A lot like gravity.

Force

Hey Gang!

I recently had the privilege of being the best man for my closest friend of nearly 15 years. I wanted to share the speech I wrote. I wrote it because it rang true about he and his wife from my point of view. When I was done with it, I wanted to share it with my gang because I think it is really about what we all want at the end of our story. What follows is the original words I used, with errors, I am sure. I hope you enjoy.

*****

Ask any of my friends and they will tell you that I love storytelling in any form. I love reading them in books and telling some of my own. However, my favorite story isn’t my story but I will tell it anyway.

I don’t want to take up all of your time because, ya know, open bar but it is a story about a boy and a girl.

The boy was a bit of a troublemaker some 15 years ago when I first met him. We had our own adventures for a long time. We grew up together.

Eventually, the boy went to college here at ISU. We would talk every once in a while and he told me about these amazing characters who sit around me at this table and in this room now.

However, he would frequently tell me about this girl. He always talked about how funny she was and how she was like his best friend. I remember the first time I talked to the girl, it was over the phone while they were at Goodwill and found a picture that be known as T-bear for years. I knew then that this girl meant a lot to my friend.

Years pass and their friendship grew. Like any good story there were the ups and downs, the will they or won’t they get together moments.

Spoiler alert: they did.

They loved each other but then they fell in love. They were in love across town, they we in love from city to city, and their love spanned hundreds of miles to Georgia.

Like any good story, the boy too a leap by writing a few words on an egg.*

Now, we are here and the boy and girl are together as man and wife.

This isn’t the end of my favorite story however, it is just the end of that first book in a series of books.

Like any good story, there is a moral her. And I believe it is this:

There is a pretty famous book that says “love is patient, love is kind” but I think there is something more here. Robert Frost said he took the road less travelled and it made all the difference.

These two unintentionally took all of the right turns, out of billions of turns, to get to one another.

You can call that fate, or serendipity, or kismet. But I like to think there was something more there. A force that made them naturally drawn together. That had to be in each others’ space, in each others’ orbit.

These two people are together and bound with love. I think the moral of the story is that love is a lot like gravity. It cannot be denied. When it happens, you can’t fight it, you just have to fall.

So please, raise your glass with me as I make a toast. To gravity, to love, and to my two favorite characters.

Cheers!

*****

I hope you enjoyed. I got a lot of thank you afterward. Many told me that they cried during it, which was not my intention. I wanted to get across the idea of love being something that is hard to define, merely experienced.

I hope you have experienced gravity such as this as well.

-Chris

*Author’s Note: The words on the egg is a reference to how he proposed. It was on, or near, their first Easter living together. They were coloring eggs and he showed her the one he was working on that read: “Marry Me?” I know, it sounds too good to be true but that is how it went down. As I said, my favorite story.

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Campfire Tales Part 1: Chris, Ben and the Infinite Boredom

Hey Gang!

So, it is getting that time of year where being outdoors becomes a life-goal. I have decided to tell a few stories of literally the only times I have been camping. It is funny, my best friend Ben and I have this saying: We can never be normal. It does not matter how boring the activity we do is, we never have a genuine normal experience. There was one time where we hung out, went to best buy, scoped out chicks with our 17-year-old eyes at the mall, grabbed lunch, and started our way home. Nothing abnormal happened. It was a beautiful sunny day with the windows rolled down and the breeze coming in through the small s10’s windows. Once again, it was completely normal, until a huge yellow jacket flew into the cab at about 55 miles per hour. We swerved and screamed as it landed on us and around us. After what seemed like an hour, the bug flew away and we breathed a sigh of relief, laughed, and yelled “Why?!”

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

These are some more (s’more, get it?!) of our stories that should have been a relaxing or uneventful tale, but took a sharp right. I think it makes for a better story anyway.

We found this great little place off a major lake a few years back. It was great and we wanted to spend the entire weekend camping in my massive tent that is bigger than my dorm room in undergrad. We get there and it is probably a hike of about an eighth of a mile in to where we camp. The walk way is beautiful and green. The path laid flat by lawnmowers. It had a natural elegance to it that I couldn’t put my finger on.

We put the tent up and went for a short hike along a path. We wound around and found a small two-person boat someone had repurposed as a bridge. The earth showed signs of recent flooding. The trees bent over the river in towering ways. It was quite beautiful. Until we got lost. I am not sure how it happened. Maybe it was the boat that threw us off or maybe our imaginations that ran wild when we saw cigarette butts and old, empty beer cans. Whatever it was, we got lost. I guess “lost” is a harsh word. We could see houses about a mile away and we could hear traffic but we could not find a way out of the wooded area or where our campground was. We felt crazy and slightly embarrassed.

