There’s a scene from Good Will Hunting that has stayed with me, more so than the remainder of the movie. In the scene, the Minnie Driver character says that she would trade all of the money she has to spend another day with her dead father. And the reason she would is because once somebody is gone, there’s no way of bringing them back. So enjoy your loved ones while you still can.
My mom was 21 years old when I was born. At an age when I was still finishing up college and enjoying the carefree (as in, child-free) days of my early 20s, my mom didn’t have that. She had me and my sister and two brothers to contend with. Not that it was an actual competition, but she had demands on her time and resources that I can’t imagine. And she did a great job of raising us, I have to say.
I’m very pleased to report that she’s still with us today. I get to enjoy spending time with her while she’s still young enough to get around without a wheelchair or a walker. And we did exactly that a week ago, for the funeral reenactment of Abraham Lincoln. It was six hours in the car to spend four or five hours with the woman who did so much for me back when I was unable–and sometimes unwilling–to appreciate what that meant. It was a trade that I was glad to make.
I know that my mom reads my blog. So in a sense, I’m writing to her knowing that she will see it and probably get emotional. I’m getting emotional writing it, myself. But on the off chance that anybody else ever finds this online, here’s a picture and a story about my mom. She, like all mothers, loved her children and didn’t get nearly enough in return for her emotional and financial investments through the years. This is a humble attempt to repay a debt that can never be fully squared. And I’m very pleased to still have the opportunity to make payments on this account.
I don’t like rainy days, and I don’t think anybody does. I’m sure that some people prefer the rain, but like most people I’d rather have some sunshine, instead.
I was recently in California with my family on vacation. It’s a land of unspeakable beauty, and I envy the people who are lucky enough to live there. But they’re also in the midst of a drought that is threatening to change many things. Water is a precious resource, and if the rains aren’t falling, that’s not good.
There’s a saying in Hawaii that I added as the title for this post. It means that if you want good and beautiful things, you need to put up with the unpleasant things first. If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding. Something like that.
There was a tiny little bit of rain that fell when we were in Monterey, in the middle part of our trip. California needs more rain than what fell that day, but the end result was a tiny little sliver of a rainbow that emerged as my daughter was doing gymnastic flips on the beach near Cannery Row. And the wisdom of the Hawaiians hit me all over again. The rainbow was an added bonus that made an Incredibly lovely place even more so.
I wish many more rainbows for California in the days and months ahead. They will beautify the state, of course, but they desperately need what causes them, too.
When cleaning out my garage today, I came upon a cheap little portable table that has been sitting around unused for many years. A hole in the umbrella awning, and a considerable amount of rust to the table, convinced me that it was time to let it go. Wheeling it out to the alley was not easy, though. It rolled just fine, but the younger man that I was when the table was purchased didn’t want to part with a family artifact.
There were several good days once, when the weather was nice outside and we decided to enjoy a meal together out on the patio. I knew those days were fleeting, and as a result I made sure to enjoy them as much as I could. But today I said goodbye to a tangible reminder of this history.
I knew it wouldn’t be long before some came down the alley and claimed the table as their own, so I dashed back inside to get my camera and take a picture first. And sure enough, within five minutes after the picture was taken it was gone.
While my family has grown older through the years, the clothes we once wore and the table we once used and the soccer ball we once kicked around in the park have remained as they always were. Parting with these things is not easy, but so long as the memories they evoke remain in our hearts, that can never be a bad thing.
A few days before my family and I left for a vacation in California, my little one told me that she had been reading my blog, and it made her sad. It’s certainly not something that I wanted to hear, so I decided to ask her why.
“You tell stories about the run and jump and other things we don’t do anymore, and I miss them” she told me.
I told her that I wrote stories here so that she and I could have a record of them, and if we outgrew them one day–and we’re bound to do with most things–we can look back at them fondly. And if some stranger we’ve never met before wants to read the stories, that’s OK too. Better to have the stories than to rely on our memories, which are wonderful things but are not always as reliable as they could be.
My reply seemed to satisfy her, and I was reminded of our conversation a few days later, when we were on a beach near Pacific Grove, California. We were on the 17 Mile Drive, which I had never heard of before and now I’ll hardly ever forget it. But there’s a story to tell that I hope she finds some day.
The waves came crashing in, as they always have done before, and the two of us decided to turn this experience into a race. We would walk out toward the water as the wave was coming in, and after it crashed and the water came ashore, we’d begin to backpedal, all the while saying “back…back…back” as if this would keep the water away from us.
A successful round was going all the way back before the water reached your toes or–in my case–your shoes. It was fun because even if you misjudged the wave’s size or speed, the worst that would happen is some surprisingly cold water would touch your feet. With all of the hardships in the world, a few moments of trying to outrun an ocean wave felt like a rare treat.
We called our game “Back…Back…Back” and I’d be surprised if we ever had an occasion to play the game again. But it marked our time on the beach that day, and proved to me that while some games might be outgrown or cast aside, our love and our ingenuity never will.
Sitting on the pier at Santa Monica, watching the sun as it descends toward the Pacific Ocean, reminds me of the blessings I have in my life. Two great kids have made all the difference in my life, and spending time with them will create memories that will last for the rest of our lifetimes.
Dinner last night with an old friend from grammar school was another reminder. We talked about the old days and where life has led us since then. He told me, and I don’t disagree, that karma leads us to where we are in life. And I’ve been rewarded with the good kind, fortunately.
My world hasn’t been the same since the girl in this picture entered into it, sixteen years ago this week. She makes me smile, makes me laugh, sometimes make me shake with anger, but at the bottom of it all I’d do anything to keep her happy and safe. Being a parent is like that. Happy birthday to the best thing that ever happened to me.
This is the copy of The Stranger by Albert Camus that I read in high school. I share it here to prove that Griffin High School once existed (although it ceased to be back in the late 1980s), and to show how some writers have followed me throughout my life. There isn’t much else that I’ve kept with me since high school besides the story of Meursault.
While paging through a different translation of the story, as my daughter is now reading it for a high school class, I read the author’s bio in the back of the book. I learned that Camus, like George Orwell, died at the age of 46. Since I recently wrote about Orwell’s passing at the same age I am now, I need to revise those remarks to include Camus, as well.
Should I make it to my birthday in June, I will have lived longer–numerically, at least– than two writers who authored stories that have remained with me since adolescence. I’ll have produced no literary works of any value myself, but then again few people ever have.
Upon reaching this stage in life, where the road of life no longer seems infinite, I’m reminding myself that every year–hell, every day–is a blessing. So why not appreciate life? I see no reason to do otherwise.
My two daughters love to perform onstage, but they rarely get to share a stage with each other. I suspect they don’t care about this, but for me it’s a real treat whenever they do.
They’re nearing the end of a Hamlet run this weekend, and I’m so proud to see them onstage in one of Shakespeare’s finest works. Sharing an image of them in this space gives the show a permanence that live theater cannot have, and I’m very glad to do exactly that.