The Very Definition of Crazy

For my Mormon friends, please understand that I am not comparing myself to Nephi. I get it. He and I do not belong in the same sentence. No, all I am suggesting is that in this one moment, I believe I can relate to this scriptural icon in a way I never have before. He claimed at one point, that he felt inspired to record certain things that he didn’t see much purpose in writing down. The following events I describe happened three weeks ago. On their own, there is nothing all that exciting about them. Over the course of my life, I’ve had a lot of things happen to me. I’ve created many memories in my life, many of which I have never chronicled in written form. But for reasons that I admittedly don’t understand, since the day we arrived home, I have felt an overwhelming need to record the experiences I shared with my sons on a recent road trip. There is nothing awe inspiring or momentous about our trip. In many ways, I can’t see how the entire experience will mean anything to anyone beyond the three of us. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe someday, what I share will mean a great deal to one or more of us who experienced it, and as I don’t keep a journal, it’s possible this electronic record will be all there is. Regardless, if you feel so inclined, you are welcome to read on and learn about what happened to the men of the Ryan and Shannon Rapier family during the week of July 2-6. If  you don’t feel so inclined…I get it. If it weren’t about me, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t either.

What is crazy?

The older I get, I realize how difficult it is to define that word. Crazy is all around us. We use it to describe behavior we don’t understand. We apply it to people who have fewer inhibitions than we possess ourselves. We bestow it upon anyone with a differing world view from our own. The truth is, I think everyone is crazy in their own way. What makes us crazy are the very things that makes us unique.

However, it seems that we rarely see craziness in ourselves. It generally doesn’t happen until we veer dramatically from whatever patterns we’ve established for ourselves that make us comfortable. You are most likely to hear someone say, “This is crazy!” when they take that plunge and step out of their comfort zone.

And on the morning of July 2nd, 2018, at three o’clock in the morning, I think I muttered to myself, “This is crazy” at least 50 times.

But before we get to that point in our story, let me go back two days to the morning of June 30th, because that is where this story truly begins.

Every summer, my wife forces my children by any means necessary to go through every item in their respective rooms and get rid of those things that are no longer used. Following this exercise, we host a yard sale. Yard sale day is one of my least favorite days of the year. Why? Because pretty much any day that isn’t standard, typical, or…well…ordinary, is one of my least favorite days of the year.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy family vacations or days where fun things are planned. They just have to be excruciatingly planned. And by planned, I pretty much mean planned by me. It’s one of my own personal brands of craziness. I don’t like what I can’t control. And when hordes of complete strangers are wandering around my driveway looking at items that used to be somewhat personal to me, I feel the very opposite of in control.

Anyway, during the course of this year’s annual community judgement of my former belongings, my son, Braden (16 years old and preparing to start his junior year of high school) came to me and informed me that Tulane University in New Orleans had sent him a personal invitation to come and visit their campus in the coming week.

Now please understand, he and I were both under no illusion. We knew the email wasn’t personal and that the same invitation had been sent out to at least 25,000 kids just like him, if not thousands more. But at the same time, they were one of the first American institutions of higher learning to personally reach out to him. He was excited. I understood. I had experienced the same feelings of exultation when similar correspondences had arrived for me. Admittedly, mine came in 1989 and required a trip to an actual mail box at the end of the driveway of my home out in the middle of the desert where more than once a rattle snake had been curled up waiting to greet me. I hate snakes. Hold on, I’m digressing. Where was I? Oh, yeah. He was excited, I understood.

Anyway, the one thing animating him more than any other was that if we were to up and go the following Monday, we could spend the 4th of July in New Orleans. And if we did that, we could view (as the invitation enticingly pointed out) the 4th of July fireworks in a way that only New Orleans could truly provide – from dueling barges in the middle of the Mississippi River.

So that the reader will understand, I should mention that Braden is always suggesting crazy scenarios like this. We could do this, we could do that, we could do this and that, all of which are things we would never do and he knows it. We both understood this as he stood there in my driveway describing this latest scenario of lunacy when he should have been setting out clothes in a way that future shoppers would find enticing. We both knew what he was suggesting was insane. And we both knew it was never going to happen.

Except for some reason, I never gave him an outright no.

Even today, I’m not sure why. I was thinking it. All through his initial sales pitch, I knew in my heart that we both understood he was just filling the air with words that ultimately would die and fall to the earth having failed to achieve a single purpose. But instead of saying no, which is what my brain…and my wife, would have undoubtedly expected me to do, I told him to figure out the logistics of the trip and we’d talk later.

Needless to say, he did.

Now what he could not have known was that Tulane was the very first university to send me an invitation to visit their campus and apply. And although he knows that I have this special affinity for New Orleans, he couldn’t possibly have known that in high school, I had dreams of driving across the country and visiting Tulane right after I graduated high school. I had talked about that possibility several times with my own mother. Who surprisingly, never told me no either. But it never happened. And I wouldn’t end up seeing the one city I wanted to visit more than any other until I was over 40 years old. It was one of those dreams I had clung to desperately for months in my youth, but eventually had let go of in the face of pragmatism and good sense.

But as my son made his case for us to go, those fanciful teenage dreams returned with a vengeance. And the truth was, as the day went along, I found myself wanting to go as badly as he did. Plus, this was my 16 year old son…let me repeat that…my teenage son, wanting to spend an entire week with me. Nobody else, just me. Well, one other person. His little brother. That’s right, his dad and his little brother. Mind boggling isn’t it? Which is why I had to take into consideration: how often does a father get that kind of opportunity? But, event then, the idea was stupid. And completely irresponsible. In short, it was crazy.

Which is how I still can’t quite piece together how I found myself that very night staring at a computer screen, my index finger hovering over the mouse, fighting an inner battle over whether I had completely taken leave of my faculties as I prepared to click and finalize our hotel reservations. I felt like a gunslinger in the old west, my trigger finger twitching expectantly knowing there was no return from that one slight little movement I was contemplating. Okay, I get it. I would have only been out about $200 as opposed to lying dead in the middle of dusty street. But seriously, thanks to my frugal upbringing, there are times when I think I would rather lie dead in the street than throw away two hundred bucks.

Nevertheless, I pulled the trigger and the plans were set. Within 30 hours we would be waking up in what basically amounted to the dead of night and setting off for San Antonio with plans to complete our journey to New Orleans the following day.

Right after I did it, I panicked. What was I thinking? I’d never in my life done anything like this without meticulously planning it out months in advance. I had gone completely insane. And when my beautiful 4 year old daughter begged me not to go, I almost kissed off the $200 without a second thought. But by this point, I was committed. I was nearing folk hero status in the eyes of my two boys and if I backed out? Well, in the paraphrased words of the immortal Muse from Hercules, I would have gone from “Hero to Zero, just like that.” The die was cast. There was no stopping our upcoming drive of…how many miles was that again, son?

WHAT?!?!?! Are you kidding??? Holy $*%#&@!!! What on earth have I agreed to?

Part 2 of The Rapier Guys Road Trip 2018 will appear later this week.

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