“What if this is how we die?” I remember joking but not.

We found our way out as the sun began to set. We went fishing at a little pond about 100 feet downhill from where our tent was. We caught small sunfish most of the day and finally gave up on catching the big ones. We walked back to our tent as the sun set. I don’t really remember what we ate for dinner or anything like that. I do remember one thing….

We were so bored. I mean the bored that sent you into crazy fits. I remember at one point we were gathered around the fire as the pink sky faded into night. It was quiet except for the buzzing of insects and the croaking of frogs. Orange and black alternated around the foliage near the fire. I remember looking up at Ben, as he carved something out of a large branch, and thinking about how much he looks primal. It was all so very primal. I too was carving wood; a wooden shiv because what do you do with empty time.

We grunted and laughed every once in a while. We eventually found out that we each had been creating shivs; his more brilliantly crafted than mine, I admit.

END OF PART 1

I’ll Bet

Hey Gang!

I was walking home not too long ago and I couldn’t help but be incredibly frustrated. I had multiple papers due in a few weeks, my house was in disarray thanks to my rambunctious puppy and I had little time to do anything but attend work, class, and sleep. I was spent.

I couldn’t help but think what life would be like had I taken the road less travelled, so to speak. I imagined if all those years ago I had moved on with the silly thoughts of college.

There is a concept of a multiverse, which basically says that when you pull back out of the cosmos there are parallel universes that we tend to inhabit. So right now there is a different version of me somewhere out there.

I’ll bet he is wearing a heavy flannel jacket somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. He is standing at the edge of a wooden dock that sways and creaks with every swirl of water beneath it. Trees reach into the sky all around the large hidden lake. This secret kept so well by time and nature. He looks out and takes a sip of his coffee early in the chilly morning. The smell of dark roasted coffee beans stinging his nose. He seems so small compared to his surrounding but he understands that they dance for him. They sway for him.

His own private show in these quiet hours.

I’ll bet he finishes his coffee and goes back inside where his wife is finally up. She sits reading the paper in one of his old shirts and a pair of shorts. She is concentrating so hard on whatever it is that she is reading that she doesn’t even realize he has come in.

He kisses her on top of the head and wishes her a good morning as she turns her face towards his with a smile.

I’ll bet he puts the cup in the sink and begins tip-toeing through the old log cabin that he bought years earlier. I’ll bet he is looking for someone.

He turns each corner cautiously until a tiny figure jumps out and screams, “BOO! I got you daddy!”

“Yeah you did, bud,” he exclaims as he hoists the tiny young man up on his hip.

I’ll bet he takes the young man into the kitchen and sets him in the chair next to his mother. There is a window above the sink where he sees out over the placid lake where fog creeps slowly from the warm water into the cool morning air.

I’ll bet he makes a quick breakfast for his family and then they all go outside.

The young man plays in the yard with a chocolate lab. They run together in zig-zag patterns.

The mother and the other me walk through the woods talking about whether or not they should go to town today, what the weather is like, how it used to be, and maybe about how much they want to have another baby.

The sun rises and sets on this day. The man enjoys a meal he prepared and they all go out onto the same wooden dock as before. The young boy throws a tennis ball into the lake, which signals the dog to sprint off the dock. He retrieves it over and over, always coming back to his tiny companion.

The mother gets cold and decides to go inside. She kisses the other me and heads towards the illuminated log cabin that peeks through the wooded fortress around the home.

Their shadows blend into the dark night and he hears the front door creak shut and latch.

The sounds of bullfrogs croak from somewhere distant. Crickets chirp ethereally from all around. It encompasses him.

He is surrounded and enveloped by nature.

He looks up into the night where millions of stars shine in the sky. Planets cast their technicolored twilight down. Cosmic dust swirls in the depths of space.

After a while, his mind wanders away from this beautiful place filled with such interesting flora and fauna. He begins to wonder what life had been like if things had turned out different.

He loves his family and his life but what if?

I’ll bet he wonders what if he had decided to go to college. I’ll bet he wonders what all of his friends that went off to college are doing right now. Are they married? Are they alive?

I’ll bet he wonders what life would be like to be a little freer. To be able to expand his mind and wrestle with concepts that seems so foreign to most.

He ruminates on this for hours until the cold night sinks to his core and he saunters back into the warm cabin.

I’ll bet he thinks about this until he begins drifting to sleep.

I’ll bet, just before he lets his mind rest for the night, he wonders if I wonder about him as much as he wonders about me.

