Friday, August 24, 2012


I’m going to see my old pal Frank tomorrow when he and his family come over for dinner.  Because I have stayed in Minnesota, where we grew up, and he and his wife relocated to Washington, D.C. years ago, we have not met each other’s kids.  So tomorrow my daughter will meet someone whom I’ve known for 25 years!  And I’m really enjoying talking to her about how long 25 years is (only forever, duh!) and what it was like to play championship basketball with Frank when we were in junior high school, about the same age as our oldest neighbor kids. 

I remember meeting a couple of my dad’s childhood friends when I was about the age my daughter is now.  I guess I understood that my old man, who was eight years younger than I am now, had once been a young man.  But I didn’t get it.  I didn’t get that he grew up in my grandparents’ house, used to run around their yard.  And anyway I think I always thought that whatever he may have done before me, he had always known me, or at least planned to know me- I was always on his mind, I figured.  How could I not be?

And now here I am, trying to explain to my daughter that Frank and I were once the big men on two straight Osseo Basketball Association champions.  Yes, we lost our first three games the first year and didn’t lose again for two years.  No, I had no earthly idea I’d be a dad someday.  A dad?!  Whatever dude!  Dad’s suck.  They’re boring and fat; they’re slow; they like stupid movies.

Frank and I played, with considerably less success, on the same intramural basketball team throughout high school.  And we went to community college together.  Some time during the first semester I approached him with a plan:  let’s get Vinny and the three of us move into an apartment.  You may recall that Frank, Vinny, and I lived in that apartment for a year before Frank moved out to Seattle to live with a cousin, for the experience, and with much admiration on my part for what I considered an insanely brave move.

And life happened to us both.  We haven’t seen each other much in the years since, but we’ve kept in touch.  Not that my daughter knows that.  Tomorrow she will be meeting a total stranger and she will struggle to understand how her dad seems to know this guy, this stranger, like he’s a member of the family.  And she will no doubt fail to understand that in all those days before she was even present in my deepest daydreams, Frank was teaching me low post moves, or sleeping down the hall; that he is a member of the family, and that she should learn her family’s history because there is a lot of love there. And a lot of laughs.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hope and her friend Courage

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

That quote from “Shawshank Redemption” sticks with you doesn’t it?  You may remember that Andy is telling Red, who insists that Hope has no place in prison, that Hope is “the best of things.”  Yes, the movie is set in prison, but it is about us, you and me, prisoners of our lives. 

I was going to write a beautiful piece of uplifting prose, hopeful that if I did I could create a blog sensation that went viral and took the country by storm!  And instead I have already said that life is a prison and have given up all hope of reaching a large audience.  Who wants to think of his/her life in those terms?  Not many.  And yet, who is living an utterly free life, flitting from one adventure to another, beholden to nothing?  Right. Not many.  And what’s more:  Who wants to?  We live our lives behind walls we willingly construct.

I guess hurling one’s self off of a cliff takes courage.  Yes, I’m sure it does.  But people who do those types of things usually talk about people like us in patronizing terms, saying that we don’t have the courage to really live our lives.  And I beg to differ. 

Settling down, getting married, having kids takes courage.  That is, it does if you enter into those commitments intending to stay in them come what may.  Sending a perfect little baby out into the world, knowing that if the worst happened you would never heal, is at least as courageous as jumping off a cliff with a parachute, knowing that if the worst happens, you’ll never feel it.

And how about people who are single rather than in bad relationships?   Think that doesn’t take courage in a couple-centric world?  Or people in relationships who decide they don’t want children, who have the courage of their convictions? 

Wait a minute!  Courage has snuck in and is trying to hijack this essay!  Courage, you dirty dog!  “Not so fast,” Courage says, “Where you find me, you will always find Hope.  Any fool can live a life that has no hope.  Hope may be the most courageous act there is.”

I think one reason my writing isn’t very popular is because I always write about myself.  Maybe people think my blog is just the rantings and ravings of an egotistical maniac.  I like to think that I write about myself because I’m who I know best but also because I think I’m a fairly typical cat.  So hopefully I’m writing about you too.  Let’s try it:

I am depressed (maybe you are too).  I have chronic pancreatitis (you probably don’t). I’m in constant pain (you’re in constant something I bet).  I hope I get better (so do you).  If I don’t, I don’t.  My wife married a strong man, a healthy man.  That is not who she’s married to now.  But she is not going anywhere.  In sickness and in health indeed!  Think of how brave those vows are! How hopeful!  “I love you now, in your health.  Of course, I do.  But I will love you if you get sick, too.  I will take care of you; I will hold you; I will do whatever I need to do to keep you warm, and dry, and safe.  Not because I am fearless, but because I am brave.  I am scared; I am weak.  But I will get up tomorrow and I will do what needs to be done and I will Hope for the best.”