, for a week in October, we moved our porch time a little father west than Muletown. Actually a lot farther west—to Montana.
Seven of us from the group, reconvened our Wednesday morning ritual, every morning, on a big wraparound porch on the side of a mountain in Red Lodge. One of the guys’ family owns a cabin there that they’ve graciously let my family stay in a few times, and he thought it’d be a fun way for some of us men to share a cup of coffee and some conversation together on a whole new ‘porch,’ and it was.
Our oldest daughter Heidi took care of Indy while I was away and on the weekend, they went to Alabama to spend time with Hopie too. Luckily with iPhones and FaceTime, I could see and talk with her just about anytime from anywhere I was.
Being away from Indiana that long was hard, but knowing that she was getting to grow closer to big sisters made it easier.
We had an incredible time and it felt great to get away for a few days with good friends. Going on a trip like that with other men is a new thing for me. Even gathering together with guys on Wednesday mornings is. For the past fifteen years, Joey and I did everything together. We were together all the time, and if we weren’t, we wanted to be. So that never really left much room for me to just be with other men. And it’s been so good for me. As a father, a husband, and as a man.
I don’t know if we’ll ever get to make another ‘guys’ trip together like this one. I hope so. But if not, thankfully a couple of the fellas who went with us are pretty talented filmmakers so we were able to put together a really nice three-minute memory of the trip to keep forever...