“You know, Bushey is a big Vermont name,” I said to a customer sitting beside me in my taxi. We had just crossed over onto the islands en route to a drop-off at the Plattsburgh ferry. The day was sunny with a powder-blue sky, warm enough for a half-cracked window. “Ya have any relatives on our side of the lake?” I asked.
“I don’t think I do, but who knows?” my seatmate replied. “I’ve actually caught wind of the Vermont Busheys. Quite an entrepreneurial bunch, I’m told.”
I had picked up Jack Bushey at the Burlington Airport. Waiting for his luggage, he had explained to me that he was away on work for long intervals, so it was less expensive for him to keep his car at his mother’s Plattsburgh home and use a taxi than to pay the parking fees at the airport. He came across as a no-nonsense person, the type who carefully thinks through life’s myriad choices before plunging ahead.
The Sand Bar State Park was still buzzing with activity, surprising to me this late in the season. But it had been a gorgeous fall so far this year, filled with balmy temperatures and clear, breezy skies. As someone who partially earns his living off the tourist trade, I root every year for a glorious foliage season, one that’ll goose the leaf-peepers’ spendthrift tendencies. Oh, and I also want them to enjoy their visit. Sorry.
“So your home is in Plattsburgh?” I asked, restarting the conversation.
“No, but I grew up in that town, the same house my mother still lives in, actually. I now live in Vermont, in East Berkshire. But I only get back once or twice a month, because my job is based in North Carolina.”
“What kinda work are ya in?”
“I’m an estimator for a national construction company. We have projects going all over the country — some international, as well.”
“Sounds like solid, steady work. So, how’d ya end up in Vermont?”
“Well, that’s a long story.”
“The good ones are,” I said with a chuckle. “We’re about 10, 15 minutes from the ferry. Why dontcha give me the medium version?”
“All right, then,” Jack agreed. “But I gotta warn you — it’s a love story.”
“My favorite,” I assured him.
“So about 10 years ago I got divorced, and, in the aftermath, I’d given up on women. I mean, that’s the stone truth. I was not looking; I was not interested. Then, on a trip down south, I was sitting in the JetBlue waiting area at Newark Airport when I noticed this beautiful blonde. She seemed to have this confidence about her, which I think is very attractive in a woman.”
“I couldn’t agree with you more,” I said.
“So they call her section and she gets up, and some teenagers rush by brushing against her, actually knocking her down. I immediately leap up and help her to her feet. ‘I guess chivalry is not dead,’ she says to me, and she motions for me to go ahead of her on line. I say, ‘No, you first.’ And she goes, ‘Well, thank you,’ and I go, ‘Hey, I’ll follow you anywhere.’”
“Good one,” I say, already fully invested in this story.
“I was worried that I came on too strong, but it gets better. On the plane, she was sitting on the other side of the aisle from me, but my seatmate asked to switch seats with her so he could sit next to some friend. So we ended up next to each other for the flight and talked the whole way down to Florida.
“When we landed and were getting off, I asked for her phone number. She said no, but gave me her email. At the office where I work, it’s almost all women, so the next day I ask them, ‘How long do I need to wait before I email this girl?’ They all said the same thing — three days. So I wait three days, but I’m too chicken to email her. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“I can guess,” I said. “A part of you probably knew that this could be the real thing, so there was a lot at stake.”
“Yeah, could be. Good point. Anyway, I don’t email for two more weeks, until finally I screwed up my courage. She emailed me right back, and then we went months with basically a constant email relationship. Finally, we arranged a meet. She suggested Enosburg and asked me if I knew where that was. I told her, ‘Sure, for years I watched the Vermont TV weatherman Stuart Hall, and he would broadcast from Enosburg Falls.’”
“Yeah, that’s right — I can picture him real well. I guess he died a couple years ago. I remember him being fastidious, like a perfect toy soldier.”
“Anyway, the first date went great, but it took a long time before we got married. Things were complicated. My first wife and I have a daughter, Daisy, with cerebral palsy, and when I was back in New York, I had primary responsibility for looking after her. My mother helped a lot, too. But finally my ex-wife stepped up and agreed to take on more of Daisy’s care. It was really gracious of her, I’ve got to say. And that’s what allowed my relationship with Diane to move forward. We got married, and I moved in with her in Vermont. She had the house in East Berkshire and a massage practice in Enosburg.”
“A masseuse — oh, man! It keeps getting better and better!”
Jack laughed, saying, “Actually, Diane later became a flight attendant for JetBlue, ironically, so she’s scaled back the massage thing.”
This was a good love story, I thought. Earlier in my life, I was a big proponent of “’til death do us part.” You get married and you stay married; that was my notion of true love. But my viewpoint, as they say, has evolved. Through the years, I’ve gotten to know many people who have found their true mates after one failed marriage, or even two. Jack and Diane seemed like another rendition of this truth: Not one of us can predict where and when love will arrive; all we can do is grab hold when it shows up.
As we came into the town of South Hero, Jack let out a sigh and said, “Man, it’s gonna be nice to spend a couple of days with my daughter. My mom, too.”
At the turn onto Route 314, the ferry road, Jack added, “Wasn’t there an Island Ice Cream stand on this corner? I stopped there with Diane, and I remember we both had the caramel fudge. Have you tried that brand, Island Ice Cream? It is really superb.”
“Yeah, I have tried it, and it is scrumptious. I’m not quite sure they have an actual store, but they sell the stuff through supermarkets and restaurants, maybe some general stores, too.”
“You know what I’m gonna do?” he said. “I’m gonna pick up some on the ride over to East Berkshire. Yup, caramel fudge, for me and Diane.”