– Chris

The Fall

https://i0.wp.com/www.get-frenched.com/images/fall_leaves.jpg

 

Hey Gang!

It was a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon. This came into direct opposition o the few hours that preceded when tornadoes whipped around the state leaving dozens homeless and thousands without power. I was walking in the large grassy backyard at my mother’s house. My dog ran back and forth enjoying the sun about as much as me. I recently got a Canon t3 and was using it feverously. I looked all around and saw everything as a potential subject. I found piles of leaves that were densely packed against the fence as wind held them there.

Sticks jammed into the ground during the storm.

Rain dripping from evergreen needles.

Sofie looking into the distance as the sun shined through her calico fur.

My mother as she took no notice to me and my antics.

All these things surrounded me and I was in awe of it all. These beautiful moments that fade with the click of a shutter. It was all so beautiful but never meant for me. It just happened. It made me think about a person I work with who could not understand me. He needs concrete and data to understand things. To understand life, he needs directions. He could not understand the way I am and I believe he judges me for that. He does not take me a sincere because I refuse to see the world in one solid plane.

He asked me once why I was so calm about a situation. Why was I not freaking out? How am I able to travel alone and so. I looked at him and I said, “I don’t know. I just am.”

I wonder about that exchange some times. Why do I look at things and see them as they are. My interpretation of the event is met with the ideology of, “This is how it is. How do I adapt?”

This idea of living life came to me that day while taking pictures. I suppose it began a few years ago when I read this book. It was insanely disgusting and I had to pretend like I had not read it but there was one line that makes me think about life and all that comes with it every time I bring the verbiage to the forefront of my thoughts.

“Like the rain, I was born to fall.”

This ominous passage is more grave in the story than what I intend it for. For me, it reminds me of life. Oscar Wild once said that youth is wasted on the young but I believe that is false based on the simple fact that our bodies are perpetually falling. Youth is a state of my and we are never young. From the moment of conception, or whenever you believe a being is created, we begin to deteriorate. We grow up and hit puberty but we are aging. We are all in a different stage of the fall but still falling.

I think there is some sort of tragic beauty in that thought. Once you realize that you are falling and always have been, it becomes easy to accept everything.

What is it that makes it easier for a calculated person to handle life? Is it the routine? The belief that stability is tangible?

Is it the idea that life is something you build? These bricks you lay with mortar slathered around them. Mortar made of reason and caution. Knowledge of peripheral concepts. Knowledge of the fringe of what it means to be.

I talk a lot about life because it means a lot to me. I always thought the way I think is how everyone does but it is not. I love to question things. I love the idea of something new and foreign.

I look at that and I look away because it is something so scary to think about. To believe that I know everything or that I have life figured out is an insult to myself.

If a child says that they are as tall as they ever will be at age 5 and never measures themselves gain is missing out on all that growth until they realize that they are taller than they thought. Then there is the surprise that comes with this acceptance of the new you.

Us. The Immortal Jellyfish drifting somewhere far away from the certainty of land. We reinvent ourselves because we go back to our youth. That feeling of being younger but never attaining that because it was never meant to be attained.

Live long.

Live well.

That day I was taking pictures. I saw something extraordinary. Things happen. They are either about to happen, happening or happen.

One person may see the wind blowing a road sign, the next may see the road sign blow down, and the last may see the blown down sign. Rarely do we see all three. Those events, much like seeing people reunite in an airport after a long time and their tearful reunion, were never meant for us. Somehow, we see it in its entirety and we know it is special.

I looked up at a branch and I watched a leaf break away from the branch as the wind blew furiously. All other leaves fell directly to the ground and tumbled along as the wind blew, this one was different. It slowly drifted and turned, flipping over and over as I saw vibrant orange and earth brown flickering at me. It hovered and dropped quickly then rose again as it continued the show. I watched in fascination.

Finally, the show stopped. The leaf came to rest on the ground and was blown along with all the other leaves but for a moment it danced in the air despite the wind or maybe because of it.

Just like the leaves, we too dance in the winds of change. That is what he does not see. He does not see the wind for something that can be used to dance and to sing praises of. He does not see that the wind is meant for us. The fall is natural and the winds are constant but fluctuate.

When you realize that you cannot get back to the branch, you begin to understand the fall and how beautiful it can be.

