I’ll never forget that rainy day
I wore my Scout uniform to school
not knowing our meeting was cancelled.
Those were halcyon days before
group text messages and reverse 911s.
So there I sat in the cafeteria, the one lone
webelo in my pressed shirt with
kerchief round my neck, ashamed.
How did everyone else know but me?
Kids can be killingly cruel. They were.
I earned the invisible badge of longsuffering
that day that took its own sweet time.
I later learned that to be a fruit of the Spirit,
a virtue that makes us like God.
But in grade school you want nothing
more than to be like everyone else.
And you can, until someone forgets you.
Then you begin to become someone else.
I knew last night when I went to bed that it was going to get chilly overnight. Sure enough, I woke to frost on the grass and rooftops. Unless I missed it, and I don’t miss such things, that’s the first frost for this season. I must say it looks beautiful sitting atop our still rich, green grass. It’ll burn off quick, old Helios is already rising hot. But I’m always thrilled the first time Jack Frost sings.
HA! Jack Frost, who even talks that way anymore? I guess I do, me and other old fashioned farts. I read something this week that tagged me a part of the last generation to remember life before the internet. I stopped for a minute to ponder that. Interesting, huh? And humbling. I also read this week where folks are up in arms because the new iPhone doesn’t have a headphone jack. I thought what in the jiminy christmas hell? But I guess if you’ve grown up with an iPhone as an extension of yourself, then a missing headphone jack is like a missing limb or something. Except that its not a missing limb, its a headphone jack for pete’s sake. Spoken like a true old fashioned fart, huh?
Will and Sarah are both off at college doing college stuff, which I do pray includes studying. Abbey is adjusting fairly well to being an only child. She quickly moved all of Sarah’s stuff out of her room and arranged things the way she wanted them, with her own decorative flair. She bought a little plant, the cool kids these days call ’em succulents, which is biologically correct but I just call ’em plants. Anyway, she named her succulent Elvin. Yeah, somebody else to keep alive in this house. My lord.
I hear you’ve got snakes in your basement, or had snakes, or found a snake hole or something. Any way you slice that sounds no bueno, amigo. Vipers. Grief, that gives me the shivvies. I did see your picture on Facebook with a caulk gun in one hand and a hoe in the other. You looked formidable, pal, like you meant business, old school style. Good on ya. Stand your ground. Eye of the tiger.
I just finished reading When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Its an appeal to answer the question “What are the things you love?” and then live according to your answers, for as I say, time zips. And it especially zips coupled with a cancer diagnosis. I’ve always had an awareness of death, sorta my melanchological makeup I suppose. But I do think about it more lately, which I guess is yet another whiff of being an old fashioned fart. You know what, Winn? The god-honest truth is that I don’t want to ever die, ever. I want to stay alive on this good earth forfreakingever. I want to keep hearing Jack Frost’s song and sending kids to college and trying to keep succulents alive and praying for friends with snake troubles and reading sad books and drinking orange juice with so much pulp in it you almost choke and watching the Broncos beat Cam Newton and chuckling at youngsters with where’s-my-headphone-jack anxiety and trying to write memorable poems. Yep, I suppose I just answered “What are things you love?” The rub is my list there was just getting started. Some days I think I love it all, my friend, every damn stitch. Dr. Kalanithi would tell me, “Then live it today like you love it, all of it.” That’s what I’m gonna try and do. I pray you will too.
Oh, I forgot to mention Justin’s peanut butter, and western movies like Unforgiven, and driving home from the grocery store at dusk while listening to Tony Bennett, and…
There is a matchbook in my
pocket stemmed with words.
I tear them out, one at a time,
to strike against the grains of the day.
My words become fire – warming,
burning, casting light and shadow.
Vintage matchbooks held twenty,
equal to the number of smokes in a pack
(in case you ever wondered).
It is similar with the matchbook
in my pocket, enough words to match
the day’s moments. After that, quiet.
Every morning the book is mercifully
restored. And I am charged to take,
strike, and speak to remember.
It was a world sweeter than we knew.
Back then. Back when
we tried to soothe babies to sleep in that
rocking-chair built just like JFK’s.
We were half-dead most days
until we discovered the Exer-Saucer and
Winnie the Pooh on VHS.
Bouncing to that bear’s untamed cheer
kept them glued while you and I napped
or unforgot the pleasures of the flesh,
or some days both. We had to be
quick though. So we quicked.
It was a world we thought would never end.
Back then. Back when.
And then it did.
All those living-in-the-moment
sermons are for suckers. We live
moment-to-moment, each measuring
another acre in the wood,
a wood sweeter than we knew.
Its 5:30am, and I’m sitting here with the sliding glass door open, looking at a moon completely full of herself. The air is cool outside, fallish. If I could halt time right now and hold it all in the palm of my hand, I would. I sure would. But like that Supertramp song says, “I must be movin’ on.”
The dominoes start falling today, man. I leave this afternoon to help Will get some stuff back to Arkansas for college. I’ll turn right around and zoom back here so I can leave early Monday to help Sarah get some stuff to California for college. Actually those dominoes started falling yesterday as Abbey started her first day of high school. Yeah, they’re movin’ on. I told Meredith if we can just get to that first week of September, get everybody where they need to be, pay everything that needs paying, then I plan to take a good long nap. Yes, like that line in Rosanne’s sweet song – “when September comes.”
I know you’ve got falling dominoes out your way too. I pray for you and your good family, that you’ll all be safe, and you’ll all keep loving one another. This’ll be your first fall in the new old farmhouse, right? My, my, a chance to see the good earth, from a fresh vantage point, hike her skirt and dance autumn’s steps round and round and round. My, my.
Well, compadre, like Willie sings, keep your “hands on the wheel.” Lord I sure do love that song. And this precious, precious thing we call life.
Come, all you bleary-eyed grown-ups
worn down to the nub of love.
Come and (and) (and) you put the load
right on…well, you know.
Come and I will give you jest.
Seriously, step right up and take my joke
upon you, the bon mot that its not up
to you to save your world much less your self.
Hilarious, right? My side-splitting
payoff about weightless responsibility?
Come and get it. But come like a child,
because of such is…well, you know.
*Matthew 11.28-30 – the gospel according to john
She came in late, having been out to
dinner with a friend. She is soaking up
these final days before leaving for college.
Her mother and I were in bed watching
five tiny girls and their quest for gold.
Her mother had already surrendered to dreams,
so she asked if she could watch with me.
Only a fool father would deny such a request.
So she sprawled across the bed’s foot while
I tucked my knees to make room, my
motions the olympic event of fathering,
allowing her to grow beyond my reach.
As she focused on those tiny five girls, I was
spellbound at the blossoming young woman
at my feet I used to carry in the crook of my arm.
How does time fly so high, so fast? Practice, I guess.
The breathless commentator finally said
“Right now every little girl wants to be one of the final five.”
In that golden moment’s wake I could have
crumbled, but I kept good form. Practice, I guess.
She stood tall, told me good-night-I-love-you,
and we then joined her mother in dreams.