Starting Over at 55 Chapter 05
Jack's Old Life Ready to Roll Away
Jack was astounded that the movers were able to pack up his whole life and put it on a truck in the space of seven hours. They’d arrived at ten in the morning and were ready to drive away with almost all his worldly possessions on board a little after five.
Before the movers left, Jah-El, the foreman, walked with Jack through each room, including the storage room and garage, to ensure that Jack left nothing behind.
“We ran a vacuum over all the rugs and swept all the other floors like you contracted for, Jack,” Jah-El said as they stood in the living room, sweeping his arm around to take in the whole house. “Does everything look all right to you?”
Jack fought back a tide of emotions, and said, “It looks good Jah-El. Thanks.”
“We’ll be going then,” Jah-El said. “Gonna drop off the truck at the warehouse and get started on our weekend. Folks at the warehouse will move everything into storage on Monday.”
“Thanks, again, Jah-El,” Jack said, handing him an envelope. “You and your crew have a cold one on me, okay.”
“Much obliged, Jack,” Jah-El said, taking the envelope and throwing Jack a two-fingered salute. “Take care of yourself now.”
Jack walked Jah-El out to the porch and watched as the truck pulled away. He promised himself he wouldn’t cry, and he didn’t, though his throat burned from the effort of holding back a sob as he watched his past roll off in the back of a moving van.
The growl of the truck’s engine faded, leaving Jack standing alone on the porch in front of his empty house. He resisted the urge to go back inside. There was nothing in there but the echoes of the life he’d lost the day of the phone call. Jack checked to see the door was locked and then turned and walked to his Mustang.
Getting on the Road at Last
Carl, the intern at the Realtor's Office, had told Jack the day before that Frieda, Jack’s Realtor, would drop by the house on Saturday to put a lockbox on the door and a For Sale sign in the yard. Jack had signed a special power of attorney giving Frieda, who’d been a friend since their student days at West Wayne High together, authority to negotiate and close a deal on the house. Frieda had told him she didn't think it would take very long to sell since Jack’s selling price was a bargain compared to other homes in the area. Frieda tried to get Jack to leave the furniture in the house, but he just wanted to have everything packed up and put away before he left town.
Before starting the car, Jack pulled out his cell phone and sent Meagan a text letting her know he was leaving for Buzby Island. Then he called his folks to let them know he was on his way down. They lived in Wilmington, close to Wrightsville Beach.
“What time do you think you’ll get to Caroline’s house?” Jack’s mother asked him.
“If I stop to grab some supper, probably around eight,” Jack answered.
“That’s good,” his mother said. “It’ll still be light by then. Do you want your dad and me to be there when you get there? Will you need any help unloading?”
“No, thanks,” Jack told her. “But if you want to come over in the morning we could have breakfast or something.”
“We can do that,” his mother said. “What time would you like us to come over?”
Jack said, “Any time after eight would be fine,” knowing in saying it that his dad would then see to it the two of them arrived at his door a minute after eight. “The Crabby Stack shouldn't be to busy that early on a Saturday.”
The Crabby Stack was a Buzby Beach icon located near Buzby Pier. In the morning it served an exclusive menu of a wide variety of pancakes with either turkey sausage or bacon on the side and nothing else. For lunch and dinner, it specialized in preparing crab meat in any configuration imaginable-from crab patties to crab salad sandwiches to she-crab soup.
“That sounds good,” his mother said. “We’ll see you then.”
Jack started to put the phone down but changed his mind and sent one more text. When Wanda’s phone buzzed, she read, Heading to BI. Will call when get there.
It wasn't much, but the fact that Jack had thought to send it gave Wanda a warm feeling inside that made her smile.
Goodbye to the Old Neighborhood
Jack drove slowly out of the neighborhood. He glanced at every house as he passed, wondering if it were the last time he would ever see them. At the end of the road, Jack turned left and half-a-mile later, turned left again. Another mile and he stopped at the stop sign before turning right onto Methodist Church Road. A left turn onto Grange Hall Road took him past the Methodist Church where Jack and Cheryl bought so many chicken dinners. Seeing the Methodist Church reminded him that he wouldn't see his home church, Saint Mary Church, again any time soon. A pang of guilt hit him when he thought about how he hadn't been to Mass since Cheryl’s funeral mass.
“I’ll start going again once I get settled in on the island,” he promised himself.
The overpass took him over the new stretch of Interstate. Jack marveled again at how much the landscape around the intersection of Grange Hall and Methodist Church Roads had changed in the twenty-some-odd years he and Cheryl had lived in the area. Though Jack had grown up in Wayne County, his parents’ home had been on the eastern side of the county closer to the base where his father worked as a civil engineer.
Jack’s mom had retired from Eastern Wayne High when his father retired from his federal job. Thanks to their pensions, retirement savings, a healthy inheritance from his mom’s sister Bernadine - who’d never married or had children but had a rewarding career as a college professor at UNCW - his parents were able to afford a condo in Lands End near Wrightsville Beach for their retirement home. The fact that Jack was an only child who paid his own way through college with the GI Bill after seven years active duty and fifteen more in the North Carolina National Guard helped them out a lot, too.
The Road to a New Start
At the end of Grange Hall Road, Jack turned right and then realized he should have gone straight across. He made a U-Turn at the light and drove back under the overpass before turning right onto the ramp that would take him up onto the short stretch of the new bypass leading to the ramp that would put him on the final section of I-795 going toward Highway 117 South and eventually to Interstate 40 to Wilmington.
A rumble from his stomach told Jack he should stop and get something to eat before he got too far down the highway. When Meagan was in high school, before she decided to pursue a law degree and still wanted to be a marine biologist, she and Jack would travel to the Fort Fisher Aquarium several times a year and volunteer. It gave her a chance to learn what kind of careers someone with a degree in marine biology could expect to pursue.
While Cheryl had finally gotten her wish, with Meagan choosing to go after a law degree, Jack always felt they had done the right thing supporting their daughter’s interest in marine science and letting her learn for herself what was involved in the field beyond what she saw on the Science and Discovery Channels.
Those mornings when Jack and Meagan got up at o’dark thirty to head to the coast, they’d invariably stopped at a little country restaurant near the Wayne County Fairgrounds for a breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy. Jack decided he’d stop there for a quick supper in honor of all those visits he’d made with Meagan.
Getting back on underway after a quick meal, Jack didn’t pull off the road again until he reached the convenience store at the intersection of Highways 132 and 74 in Wilmington. The store was another regular stop he and Meagan would make on their regular visits to the Aquarium. It was only a couple of miles past the end of I-40 and a convenient place to stop before getting into the heavier traffic on College Road once they crossed the Market Street overpass.
Jack visited the Men’s Room, bought a bottle of water, and got back in the Mustang. This trip he wouldn't be heading down College Road to the aquarium. Instead, Jack took College Road to Monkey Junction and then took the back roads to the drawbridge to Buzby Island. Traffic was heavy on College Road, but Jack was used to it. He and Cheryl had met at UNCW when Jack attended there to get his accounting degree after leaving the Army.
Reaching the intersection of College Road and Carolina Beach Road, Jack took the left turn that would take him to the road to the drawbridge. Fifteen minutes later, Jack pulled into the driveway at his Aunt Caroline’s house, shut off the car, and stared through the windshield.
"I guess this is what's next," Jack thought aloud as he pulled the key out of the ignition.
Click the link below to continue Jack's story with Part 6.
- Starting Over at 55 Part 6
Jack arrives at his Aunt Caroline's house, now his house, on Buzby Beach.