Burnin' Daylight

7:00 a.m. I awaken in my father’s house. Since going to work for the Kansas Leadership Center this summer, I’m in Wichita at least one day a week. When it’s more, I overnight with mio padre and his charming bride.

They love having me and I love being had.

Normally when I climb the stairs, Pop’s at the dining room table reading the paper, drinking a cup of coffee. This morning he’s already in the backyard schlepping hoses and pumps, fixin’ to drain the pool.   

At 80, his work ethic’s not gonna change now. It's seven in the morning and we’re burnin’ daylight.       

9:00 a.m. On the job. At Meads Corner in downtown Doodah. Relationship-building with an editor of the state’s largest newspaper (that once I delivered). We reminisce about Joan Finney and Bill Graves. 

The newspaper biz is struggling. The only people who read the paper with a cup of coffee in the morning are… well, they’re 80.    

10:00 a.m. On the Kansas Turnpike. Eyes northeast. Two days shy of the autumnal equinox and Kansas is at its finest. The sunroof and Chase County are wide open.

Sirius XM ‘70s on 7 is cranked. 

I wonder how many 35-year old women in this country are named Rhiannon?    

A couple of phone calls from colleagues. (Hands free, thanks to SYNC). The milennials on the program staff at the Kansas Leadership Center are a joy. They want to make the world a better place.

They get their news on their time. Their culture. Their way of life.

They want my advice. I hope I do right by them. 

12:00 p.m. Working lunch (catered lasagna… YUM) at a Board meeting of Kansas Public Radio in Lawrence. A fellow board member from Emporia and I hatch plans for our offspring to meet. His daughter’s a second year med student at KU Med in KCK. My son is in his fourth year. Same place.

We’re an Advisory Board, so we dispense some advice. 

Public radio is struggling. The only people who listen regularly and have any emotional ownership in a public broadcast radio station are…  well, they’re 60.    

3:30 p.m. Homeward bound on U.S. 24. Enough Interstates for one day, thank you very much. Eyes north into Jeff County, then west.

In St. Mary’s a gaggle of school uniformed kids giggle their way home. One of the girls sports a neon pink Hello Kitty bookbag. In a sea of sameness, she stands out. 

I’ll wear your plaid jumper, I will learn and live your catechism, but I’m an individual. And when I’m 20-something who knows how I’ll get my news?    

Between Belvue and Wamego, I hear them before I see them.

Wocka, wocka, wocka.

Eyes south. Four of the new Apache Block III helicopters are paralleling the Kaw back to Marshall Army Airfield at Fort Riley. At 36 million bucks a pop, the brass wants to make sure they work, so they’ve been thick in the air this summer over our area.

Black helicopters? I was in Pott County… 

4:30 p.m. MHK. Home. Enter the house laden with the flotsam and jetsam of three days away (backpack, overnight bag, hang-up duds).

About knocked to the ground by Lady, who at 9-months, must think I’ve been gone for three days or something. (She acts the same way when I’m gone for 30 minutes).

I swear this pup grew four inches in three days.

My wife, who normally works in Topeka (I know, we drive a lot) is working from home today. She’s on the phone with her boss, who is in China.

“Yeah, they were talking about a xx percent xx, so I countered with xxxx, yyyyyyyyyy and zzzzz-zzz.” 

Sections redacted so as not to telegraph double-top secret negotiation stuff. Eyes only. 

Phone rings. It’s Scott. I fill him in on the second year med student who will soon reach out to him.

“Sure, Pop. I’m happy to.”   

7:00 p.m. Jackie’s off to the hair stylist and will return more beautiful than when she left. I step out to get the newspaper from the front drive. An evening paper. Now there’s a dinosaur.    

Eyes west. Sun descending in the Flint Hills.

I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.