End of the Day

Warm night. Lightning bugs dot the field. Children sleep their innocent sleep, half under blankets.

Summer has arrived. I watched the sun set on the lake tonight. The Adirondacks outlined in pink and red. Peepers still sing to one another in the darkness.

I am in love with everything around me–my wife, my children, this world. I am love with the lightning bugs and the sunset. My heart leaps up.

Dew settles as the air cools. The wind has the night off. The sun wakes the other side of the earth. Somewhere outside the house, a skunk searches for breakfast.

How can I sleep with such wonder? How can I sleep with such beauty? And what about love? That, too, keeps me stirring long after my family sleeps, long after I have risen and left my bed to gather the day’s dust.

Proud Parent

My daughter had a holiday concert this evening. She was one student of all the students in her grade and the grade above hers, singing and dancing. They had practiced for weeks and tonight was the big night. It was a packed gymnasium where they performed. It was fun to watch and to hear, and the kids had lots of fun.

She was a little nervous when we left–not worried so much as anticipating that she would have to do something in front of others. She knows already that she wants to please others, to show herself in a positive light, to do well.  And of course she was stellar. She sang right out. She smiled the whole time. She looked around. She laughed. What more could a parent ask?

At one point her class sang as a unit. I watched her sing, smiling all the while (both she and I), and I felt a pang of proudness. I had a feeling of how quickly time passes, how she will grow to do wonderful things and lead a fine life, and how I will remember this moment more than she will remember it. I felt proud of her standing up and doing her best, enjoying life in that moment. I was genuinely happy, from within as well as for her. I didn’t just feel the small pride of a parent that comes from watching one’s child do something for the first time or trying hard to accomplish something. There was something more there. It was a flash of the future, an emotional glimpse of the power of the world that is hers now and will be as she grows. For just a moment, time flared out and tingled over me.

I am sure there will be many more moments where she performs in a group or even on her own. I will feel proud then as well, I am sure, but when she ran out of the building afterward, as I walked with her brother in the cold air, and jumped into my open arms for a huge hug, I held onto her and to that earthly briefness tightly, knowing that it will not be long before I remember how long ago this night was. And she may not remember it at all.

In a short while I will look in on her sleeping. I will feel proud, and I will love her as much as one can love one’s child. I will her as long as I am alive to do so, and I will miss that child when she grows up. Tomorrow I will be sure to make meaningful the moments we share, and to let her know again that I am proud of her, and that I love her. And both of us will be better because of it.

Up Too Early?

I couldn’t sleep.  The clock said 5:30.  Then my son stirred and I went in to see him.  He went back to sleep.  I didn’t.  I considered sitting outside for a while.  It’s too wet.  It rained and rained last night.  More rain.

I finished reading Steinbeck’s Winter of Our Discontent recently.  It takes place in 1960.  A different time.  I can’t stop thinking about it.  The story line is not particularly complex but the characters are so deeply drawn that the story is a deep one.  Our hero leads a happy life, one of simplicity and ease but his family and others, and himself, point out how his family was once a great one in the town and how he once had a fortune.  This leads him to make some choices to “get rich.”  I figured, half way through, that the story would have one of two endings.  Either he succeeds at getting rich and shows everyone that being a good guy can pay off, or he crashes and burns and we learn how only the ruthless can succeed.

Like life, the ending isn’t so simple.  He does manage to overcome some challenges and find a way to increase his financial resources.  He “gets rich.”  The story, however, tangles with two big questions for me.  What is really important in life?  And what is the nature of morality?  Before he began to make any changes to make his new fortune, our hero is a grocery clerk, the only one in the local store (remember this is 1960 and the interstate highway system that feeds today’s supermarkets is in its infancy), and he is happy, mostly.  His relationships with his friends and neighbors are genuine and positive.  Those become complicated and darker.  He keeps secrets from his wife.  His son, who already has the idea that one can make it in the world by cheating, sees that maybe hard work isn’t necessary after all.

The hero, Ethan Allen Hawley, has two teenaged children and a devoted and loving wife.  I couldn’t help imagining my own life when my two children grow just slightly older.  What will my relationship with those three most important people in my life be like?  How will the choices I make affect them?  What will I teach my children with the choices I make about work, money, love, friendship?  Ethan makes some decisions that today would seem acceptable to most people, almost 50 years later, but he struggles with them so much he considers suicide.  Can one get rich and maintain a true moral compass?  Can one do business with someone and still remain friends?  Why do we need to get rich anyway?

