Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Today was a typical springtime day in the Pacific Northwet. Rain squall. Wind. Another rain squall. Then suddenly, brilliant, piercing sunshine that had been patiently waiting it's turn to show off...and that was just the first five minutes of the day. I loved it! I used to think that fall was my favorite season, but on days like today I've decided not to decide. The fall has it's gale force winds and dancing leaves and thunderheads. The spring has it's zephyr winds and bursting buds and winsomeness as counterparts, but spring carries with it one thing fall doesn't. Promise. The dark days of autumn are a precursor to the even darker days of winter, and around here that means: dismal. Ahh, but spring! Spring taps you on the shoulder and says, "You thought today was something? Wait 'til tomorrow!" That sounds good to me.

And, like the weather, my mind was busy if not equally unpredictable today.

I drove by the house where my friend Chuck used to live. It was about a year ago that Chuck decided his life wasn't worth living anymore. He parked his truck around the back side of the shed, hooked up a hose to the exhaust pipe and ran it into the cab of the truck and started it up. He was a seemingly happy man. Loved his wife and kids and grandkids. There were no outside indications that he was distraught, but I can't help but think he must have been. The last time I talked to him he was his usual, jovial self. I didn't know it was the last time I would talk to him. You rarely do. It made me wonder who I saw for the last time today, and do they feel promise?

My friend Mikey has a new, artificial femur (not that he ever had an old, artificial one...) If you've read my blog before, you'll probably remember Mikey. About a month or so ago he found out that the chemotherapy treatments he'd endured did absolutely nothing to decrease or even stagnate the growth of a cancerous tumor in his knee so he had to go in and have surgery. They removed the tumor, most of his knee, and 80 percent of his femur. He lost a lot of weight and is looking very pale but, that's to be expected, they said. He is using crutches to get around and is already back to working in the kitchen at the new cafe. I got to talk to him for a few minutes today. I made him laugh...that made me smile.

The last few mornings as I threw the covers off and planted my feet on the floor, I found myself singing a line from a Jackson Browne song that goes, "...I get up and do it again, amen." because sometimes the repetition of my life is a little bit tiring. But, today as I was thinking, I realized that had I not done this thing that I do day in and day out, I wouldn't have even known Chuck. At least not that well. And although it was sad, there would be no missing him today. I wouldn't know Mikey well enough to pray for (and ask for prayer for) him. We wouldn't have shared that laugh today. So, tomorrow, when my feet hit the floor, I'll change my tune slightly and I'll sing, "thank you, I get to get up and do it again, amen."

I promise.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Injustice Of It

When I was a kid, one of our Saturday chores was pulling weeds. I hated it! While it's still not my favorite pastime, I know it needs to be done or soon my house will simply be known as ' the one behind the dandelions'. I remember back in those childhood days quite often saying, "that's not fair, why should I have to pull weeds?" To which my dad would reply, "nobody said life was fair." I'm not sure if it was his favorite saying or just a kneejerk response. I suppose with seven kids all clamoring and questioning the inequities of life, you've got to come up with a mantra and stick with it. But I digress in a forward manner (hmm, maybe that's the technical way to say "Back To The Future!? :) As I was pulling weeds I thought back on my week and some of the substance of it that struck me in one way or another, and my dad's words rang true in my ears once again.

A friend of mine pulled me into her office, with an expression that can only be described as -- beaming! "Check this out!", she said, pointing to her computer monitor in delight. She'd told me a couple of weeks ago that she and her husband were having a baby, so I sort of knew what to expect. It was an ultrasound picture of a baby. "Now check this out!" , she said. To me it looked like the very same picture, but remember, I'm a guy. "Twins!!" , she shouted. She was so excited and I was very happy for them, having known them since they moved here as newlyweds not long forward to a few hours later. A different friend of mine was informed that she was never going to be able to have children. Never. Zero percent chance, according to her doctor. She's in her early 30's, not married, and a complete natural with kids by all accounts.
There are no words of condolence that can fill a hole so deep in despair. Words are empty and they echo in the cavern of hollow feelings. My God, how can this be fair? How can a woman who is more fit than others, seemingly, be made to suffer like this? Unfair!