-Chris

A Life Less Ordinary Part II: Jazz and Chuck Berry’s Ding-a-Ling

PROLOGUE

Omission (n):

1.someone or something that has been left out or excluded.
I have decided to omit the time period between the events of part one and part to of these blogs. I feel that it is an important precursor to say that events transpired and that said events were terribly personal. I feel that those are my own. After this prologue, I shall jump into the moment when the dark skies cleared.
-Chris
###
I needed release. I decided that the only way to achieve this was to drive. I think that the mind and body are connected and at the time of the event my body and mind were out of sync. My mind never present where my body resided. I was thread stretched too thin. I was being compressed. I lost my identity to someone else. Someone I didn’t know. Someone older and more assertive but someone who wasn’t me. I felt like an actor. I felt like a poseur in my own body.
I drove my mother’s convertible out to my friend’s going away party, as he was leaving for Georgia. It was a fairly decent get together. I was feeling somewhat awkward because I knew no one but I played with my phone in the corner for a bit and had a beer or two. I eventually made small talk with a friend’s parents and we sat together the rest of the time. I was just trying to forget the events of the past few days and what was to come.
I had a typical “me” moment of freaking out. My friends niece was running in between tables that everyone was sitting around and she got about two feet from me and fell…hard. My friend’s mother said, “Aw, look what you did Chris…” She was joking, of course, but from others’ perspective it, in fact, did look like I tripped a 3-year-old. I slinked out of the room and went to the bathroom as people were giving me the evil eye. I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it was having all of those elderly and middle-aged eyes looking through you like you were a monster. I had three options: 1. run back in there and begin a long speech by starting with, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I implore you…” 2. Go back in and pretend nothing happened. 3. Run out to my car and drive away.
I chose option 2.
Afterwards, we had our goodbyes. It was sad seeing him go but at the same time I know we will keep in touch so I simply said, “Until next time.” I had gotten him a cigar and a box of oatmeal (that’s an inside joke for another time).  I got one for myself as well.
I left with a bit of sadness in my heart but I couldn’t bring myself to go back home. Home, that word now sounded like prison. I just needed to be outside. To be simple. To be alone for a bit. Alone from everyone and everything. Even my own thoughts.
There is this really beautiful stretch of road that only has a few houses on it. It is scenic. Rolling green hills and cornfields, soy bean fields and cow farms; it was all so simple. I decided to go down that rocky gravel road instead of heading home. I put the top down on the convertible and plugged my phone in to turn on Pandora. I had been obsessed with a song by Lil Green called “Why don’t you do right”.
So, I turned on some jazz and lit up my extremely large cigar. The wind blew around me as early 20th century jazz came through my speakers. I would take in a long draw while Louis Armstrong growled in front of his ensemble. Hollow horns and woodwinds came through my speakers out in the forgotten roads as the sun turned a warm honey-yellow.
I just lived in the moment. I had nothing on my mind but where the steering wheel would turn and when.
I take another long draw and listen to those old songs that popped and crackled in my ears. Wind blew off the corn fields, giving off their musty scent. I took in everything sensible. Aural, Oral and touch were preoccupied but everything else was sedate. My mind was at the mercy of my senses and I reveled in it.
Those old voices spoke to me from decades ago. I could feel the emotion conveyed by Billie Holiday, Doris Day and their contemporaries. I was back in a different time. I was in another place. For a few hours worth of driving, I was transported to a place where I was a tourist and it was beautiful.
My cigar began to wain, as did the sun’s light just as a song came on that I had never heard before. It was “My Ding-A-Ling” by Chuck Berry. It is one of the greatest songs I had ever heard for people as semi-immature and perverse-minded as me. I listened and hung on to every word that Chuck sang about how much he played with his ding-a-ling and I cracked up. It was a live performance, so he had the audience sing along with him and I obliged.
The song ended and as the sun nestled just over the horizon, making the sky turn pink, I slowed the car down a bit and took the cigar out of my mouth. I looked around and saw nothing but cornfields. I grabbed the steering wheel hard and screamed at the top of my lungs loud and hard. I took another deep breath and followed up with an even louder yell.
Finally, I screamed into the setting sun, “I AM ALIVE!”
I sat back down and drove on. The cigar made me feel a bit light headed as I drove back but, in the end, I found that life is complicated and sometimes you have to just step outside of yourself for a minute. You can scream into the night and not go gently.
It’s like a beat, life. It is never one thing or the other. It’s this and that. It’s everything and nothing but only when you will it to be so. Stand still and you live but are you alive?
Are you alive?
Yeah, life, plays by the rules you set.
Life; it’s a lot like jazz.
-Chris

The Day John Henry Died

Image

 

Hey Gang!

 

What is strength?

Is strength something that comes from within you? Some sort of primal trait we have hidden within us that bursts forth in times of need. Is it something summoned willingly? What is its potential? Where is it coming from? What is strength?

