Thank You

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By Gene Benedict

Some decades back, I arrived in the Cedar Keys not really sure where I was going. A new company was in my mind and I needed a place without hustle and bustle to relax, think and plan. Heading north up the west coast of Florida on Route Nineteen, I turned left on any hard surfaced road looking for the Gulf of Mexico. Known even then by the nickname “Trouble”, I crossed Number Four Bridge after an arduous drive from nowhere onto the Cedar Keys, miles out in the Gulf.

The road stopped here in the town of Cedar Key. So did I, Trouble, and from that day to this, I’ve been known as Trouble in Cedar Key. I wrote a plan, a business plan for an engineering company yet to become a reality. For several years, I bounced back and forth between here and Atlanta, turning that plan into a reality, a successful thriving control systems engineering company.

The pull of the Cedar Keys grew stronger. The plan now was to relocate entirely to Cedar Key, to live where the road ends. I knew many people here and was accepted as one of them, one of you. I sold my interest in the company, found a replacement for me, and moved here permanently.

Trouble in Cedar Key became a reality. It had a life of its own. Working with Mike and Connie Raftis, and especially with you, “Trouble in Cedar Key” developed into a weekly column in the Cedar Key Beacon. Mike and I, and sometimes Connie, took road trips together. Then you joined us, joined me, on those trips. Many times we explored nature. You liked that.

We had a lot of fun together, you and I. We explored the weather on the Cedar Keys. We interviewed locals. We found joy in new experiences and new discoveries. We laughed a lot, we talked a lot, we walked a lot. We mourned and cried as our friends endured turmoil, some passing away. Thank you for that, for being together through that.

And thank you for your prayers a half decade ago when, after several trips to the hospital, mostly extended stays, there was nothing more that could be done. You were there. Trouble was in serious trouble. I was released from the hospital, from the doctors, from medical help into the loving hands of Hospice, weeks left to live. And thanks to God, you were there. That was fall five years ago, I would be fortunate to make it to Thanksgiving. Melanie quit her job to move here to help. Anne quit her various jobs. Trouble was in trouble.

There was still work to do weekly in the Beacon. Though many columns early in the illness were rewrites from the past, you were still there, glad and laughing and sad and crying as you have always been. And I’m thankful for that. That was five years ago.

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. I find myself again thinking, meditating, planning. It takes a lot of time and energy and anguish to write a new and different column every week. Time and energy are less plentiful as each year goes by. I’m finding it necessary to take stock of the present and to look toward the future.

I’ve been giving back through the weekly columns “Trouble in Cedar Key.” Now is the opportunity to move on to something different, to “pay forward” in a sense, to use time and energy in a new direction. So I’m shutting down “Trouble in Cedar Key” in the Beacon and moving on as Trouble might say in the following way…

… I’m ambling toward the Spit, toward the west. The town is behind, the dying embers of the sun below the horizon lighten the sky a bit. The wind has died. It is noticeably quiet.

The sky darkens. The surrounding Cedar Keys hug the horizon, barely discernable. Ahead, just above the horizon, Jupiter and Venus, the two brightest planets come together, hugging for a while as the crescent moon looks down on them from an angle.

And Trouble, as if a wisp of smoke from an extinguished flame curling slowly on the rise, dims and fades silently, blending into the twilight…

It’s been great talking with you.

And we’ll see you out there…

E-mail: tnckgebe@yahoo.com