What a long, strange trip it continues to be . . .

A tricked-out old bus parked near the beach in Oceanside, California (All photos by Steve Date)

I just spent a few days in the San Diego area. I was the guest of some new friends that I met last October. It’s a long story, and one that I’ll tell more of in upcoming posts, but let’s just say that Casey and Hilary Gauntt and their family have been through a awful lot over the past couple of years. Their story is both tragic and hopeful. It includes the loss of a son and an unexpected connection with his grandfather who died 40 years ago. They are wonderful people and an amazing family. I’m trying to help them tell their story with the use of video so others might get some strength and inspiration from it.

They have a lovely house in Solana Beach

They treated me like royalty. Sometimes, I almost felt like I was part of the family, but of course I’m not, and I can’t know the pain and heartache they’ve been through. But we had some really nice times together over the long 4th of July weekend and I’ll never be able to thank them for letting me into their lives in this special way. Their graciousness and generosity is incredible.

Hilary comes home and enters their beautiful yard.

Casey’s son-in-law, Ryan Kirby, invited me to play golf with him and Casey at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, where he’s a member. It was VERY nice — way different than my usual golf outing. I must admit that I’m not used to being attended to in the manner of a private club such as this. I think I could get used to it pretty quickly, though. The weather that day was perfect — high 60s and sunny. An ocean breeze always (they tell me) comes up the valley from the Del Mar beach. The golf course itself was stunning. A big thank you to Ryan for a round of golf I’ll never forget.

Casey hits a shot to one of the many picturesque greens at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club.

I also had the privilege of meeting Casey’s mother, Barb, his daughter, Brittany, and grandson Wyatt, a noisy little guy who has brought optimism, hope and joy back into their lives.

4 generations - Casey, Brittany, Wyatt and Barb

We’re considering ways to help get the video project seen be those who might benefit from it. The immediate plan is to enter the video as a 10-minute documentary in the Minnesota Historical Society’s “1968 Project” in September. The story has a strong connection to that year. The Gauntts have also set up a scholarship fund in the name of Casey and Hilary’s son, Jimmy, that is helping Torrey Pines High School grads go to college and study the arts. It would be nice to help raise some money for that. We’ll think of other ways to get it seen as we go.

Casey and Hilary taking in the view at a nearby beach.

The weekend was both enjoyable and emotionally draining for everyone. They tell me they’re glad I was there to get more of the story on video, but I know it’s hard to have a house guest for 4 nights and it’s got to be tough to talk about these things so much for several days in a row. But the story is so great because the lives of everyone in the family have been changed in unexpected and hard-to-explain ways. I’m amazed at everyone’s strength and positive spirit.

One day, Casey and I went for a run in a beautiful wetland area nearby. We stopped at a bench that they had inscribed and dedicated to Jimmy. Casey told Jimmy who I was as we sat on his bench on a hillside looking out over the valley. I sat there feeling the cool breeze with tears in my eyes. Can you feel both incredibly sad and exhilarated at the same time?
Mostly, I feel lucky to have met Casey and Hilary last October in Coalwood, West Virginia.

More to come.
Stay tuned.

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