There is this really great old story that I love. It’s the tall tale of John Henry. An American legend who was up there with the tall tales of Billy the Kid and Wild Bill Hickock. In folk lore, John Henry was a steel-driver who would hammer spikes into the ground and then a drill setter would come behind him and drill the hole to finish it out. This was the process a couple hundred years ago to begin clearing the way for railroad tracks. John Henry was the best at what he did and the hero of his peers. One day a salesman came through with a machine that was said to be able to be any man at steel-driving. John Henry challenged that notion and was pitted against the machine. They both hammered and drove and drilled for an entire night before the machine stopped, in some stories it broke. John Henry had won by at least 6 feet but, in the end, the amount of strength and prowess he showed killed him. He and his two twenty pound hammers fell to the ground but no one forgot about John Henry.

 

I was out with my friend a few weeks ago. We hadn’t been downtown together in a long time and even longer since we’d been to the downtown back home. So, we bar hopped and it seemed like we were the only ones there. We drank in so many different bars that I can’t quite remember them all. We came to a bar that was firefighter themed and I decided that naturally I would put my head into the lamp shades fashioned from old firefighter helmets. We roamed around to more bars and became too intoxicated to drive. He wanted to take a cab but I wanted to get money from the ATM. As we stumbled there and I put in my card in, he overheard a girl say to her friend, “I would not fu** either of those guys.”

This offended him so much that he said to me, “Did you hear that? She said she wouldn’t have sex with either of us.”

“What? No way. We were the least hood fabulous guys in there,” I said as I drunkenly tried to use the ATM.

The rest of the night was filled with me trying to get cash from ATMs and us stumbling through the city. We screamed at the top of our lungs things like, “Why are we so ugly!” or “There is no way they were talking to us, we have master’s degrees!”

He even suggested we begin wearing signs around our necks that had our college education credentials on them. I liked the idea at the time.

We eventually get a cab and go to Steak n Shake where I proceed to ask some young ladies on a scale of one to “elephant man” we lay. I don’t remember if they answered and I remember not really caring as my delicious sandwich arrived soon after.

We walked back to my apartment, or stumbled back I should say, as we still lamented about how we need to go to the gym and start doing crunches, we cried out, “why were so hideous!” I began to realize that the sun was rising and it had been an incredibly long, fun and ego-crushing night.

The next day we arose from our blackout slumber and I took him to his car. Then I remembered what the girls were talking about. The one girl was being hit on by two very thugalicious gentlemen. They followed her all over the bar and she even had her friends boyfriend act like her boyfriend to get away from them. The first part of the convo that he didn’t hear was her friend asking why she didn’t hook up with one of those guys at the bar. So, my ego wasn’t quite as fractured as before but it made for a memorable last night out for he and I. We may have thought we were ugly for a bit but we were ugly together, damn it!

You see, my friend will be moving hundreds of miles away soon and my other best friend is out west. We have all been friends for almost twelve years. Hard to believe.

When I think about how much strength John Henry had that day, I admire him but I also feel bad for him. I don’t summon all of my strength from within nor do I have some primal switch that flips. I gather my strength from two guys whom I met in high school. One guy hated me at first but now we have each other on Facebook as ‘brother’ and the other I was jealous of because he got to sleep in class with his hoodie up.

If not for them, I wouldn’t be where I am. They inspired me to lose weight and realize what a healthy lifestyle really meant. Not just losing weight but the amount of happiness you gather from that weight loss. Confidence, resilience and so much more.

If not for my friends, I wouldn’t be writing this. I wouldn’t be writing. My friends have been my biggest fans, even when I wasn’t.

I have my own strength but I know that if it weren’t for those two, my hopes and my dreams and my life as I know it would be right beside John Henry and his hammers.

For all this, to Skober and The Jett, I just want to say, thanks.

 

-Chris

By Chance

Image

Hey Gang!

I sit at my computer and the little bar blinks in front of me. It taunts me because it knows that this is a hard one to write. It’s one of those stories that I hold close to me and have for years because it was when I realized how important it is to know people. Sit down and let them speak.

When I was about fifteen my grandmother was in the hospital. She was always the patient that wanted her own room and wanted everything in its place. She was sick and the nurses and doctors were the help so to speak. It is just the truth. Well, on this occasion she was not given that privilege, as she had a roommate, and was mad about it. One day I went up to visit her.

Hospitals. I hate hospitals. That sterile smell and those hard tile floors. The cream colored walls. The sounds of machines all around you as you walk through the halls. Then there is the idea that everyone is there because they are at their worst. At least on most floors. Granted, I am sure there is nothing but happiness up on the natal units. Although, there is always that one dad….I kid, I kid.

So, I walk with my mother and aunt to visit my grandmother in the hospital. We pass door after door as high pitched beeps and dings ring throughout. We enter my grandmother’s room and she is laying in a bed next to the window. Just inside the door on the left I see a small African American woman laying in bed. She looks at the wall ahead of her aimlessly. She is sitting in an inclined position; she has a white handkerchief on her head and is in white linens. I see her turn her head as we walk past her bed.

I sit at the foot of my grandmother’s bed as she, my mother and my aunt talk about family business for a moment. My grandmother begins to complain about the nurses and I tune her out as I look out the window at the summer’s evening sun.

The conversation goes on and my grandmother asks me a question, I crack a joke and I hear a little, gravely laugh from behind me. The little woman began talking to me specifically. I had been talking about school and she was saying how important education was from the other side of the cloth partition.

My mother pointed towards the woman and mouthed, “Go talk to her.”

I think back to then and how I acted initially. I remember I shook my head “no”. I thought at the time that it would be weird and that I didn’t know this woman. I thought my mom was insane.

“Be nice,” my mother mouths and I ask if I can sit with her. She says, “I’d like that,” and I walk over and sit next to her. We introduce ourselves. I feel such remorse because her name escapes me now and I just remember at the end of the day thinking to myself, “This is important big guy, remember her name”.

So, I sit next to this woman as she continues to talk about how important education is. I look at her but she stares just past me. We talk about what she was doing there, to which she just said she hadn’t been feeling well. I talk about my grandmother and her being there and I tell her about being excited to start driving soon.

She was so small and I could tell that she was not well by the encroaching gauntness on her face but she had such a warm smile and huge eyes. She was a beautiful person altogether. I ask her about her family and she tells me that she has a son and a daughter but she had not seen them in a while.

I asked if they knew she was there. She said yes but they were busy and lived out of state and that they would be there some time next week. I remember how she spoke about them. There was this deep affection for them but she told me of how long it had been since she had seen them.

I begin talking about my little brother and how much of a pain in the butt he was and made her laugh. She had a deep, warm laugh this time and it made me smile. We continued to talk about everything from hospital food to the weather. Then, I can’t remember what I was talking about but she began to nod off.

I trailed off and looked over at my mom as she waved me to come back over. She mouthed, “Let her sleep.”

I was sad that she fell asleep as we had had a great conversation. I stood up and noticed a sign just above her.

No Family Contact, Visually Impaired

and then one on pink paper to the right of that that read:

On Watch

I went back over and sat down. My mother smiled and patted me on the shoulder as they began talking about something else. I wondered about those signs. I realized she was blind and that’s why she looked past me. I wondered if she knew about the no family contact and what did that mean. Finally, I wondered what “on watch” meant. I thought of all the possibilities but couldn’t figure it out. I realize now it’s more so that I didn’t want to.

An hour or so passes and I am sitting in the chair as my mother, grandmother and aunt talk loudly about another family member that was being a butt-head at the time but I stared out into the darkening blue sky. I get it now that it was perspective that that conversation gave me.

I hear from behind me in her whimsical southern drawl, “Is that young man still there?”

I smile and look up at my mother, who is smiling as well.

“Yep, he’s right here,” she says.

I get up and walk back over to where I was sitting before. We talk a bit and I tell her that I love world war II information. I tell her about documentaries and movies and books and video games that I have played. She smiles at me and tells me this:

I apologize that it isn’t verbatim but this is paraphrased of what she said:

“My husband was in world war II. We met when I was 14 and we had our children a few years later. We got married just before he left. He was a good man and a good father. I miss him very much.”

I ask if he was at Normandy.

“No, you see black folks wasn’t quite like that back then. So, he was on the Arizona down in Pearl Harbor and was a cook. He wrote to me all the time. We wrote back and forth. Then the Japanese bombed it but he survived, thank God. He made it out and came home but he was only home a week and he was hit by a city bus. I do miss him.”

I asked her if she ever remarried but she shook her head “no”. I asked her a couple more questions about it but I could see on her face she didn’t want to talk about it. So, I spoke about how incredible it was that she lived through so much and had been through so much and how I admired her. She smiled and told me that I sounded like a smart young man.

A few minutes later my mother came by and tapped me on the shoulder.

“Ready to go,” my mother asked, “Grandma fell asleep and visiting hours are almost over.”

I stood up and turned to my friend.

