On Saturday, September 15, I flew to Washington, D.C. for the first of three transitional experiences that weekend. We arrived a little late, track-improvement works on the Metro slowed things down (as regular readers know, your correspondent does not like taxis), and I arrived late at my destination, the Quaker meeting room at Sidwell Friends School. I joined more than 400 people who paused on a lovely late-summer day to remember and honor the life of Andy Steinberg, an aviation lawyer with whom I worked at American. For the second time in two years, I mourned the far-too-early death of a good fellow, described in the memorial folder as “a man of extraordinary intellect, integrity, and humility.”
A range of eulogists spoke. A colleague, Bruce Charendoff, delivered awesome praise, citing the above qualities, and more. He was a kind and loving person, totally devoted to family. Daughter Madeline told sweet tales of him reading bedtime stories, some from books, others made up, like that of Mr. Chen, whose white Toyota minivan had doors that morphed into wings, bearing the Chen family skyward toward many adventures. And Andy’s wife Roxann spoke well – how many of us could undertake such a painful task – quoting Roman poet Quintus Ennius: “Let no one weep for me, or celebrate my funeral with mourning; for I live, as I pass to and fro through the mouths of men.”
Roxann also offered the following view that brought tears to this traveler’s eyes:
Andy believed that traveling is an essential component of a good education. I also think that one reason Andy was such a skillful negotiator was that he had visited with people and experienced varied cultures on every continent except Antarctica. He believed that if you can understand the world from another person’s point of view, you have sufficient knowledge to come to agreement. Respect and kindness, of course, don’t hurt, either. Endeavoring to understand how the world looks through someone else’s eyes and heart was the underpinning of his relationship with me, with our children, and I suspect with many of you.
The remembrance continued at a reception at St. Alban’s, the boys’ school of the National Cathedral, several blocks south (Andy’s son Malcolm, who also spoke, is a senior there). People offered me rides, but the quiet time was good for reflection about life and about death. And it enabled me to take a couple of photos – the late-afternoon light perfectly illuminated the façade of the cathedral parsonage and, further on, Frederick Hart’s magnificent Ex Nihilo Typanum, a bas-relief of the creation above the main doors of the big church, a work I have long admired.
The reception was a happier time, an opportunity to greet many old aviation friends, like Bruce, with whom I worked from my first days at Republic Airlines in 1984. I enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine and some nice finger food, then again set off on foot, east to the Woodley Park Metro station, through an amazingly quiet (and posh) neighborhood that offered more time for thinking. I rode south, then west into Virginia, to West Falls Church, where daughter Robin picked me up. We had a good yak, but I was soon asleep.
After breakfast the next day, transition two began. We met sister-realtors Tracy and Leslie Wilder, and began looking for a house. A house for three generations: Linda and me, Robin, and granddaughters Dylan and Carson. Yes, dear readers, after 25 years in Texas, the Brittons are moving to Northern Virginia. Following Robin’s divorce (which, happily, is now almost final), Linda and I had discussed the prospect, but reckoned it was some years off. Then, a few weeks ago, Linda quit her job; she had wanted to pursue “one more career,” and the timing was right. As a consultant, I can work anywhere. So we decided “let’s go!”
To be fair, both Linda and I spent a lot of time the previous weeks thinking about the move. I had some mixed feelings, and when you contemplate something like a move, you can’t be conflicted. As often happens, my bike was where the whole thing got resolved, a week earlier. The resolution rested on two points. One, what we are doing is minor compared to what other loved ones have done for us. Imagine my Dad volunteering to defend our freedoms, shipping off to the Pacific, and returning three years later in much worse shape than he left – but giving all of us freedom. Two, as a Christian who believes in judgment day, imagine me standing in front of St. Peter and him asking me why I didn’t do what I knew to be right. What would the answer be?
The first house we saw was the one, but we slogged along and looked at seven others, all in McLean, Virginia, about 10 miles west of Washington. One of those would work, too, but not as well as #1. So we drove back, took another hard look, and the next day signed a contract offering to buy it. As I write this, there’s no answer, but one way or another we will be moving.
The weekend’s third transition actually began before Sunday house-hunting. Robin and I got up early, had a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal, and drove to Redeemer Lutheran Church in McLean, for the 8:30 service. On the way in, we introduced ourselves to Pastor Sandy Kessinger (a woman, all to the good). It was the early service, and the worshipers were mostly my age or older, but they were an enthusiastic lot – Lutheranism has a strong choral tradition, and several of the elders sang with strength. We liked Pastor Kessinger, and her homily (a good test of shepherds) was linear and basic. I’ve long said that faiths are not essentially complex.
It felt so good to be back in God’s house. When we relocated to Allen in 2007, we stopped worshiping regularly, a combination of a much longer drive to the Lutheran parish to which we belonged and some disagreement with the new pastor, a younger, more conservative guy who took over when our favorite Rev. Jon Lee, a fellow Minnesotan, retired. And though I am broad-minded about faiths and sects, I became a Lutheran by choice, not least because it was the original Protestant faith (I’m looking forward to the 500th anniversary of Luther’s first protest against Catholic dogma in 1516). Another benefit of the move will be proximity to that congregation.
Lastly, two important reasons for moving: