Dear Abby

In our hotel lobby in Mexico, while my wife and I were deciding our next move, I said something like, “It’s fun to people-watch in places like this.” She agreed and added that the likelihood of running into any of those people is just about as remote as running into people who live near us, explaining that there are people living within the same neighborhood that we’ll seldom — if ever — see or get to know.

I hadn’t really thought about that, but she was right. And it’s like that in so many places, no matter where one goes: malls, amusement parks, movies, vacations, etc.

While my wife picks and chooses when she wants to unleash her mad social skills, I habitually talk to people in almost all settings. In fact, conversing with people is something that I thoroughly enjoy. And although some people don’t want to talk, I find that there are a lot of people who appreciate engaging in brief and casual conversations.

Listening is important, too. I’ll get to just how important it was during this trip in a moment.

During our time in Cabo, we met a few families at the hotel pool. And while some of them were from places like Alabama, Oklahoma, and Ohio, the families we got to know were from Colorado and Texas, specifically, Denver and Dallas. While our kids swam together, we were nearby talking about a host of things: books, schools, food, weather, sports (of course, the Cowboys came up), family, friendships, and home.

Regarding the Cowboys, I learned that if there is one thing people agree on in Dallas, it‘s football:

“Some people like different baseball teams, but when it comes to football, everyone cheers for the Cowboys.”

I explained that the Bay’s fan base is divided between the Raiders and Forty Niners, and that we have quite a few Steelers and Cowboys fans in our area, as well.

In a second I’ll explain how the family from Denver saved the day. But first, meet Bill.

Two days before we met these two families, I was sitting alone at the poolside in the early morning, enjoying a decent, overpriced cup of hotel coffee, when I was greeted by an older gentleman:

“You‘re in my seat,” and seconds later, ”Not really. My wife and I sat in those yesterday, but I’m happy to take these adjacent ones,” he continued, “My dad always told me that if you‘re going to be around someone for even a short period of time, you might as well be friends; so I guess we’re friends for the day,” extending his hand, “Hi, I‘m Bill.”

In short order I learned that Bill is a retired educator who worked in Ohio but lives in Michigan, is a frequent traveler, and was staying in Cabo for two weeks with his lovely wife. I also learned that he was having an extremely rough week. His hotel room was flooding, so he and his wife would have to move again (they had already moved once). Moreover, his wife had to work (remotely) for a few hours every morning, and the moves and flooding were making that very difficult.

It gets worse.

Bill explained that before leaving home, growths — potentially cancerous — were discovered on his wife’s lungs. He explained that she had already beaten cancer twice, so this would be her third time if the results came back positive.

It was at this moment that I realized the best thing I could do is listen.

It gets worse.

One day into their stay in Cabo, a relative contacted them to let them know that their dog of thirteen years passed away. Bill said that for the past few days, he and his wife spent their mornings crying — together. Their dog, Abby, affectionately nicknamed “Abby Girl” meant the world to them. And because she was blind, and on a strict diet, their daily routine revolved around her.

He said the first thing he will do when he gets home is visit Abby’s grave and cry.

I’ll get back to Bill in a moment.

During the first leg of our trip back home, I realized that I left my Cody Bellinger Dodgers jersey in the closet of our hotel room! After a few calls to the hotel, I figured my best recourse was to enlist the help of the family from Denver (they were staying through Wednesday). I texted the father, Victor, to ask if he could pick up my jersey from the concierge, take it home with him to Denver, and mail it to me (at my cost, of course). Long story short, in the next couple of weeks, and after a short stint in Denver, my jersey should be back in my closet at home.

Just before leaving our hotel to head to the airport, I took a walk down to the beach to look for a bracelet vendor. (If you’re not familiar with them, I’ve included a photo. Essentially, the local artisans can put any reasonably short name on a bracelet). About ten minutes into my mission, I had the bracelet I needed replete with the name I needed: Abby Girl.

Before returning to the hotel lobby I looked for and found Bill — in his familiar spot, sunbathing near the pool. After a brief chat, I handed him the bracelet — a small gift for his wife, and told him that it was our way of letting him know that we’d be thinking about and praying for them during these challenging times.

No further words were exchanged, just one, long, firm handshake in parting.

Our trip was full, fun, emotional, and extraordinarily wonderful. But it’s good to be home.

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