“I gotta go but it was great meeting you. I’ll be back in a couple of days though and I’ll visit you again,” I said as I shook her small fragile hand. I still remember her smile. It was ear-to-ear and mine reflected hers.

“That sounds good. It was great talking to you as well. Study hard,” she said and I left.

As we walked to the van in the parking lot, I asked my aunt what that pink sign meant. What did “On Watch” mean.

I will never forget this.

“It means death watch. She must be close to passing away. It’s good that you talked with her though. Some of those patients don’t get to do that,” my aunt said nonchalantly, her years of being a nurse making her words matter-of-fact.

I talked up my new friend and the story of her life the whole way home. I even talked about it to my friends the next day.

It was two days later that my grandma was released, so we went up to get her. I walked in the room and my heart sank. I saw that the curtain had been drawn back against the wall now. The bed was made perfectly and tucked in. The signs were taken down and the monitors didn’t blink or beep and I missed that sound. I asked my aunt if maybe she was just somewhere else. Maybe an x-ray. Just somewhere but my aunt shook her head ‘no’.

“Honey, she passed away yesterday evening. She was gone when I came up to visit during my shift,” my aunt said in a lamenting voice.

Man, I wish I could tell you how hard my heart sank but it’s hard to put into words. i didn’t know her very long but we talked and I connected with her.

I write this story even though this is one of those memories that I like to hold on to. Keep it for myself in a selfish way, i guess. I tell it to you because I hope that other people can see how good and interesting she was, even if she didn’t have anyone there with her. I hope she knew that I was going to keep my promise. I hope I did her an ounce of justice here.

That was just over a decade ago that I met an extraordinary person by chance and I have not had a conversation as deep and meaningful as that since.

I miss my friend and the words we shared.

I dedicate this post to her.

-Chris

Little bits of crazy

Oh, Lucy! How I love her. Lucy being my mother. She is so quotable! One of my favorite ones of wisdom is “You don’t want to be with someone who will stand in the rain with you. You want someone who, when you are in the rain, shares their umbrella with you.”

(I’ll let that sink in!)

Now, when I was a kid she would say random things that make no sense in any context. They were just freeflowing thoughts and I would laugh extremely hard. She would then pretend to pick up her words from the ground and say “oops, I dropped some crazy”. So, the following list (which I plan to add to) is all about the sometimes insightful, sometimes funny but always true thoughts that spill from my curly head (by the way, never said I was proud of these. Don’t judge!):

1. I wonder if puppies look at their mom and daddy and understand they will eventually get bigger. I mean, do they have a concept that they will be that size? I am sure there is an answer but I wonder if anyone has ever thought this? Kant, maybe?

2. One of the greatest quotes I have ever heard was from a friend. I think about it when I get sad. He tasted four loko and said “This tastes like a bump I had on my head”. I will not tell you the story because the ambiguity is much better.

3. They used to call religion the “opiate of the masses”. Meaning that all of their toil would be rewarded by riches and a great eternity if they believed. I think the modern opiate is education. We believe that if you go through all of the bs that comes with higher learning that we will get a great job and make money and not have to worry. Well, tell that to the guy at subway with a masters in philosophy.

4. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to put stock in google. At age 6.

5. I have never been skydiving but I am afraid that if I do and I go tandem (as you have to on your first jump) I would pee on the person. I just couldn’t deal with that humility all the way to the ground, then while he unbuckles me etc. I would just release myself in midair to get away from the awkwardness.

6. I want to wear a scuba suite and carry scuba gear with me when I board a plane. That way if we go down all I have to worry about it avoiding the suction of the plane sinking and even then, that is a mild anxiety that would be felt. I wonder what TSA would do if they saw that?

7. Another quote that was said recently I thoroughly enjoyed:

Me: I hate kids movies. Let’s rent a scary movie or something.

Her: No! I hate scary movies and you know that. The only movie I am going to rent is one that opens up and a unicorn jumps out!   Then                                  I can ride it around Family Video as rainbows shoot out of its a$$! That’s the only kind of movie we are watching.

(Granted I had been bugging everyone to rent scary movies for like ten minutes)

8. I asked a girl to wear a shirt that says “I am dating chris” and then on the back it says “Don’t you wish you were?” I asked my girlfriend to do this and she asked “How is that a Halloween costume? What would I be” and I said quickly “My property”. Okay, before I get hate mail or anything I am actually not a chauvinist. It is just a little joke I had for her. I wouldn’t actually do it. Single mom remember?

9. I think I would be better suited in the roman times as a gladiator. It just seems like my thing but I am actually not a fighter. It just seems cool.

