The Odd Couple Visits North Carolina


At 5:00 this morning, I woke up, stumbled to the shower for a brief 5 minutes, got dressed, grabbed the bag I threw together late last night, kissed my wife goodbye, and at 5:20, headed out to meet Phil.

At 4:00 this morning, Phil woke up, got ready, had a cup of coffee (in preparation for the driving he would be doing for the rest of the day), looked over at the bag that had been packed for a few days, and began to confirm the weather reports/hurricane alerts for two different states. On his half-hour drive to meet me he used his technologies to check the traffic reports in all counties we would be driving through today.


Phil and I are flying to North Carolina on a mission. We are visiting the Franklinton Center at the Bricks in Whitakers, hoping that this will be where we will bring 75 people for a week’s worth of mission work and relationship building – more on that tomorrow.

We are going to meet the staff of the facility and to give them a chance to meet us – the odd couple.


Truth is, Phil and I drive each other nuts! I’m so glad that I don’t have to deal with his mind for 24 hours a day the way he does and I know for a fact he feels that way about me!

It wears me out listening to him think through logistics I would NEVER wanna consider and it’s gotta kill him to have to re-do all that thinking every time I change my mind on a whim.

Phil is 65 years-old, has visited all 50 states, is the proudest grandpa of 4, and remembers every fact, story, and scientific explanation that ANYBODY has ever told him.

I’m 28 years-old, have visited 5 states, JUST got married, and can’t seem to remember the one thing I promised my wife I’d do before I left.

I’m the “color”, the big-picture guy, the, … Um… Fluff? If you will.

Phil handles “details”, logistics, important big-picture stuff, he’s the, … Um… Backbone.

I need Phil.

Phil would hate the very idea of me writing about him. He made a career, an award-winning career, out of being the reporter/photographer behind the story – many of those years at the Miami Herald.

Phil and I have been leading Mission Trips together for as long as I have worked in Vero Beach. In another setting, I promised Phil I would never divulge how many consecutive mission trips he has been on with this church, but I will say this: I’ve never met a person, student or parent, that went on a mission trip without my buddy, Phil.

As our trips have grown Phil and I have made a habit of flying out to these locations (Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, Whitakers) to a) meet the facilities, staff, and intentions of the area we are traveling to and b) attempt to give the staff an orientation to our group of travelers; we think both objectives are essential.

We have our routine down: Phil books the tickets, the rental car, and the meals, then drafts the confirmation letter to the host group which I will then send under my name.

We will arrive and in the span of two days, Phil will ask enough questions and write down enough answers to be able to draw up a weekly activities schedule, chore chart, safety assessment, drivers chart, budget, materials list and all other kinds of details that I can’t even remember are even necessary. I will make sure each day ends with an “Emo-Devo” (emotional devotional). He tells me, “I do what I can do, so you can do the important stuff that YOU do.”

Immediately upon our return, Phil will begin telling everybody he knows, in a way only a reporter can, what a fantastic job I’ve done planning the details of our trip.

Phil and I share a mutual admiration for the other’s irritating, obsessive, and absolutely necessary gifts and perspectives that we personally don’t have.

Phil has taught me that beautiful friendships and fulfilled purpose lies at the end of being able to understand, empower, and appreciate the differences in one another.


Phil was the first one to know that I was proposing to Pam. In a way he had to be. He and I were running a meeting with chaperones one hour before I had to deliver a wooden swing, chocolate covered fruit, and a diamond to an obscure spot on the beach.
But it was more than logistics. Phil lent me his trailer, borrowed two different trucks to help me, and has mentored me toward being a loving father/husband ever since.

I was the first person to know about the return of the viciously fatal brain cancer that would take Phil’s wife, Pat. In a way I had to be. I was with him in Atlanta when he got the call from the doctor, hundreds is miles away from his wife.
But it was more than just logistics. Phil and I cried, hugged, and laughed, and still to this day marvel at the fragility, irony, and beauty of life. We travel together always mindful of what we’ve shared together.

My prayer is that everyone gets to have a Phil in their life.

As I blog in the air en route to our destination, the plane tilts and turns to the side. “We must be over Savannah, that’s usually where the flight pattern shifts to the west.”

I nod my head and I chuckle. Because I love Phil. And it’s more than just logistics.



  1. Pam Watkins says:

    Best blog to date. It’s not only great to have a “Phil” but it’s even greater to let the world know what he means to you. Awesome…

  2. Patty Baker says:

    Having had the privelege of going on 2 mission trips with both of you, I had not idea of the depth of your connection and mutual admiration. What a blessing both of you are to our church family and community! You two are so different yet alike. Thank you for sharing this history of caring for each other as you both care for our youth. And save me a Krispy Kreme!

  3. Shawna says:

    I hope that Phil gets to read this blog – it is a beautiful tribute and right on target! Have fun and be safe….

  4. Casey Dillahay says:

    You are so blessed and even more blessed to realize how blessed you are. I need to find a “Phil.” Have a safe trip.

  5. robert baggott says:

    that was fantastic…I have a phil, casey, pam, in my life…..keep up the good work… this a vacation day or work? bob b