Last night after my softball game, my nephew invited me to celebrate his 19th birthday with him and his family at home with cake and ice cream. This is my nephew that has been semi-attached at the hip to my daughter since birth. They're 3 weeks apart. Of course, I went. During the course of the evening, my daughter made her way over to her step-dad. The man my ex-wife married a year ago. She sidled up next to him, put her arm around him and remained there for the next ten minutes while I ate cake and ice cream. He's a good man. He loves her mom and her brothers. She should love him. That's how she is--she loves people and she's easy to love. But still. I couldn't help but feel the sting. Was he there when she was born? Did he rock her to sleep? Did he ever cry with her? Does he know the names of her dolls? Does he pace the floors at night when she's out later than normal? What right does he have to that arm around his shoulder? What right?! That's so unfair!

Open your dictionary to the word 'average'. There you'll see a picture of me. Blue eyes, a little too much gray at the temples, too much nose, a few wrinkles. Nothing fancy. Oh sure, there are a few things I can do that might be slightly above average (just don't ask me what they are), but those are certainly offset by the things that I do that are below average. Which lands me where I took off...average. I don't mind being average most of the time. It's a pretty cool gig, actually. You don't get your picture in the paper. Cops don't pull you over and ask you for your autograph. You wait in line at Applebee's unaccosted. Nobody even cares that you're the King of Average. Life is grand in averageland...except for this: The King of The Universe died instead of me. He didn't do anything wrong. It was me. He pretended to be, he agreed to be criminal, so I wouldn't have to die. He didn't fight, or kick, or squirm. He did that for me. There has never been a more atrocious injustice, a more unfair act committed than this, ever. And I don't balk. I don't shake my head in disbelief. I act as if it was owed me. If I can live with this injustice, then I certainly can live with all the others. After all..."nobody said life was fair."

Friday, May 05, 2006

What's In A Moment?

I've heard it said that life is nothing more than millions of moments strung together. Some more significant than others. I believe that there is something significant in every moment if you pay close enough attention.

Today as I ate my lunch at the edge of the sound, with my feet sticking out in the wind, I pondered on some of my most recent happenings and picked out a few that made me smile.

Here they are:

A week ago my oldest brother got married in a small, intimate and charming ceremony at my sister's house. There were maybe 40 people there all tolled and 30 of those were members of our extended family. Siblings and their spouses and some of their kids and my mom. Both my brother and his new wife each have a daughter. They-the daughters- were each responsible for the lighting of one single candle which represented themselves as part of the union of their parents' lives. While everyone's eyes were focused on them, I looked past them to the tears welling and the lips quivering on my brother and his bride. There, suddenly, was a moment. The two of them simultaneously acknowledging the forever-ness of their new found love and wrapping their girls up tightly in it.

My son is 12 years old and plays little league baseball. He mostly plays catcher and LOVES it! From his roost behind homeplate he can see everything that happens on the field and is accutely aware of what needs to happen next. He would have it no other way. He is the field general and his personality suits the position to a Tee. Well, before the season began, his coach pulled him aside and told him he wanted him to pitch a little this year. He was not happy. "Dad" he said, "all you get to do is throw the ball and let people hit it. How fun is that?!" I told him if the coach wanted him to pitch, then he needed to pitch. So we've been practicing in the back yard. I pitched when I was his age so I feel like I can at least be a little helpful. He's actually very accurate and skilled, although he can't get much speed on the ball. So. Thursday night his team is ahead by 10 or so runs and the coach puts him in in the 5th inning. The first batter to face him is a boy he considers one of his best friends. First pitch...smacked into center field for a double. Next batter. Second pitch...right down the middle...smacked to right for a single. All this time, I'm nervously pacing back and forth behind the backstop, saying nothing. He got the next two batters to ground out (one of them a spectacular grab by my son--I might add!) and it's down to the potential last out. First pitch...strike one! Second pitch...swing and a miss! And then, suddenly there was a moment. My boy looks at me, gives me a little smirk, fidgets with the ball in his glove, and fires! It's a curveball that misses the plate by 6 inches but the batter swings and strikes out. As he walked triumphantly off the mound, my son looked at me and shrugged his shoulders as if to say--what did you expect??

Today I got a simple text message from my daughter that said, 'Happy Cinco de Mayo padre!" If that's not a moment then I don't know....

Tonight my middle son decided to stay at his mom's so he could be there when his sister gets home from college. It will be in the middle of the night, but he'll be on pins and needles waiting for her. As I was pulling down the driveway to leave, he came back to the truck and leaned on my open window and quitely said, "Good luck at your game tonight, dad." A huge moment for me.

Life does happen a moment a time. I'm finally learning how to pay close attention.