10. When I was a kid I used to make up my own constellations. So some night, look up and see the “cookie dough” constellation. Also known as the big dipper mixed with a couple of other stars above the cup. When I was a kid I thought it looked like when my mom would spoon cookie dough onto baking sheets.

Until Next Time Friends!

 

The Times They Are A Changin’

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Recently my brother visited me for four days. That is what inspired me to write this blog. First, as always with my verbosity, I want to tell you about my adolescence.

I was never really the cool kid in school. I was a social butterfly and the class clown but never that guy that went to all the parties and ended up with the best looking girls. No, my life was nothing like all of my favorite John Hughes movies but it was actually fun. Although, I feel badly for individuals who say high school “was some of the best times in my life”. Yikes!

If this were true for me, I have a feeling I would be severely depressed; just all the time. I had a core group of friends who were just as wild and crazy as me. The first two years of our friendship, my two best friends and I used a camera that my mother got me for Christmas and we used it for everything we did. Sometimes we would just be driving and then turn it on and sing along to these songs. Most of those songs were angry hip-hop or rock songs lyrically depicting fighting or talking about women; really this was just an outlet for our teen angst. Then it caught some more extreme stuff.

At one point I had a Nissan 200sx…I’m 6’6″. If you know the car you are probably laughing at me right now and I can say for sure that every time I stepped out of that thing I looked like I was getting out of a clown car. On that car was a spoiler and one night “Mike” decided to jump on to my spoiler and I took off into the night. I remember looking into the rear view mirror and seeing his face light up in the tail lights, it was actually one of the most horrifying things I have ever seen and haunts me even today. A mixture of fear and elation, anxiety and happiness and the lighting making his brow look pronounced and his eyes darken; creepy right? After that we decided to make that a game, so we filmed it the next time. This time with a little s10 and my two friends took turns hanging on the back while I documented it.

During the tape we thought we were rebels and geniuses; people whom no one would ever really understand because we were too complex. “Mike” used to be really into the Anarchy symbols but what he called Anarchy most would call him being an a-hole (sorry for the abbreviated curse! PG right?). I hadn’t seen that tape since we last recorded it 11 years ago and recently I had it made into a DVD. Mike and me watched and we came to the conclusion that we were idiots. We could barely keep a straight face or look at the TV. Mike had an extremely high voice back then and was regularly thought to be a woman whenever we went through drive ups (still happens every once in a while today) and so Mike would ear-muff himself every time he would hear himself talking.

That was a decade ago. Now, Mike is probably going to work with cancer patients and I will eventually try to get into screen writing or teaching mass communications….yes, me a teacher. The point of all this is how greatly it contrasts with my little brother. It was so simple for me. We would be crazy and wild and have fun, simple. Lex came and, as we were driving around, we talked about a lot of things and he was just joking around but then he really got into some inner onion type stuff. Telling me about his sexual escapades, smoking weed, the fact he may be a teenage alcoholic (not true by the way) and he is 17. The entire time he was telling me this I was having a dilemma in my mind

Umm so he is telling me all of these things and I feel like I should call the Betty Ford Clinic or something. On one hand I am his big brother and I am supposed to be cool but some of the things he has done I have never even heard of

(He tells me about his sex life)

Oh God! I seriously don’t want to know about this. This is excruciating! I wonder if he would notice if I undid my seat belt and jumped out of this moving car because that would actually be less awkward.

That thought went on for two hours as he divulged horrors of an unspeakable level. I mean, I am 8 years older than him so I vividly remember his birth. I remember when he used to crawl around and I would lay on the floor and he would climb on my back and drool that cold baby spit on my neck. I mean this kid spit a lot, just a little drool factory but it was gross-cute because he was a kid. I also remember he thought it was hilarious when he was around 4 to chase me around the house after having a bath…while he was butt naked. My mother would be toweling him off and he would be giggling. I took that as my cue to hide in any room. I feared a four-year-old and his nudity. When he did this my mother deemed him Monkey Man. It was terrifying.

Now this child, whom I got into fights with because we matched wills in his “why” stage, when every answered question was followed up by a “why?”, now, he is telling me these things and I feel out of place. What do I do? Well, I came to the resolve that, whether he was telling the truth or not, he just wanted to have someone listen. So, I did. Every last sordid detail I listened to and in the end, I realized that maybe it wasn’t as simple as I thought. Maybe my adolescence is such a distant memory that those types of problems got lost in the cracks somewhere. We spent the next days together and I did feel closer to him….but I would still use germ-x after every time we shook hands.

– Chris