I guess part of the reason Ethan stands out for me is that he is a thinker.  He really thinks about all the pieces of his life.  He carefully considers how every decision, every act, will affect otehrs.  When his world is the simple one of a grocery clerk, the answers are simple ones.  Once he starts making big changes, his thinking becomes tangled.  He still thinks a lot but it means lots of mental wrestling, rather than mental play.  Things aren’t so simple.  I guess I can relate to that.  I tend to think a lot as well.  If I were the one opening the grocery store, I can imagine myself, like Ethan, sermonizing to the canned goods.  Talking aloud helps me think better, as it does for our hero.

I keep thinking now, about the book, about my own choices, about where I might be headed.  I think about morality.  What is good?  How does one live the decent life?  And what is that anyway?  I am going away for a week with my family.  I will have some time to ponder these questions.  My children are awake now.  Water still drips from the eaves.  Time to make coffee.  This day, at least, will be one filled with thought, but hopefully, no great choices to make.  Drip drip, the rain falls.  Then everything dries.  And then, at a time no one can say, it will rain again.

Flowers for May Day

Last Friday was May 1st.  For 15 years, with two minor exceptions, I have given my spouse flowers on that day.  One exception was last year.  I am not sure what happened but I forgot, so I pushed it out one month.  June 1st is as random a day as May 1st.  The other exception was when I waited until the last minute and it was Sunday.  I had to wait a day that year.

We met at the end of April, 15 years ago.  That is a fair chunk of time.  I get her flowers both to suggest that I have been thinking of her and that I love her, as well as to, at least for me, commemorate when we met.  We did not meet on May 1st.  That was just the day I picked that was close enough.  Plus, if I don’t remember, no big deal.  It isn’t a specific day, just a time to remember and celebrate.

The thing is this:  I think my wife is amazing.  I love her like crazy.  I think she is one of the most beautiful women I have ever met.  If it didn’t sound like I was exaggerating, I would say that she is the most beautiful woman I have ever met.  She is a terrific mom and a great friend.  I am truly lucky to have met her, and I am fortunate that she is willing to keep things going.

I used to get her one red rose.  That felt pretty romantic to me.  I have expanded since then.  I got her a whole passel of roses after ten years.  Now I get a mix.  This year it was pink roses and gerber daisies.  They brighten the place up.  A couple of years ago I decided to make flowers a part of life.  So one rose seemed too insignificant.  A bouquet had more punch.

And so we stay at it.  My parents have been married for over 40 years.  My wife’s grandparents have passed 60 years.  I am hoping, if the cheesecake doesn’t do me in too soon, that she can bear me for that long.  I am hoping that flowers (at least) once every year makes a difference.

Cigarettes are Yucky

Yucky:  that about sums it up.  My brother posted a comment recently on another site that dissed coffee.  He was writing in jest, but there is, of course, truth in every jest.  For example, if I responded with “Oh, brother, but you smoke cigarettes, you dipshit,” then he may know that I am kidding when I call him a dipshit, but then again there is some truth in there.

I mean, smoking defies all logic.  It stinks, it makes you look bad, it stains things (even your fingers for god’s sake), and it makes you die sooner than you might in horrible and tragic suffering.  Who would take that on?  Smoking is committing suicide, only slowly.  I understand that there is some minor jolt that comes from nicotine.  The search for that jolt makes some sense to me.  But the price seems a little high to me.

It is obvious to me that smoking is addictive when people will pay $50.00 for a carton of cigarettes.  I am trying to limit what I spend money on.  Cutting out cigarettes would be a no-brainer if I spent that much cash on something I don’t need.  Here is an interesting article from MSN Money that discusses the high costs of smoking beyond the direct purchase cost, including higher insurance costs, lower resale values for cars and homes, lower incomes, and loss of benefits from premature death.

Plus, when you get right down to it, they are just plain yucky.  And I don’t mean that in the good sense of the word yucky.  OK, coffee is yucky, too.  Both can stain your teeth and give you bad breath.  Both can give you a buzz.  But at least coffee doesn’t ruin the drapes or increase your drycleaning costs.  And some even say that coffee has some health benefits.  No one says that about cigarettes.

So, brother, I don’t mean to say that you are a dipshit overall.  You are a smart, sometimes witty, charming fellow.  And I love you.  That makes it especially hard for me knowing that you puff up the cancer sticks every day.  I have been an unfortunate witness to lung cancer.  Believe me, you don’t want that.  And if you make me witness it again, I will kick your pain-wracked ass right up through those blistered and blackened lungs of yours.

And if you get this message, tell your sister to cut it out as well.  I know I can’t use reasoning to talk anyone out of smoking.  There is no reasoning behind doing something that has such a high price not just for oneself but for the people one cares about.  But think about something for me.  Do you really want your tombstone inscribed with something like this below your name?:


Son, brother, father, maestro of Thanksgiving stuffing

Love and missed by many

R.I.P. Dipshit

And don’t think I won’t do it.