Welcome

 

       I never thought I’d be writing a book about searching for my homeless son.

       As I hoisted Andrew up on his pony, as I buckled his ski bindings, as I zipped up his chaps, ran alongside him on his new bike. As I held his youthful, gangly, long-legged body in my lap, my hands over his compact boy-hands gripping the steering wheel of our old pickup truck. As we prepared for his first sparring session, practicing his karate moves over and over, until they were crisp, clean and fast. As I sprinted beside him up steep hills—“pump those arms, Andrew”—on his cross- country meets. As his entire family swelled with pride and happiness at his graduation from Marine boot camp at Parris Island, as we received his thoughtful, upbeat letters from battle-torn Iraq. 

 

       Not for a moment did I imagine that one day I’d be pulling blankets off the faces of homeless men in Seattle, San Diego, Santa Fe, New York, Baltimore, Orlando, or tapping on their shoulders, and asking, “Is that you, Andrew?”

       The purpose of this website is to introduce my memoir focused on searching for Andrew, War’s Over, Come Home, and give readers a means to communicate with each other as well as with the author. The website also highlights my Racing Trilogy—Racing My Father, Flying

Change, and Racing Time.

       I’ve worked as a steeplechase jockey, exercise rider at racetracks, Chesapeake Bay waterman, bartender, high school English teacher, adjunct college professor, public relations director, newspaper reporter, magazine writer, and as handyman, groundskeeper, stall mucker, weed-eater and field mower of this farm. All along I never thought I’d be funneling my energies into writing about some of the most pressing, controversial, and relevant issues of our day: homeless vets, PTSD, drugs, the VA, HIPPA and the police.

       Working on War’s Over was quite different from galloping a horse around Pimlico racetrack, shoveling fifty bushels of oysters off a skipjack, teaching a class on Hamlet, giving a reading on my Racing Hall of Fame father, banging out a newspaper story under deadline on a manual typewriter with the editor-in-chief pulling the sheets out as they rise to the top. None of the above activities encompass the reactions and emotions that my wife, son and daughter now experience, with no warning, on a daily basis:

       Outbursts of sudden tears and having to excuse myself from a social gathering.

      A reminder—a soldier in uniform at the airport, a man begging on the sidewalk, a tent pitched in a city park, men and women lined up at a soup kitchen—causing me to be engulfed in a claustrophobic, shrinking cinderblock cubicle of worry about the future.

       Embarrassment, discomfort after someone makes a casually condescending or even demeaning remark about the homeless. Fight or flight? Wanting to wade in and strike on one hand, wanting to leave the scene on the other. Feeling like you’re walking around in an invisible cloak of loneliness, and for a split second, you are there with him, striding with him in his visible cloak of loneliness: you, the father, have become him, the son. Son/father are one. 

       Seeing the pain, the worry in your wife’s eyes, feeling it in your guts, as you drive past a tall homeless man with a beard pushing a bicycle loaded down with gear. You slow, check him out without telling her; she checks him out without telling you. No, it is not Andrew.

       The ongoing, relentless daily worry: what does the future hold?

       The ambiguity of the loss: We have lost him. Yet, we have not lost him. We know he is alive, pushing his bicycle and camping somewhere in the Southwest.

       Uncertainty. A void. Emptiness. Why did this happen? Couldn’t I have done this, done that, to prevent it? Am I doing enough right now to find him, help him?

       Guilt.

      What to do?

      Keep searching. Keep living. Keep loving. Keep writing.

Thank you for visiting. To comment, or order personally inscribed books, contact me directly at flyingchangememoir@gmail.com. I’ve given talks/readings/signings across the country, and am ready to pack up and head to the airport.

 

Patrick Smithwick