It’s way more complicated for grown-ups to run away

EDITOR’S NOTE: Burt ran away from work this work, but he’ll be back soon. Until then, enjoy a classic column originally published in 2019.

It’s been decades since I last ran away from home.

I was 3. I wriggled through the tunnel my beagle burrowed under the backyard fence and set out to celebrate freedom with my cousins Dale and Gary.

My career as a runaway thumped to an abrupt halt when my dad caught up to me on the tractor. I have no recollection of any of this, but I’m told I was paddled all the way back home. Timeouts hadn’t been invented yet. It must have worked. I never ran away again.

But I’ve been tempted.

The thing about running away from home when you’re in your 60s is that it’s far too complicated. It takes more than 10 minutes to slap together two peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and tuck them into a knapsack with three comic books to accomplish your escape.

My latest thwarted attempted happened just the other day. Water gushed into the basement. Bills cluttered up the mailbox. Bosses heaped more projects onto my desk. The phone wouldn’t shut up.

I turned to my wife and pleaded, “Let’s run away and not tell anyone where we went.”

“Sure. Where to?”

I scratched my head. “Just … away.”

“So we have to prepare for everything,” Terry said. “Let me get the suitcases.”

“That’s not how it’s done. Haven’t you ever read Dennis the Menace? You grab a hunk of cake, an apple and your teddy bear, and you take off. You wander wherever the sidewalk leads you.”

“I better add Icy Hot and ibuprofen to the list. Our joints are going to be pretty stiff. And get the cooler out of the garage.”

By the time we’d gathered up all our old-people prescriptions, heated comforter, deodorant and shampoo, gluten-free energy bars, insurance cards, three changes of shoes, sunscreen, pajamas, laundry soap, laptops, cots, chairs and a lamp, we were unable to stagger, much less run away from home.

“Forget it,” I said. “Let’s take a nap instead.”

“Can’t,” she said. “I packed the pillows.”

When we were kids, Ollie, my third cousin twice removed, decided to run away to begin a new career as an oboe.

“Hobo,” I corrected. “How come you’re running away?”

“Ma told me to clean my room.”

Ollie stuffed a piece of fried chicken in his pocket and set up a tent in the woods on his family’s farm. He was back after three hours.

“What happened?” I asked.

“You know how Ma says the woods are so pretty? Well, they’re full of rocks and leaves and sticks and bugs and frogs and dirt. In a few more weeks, my room will look just as beautiful and I won’t have to clean it.”

The truth was Ollie had run out of food. Plus it was about to get dark and there was no place to plug in his night light.

After Terry and I muffed our attempt to run away, I gave Ollie a call. “You still got that tent? I have a camp light with lots of batteries.”

“Cool,” Ollie said. “But let’s use my RV instead. The night air wreaks havoc on my arthritis. Plus, I’ve got wifi, a shower and a fridge.”

When you run away in your 60s, you end up taking home with you. Does anyone want to buy a barely used knapsack?

Sneak out with Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday .com, on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.


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