I’d tell you a secret
But I don’t trust the walls
They lean in when I start to speak.
I’d tell you a secret
But I think you already know
What I am going to say.
I’d tell you a secret
I wouldn’t know
What to do next.
The days fly by and it’s easy to forget to call, to write, to say…I appreciate you.
Life has brought its sweetness along with the bitter this year. There have been wins and losses, ground gained and ground lost, and much to reflect upon.
For those in my life – my wife, my friends, my family, and my colleagues – please know that your presence has made a difference. The favors you have granted, the shoulder you have lent, and the advice you have given…I thank you. I can’t do this alone.
For those who have provided support, a laugh or two, or just thought of me…I thank you. I needed it.
For those who stood in my way, cursed my name, or put a bee in my bonnet…I thank you. You made me stronger.
If you have someone, anyone in your life, consider yourself blessed. We are constantly told that our bowls are empty and that what we truly need to be happy is just ahead, that we can’t be happy where we are. When want trumps need, take a look around you. I promise you that there is someone who would trade lives with you in a blink.
Friends, a kind stranger, family, or true love – these things are the wealth of the world and whether you sleep on stacks of that gold or just have a coin in your pocket, know that people love you, think of you, and care. Perfectly flawed, they don’t always tell you, but know that they are there. I do. I know that I am blessed, as there are far too many people to thank.
Please know these words you read here today ARE FOR YOU.
And if no one told you this today…I love you. You’re beautiful!
Happy New Year.
Flashback Fridays! I’m very much enjoying ruffling through the old crate of notebooks. These poems are better than a journal. Less minutiae, more emotional memory. This one goes back to late undergrad and speaks of a young man who is having a hard time wrangling someone he cares about. Poor guy.
My Teflon girl
So slick and unable to wrangle
How did you get so slippery
So slick and beyond my grip
Maybe I should scrub your surface down
With harsh abrasives
Pocked and scarred it would be
So easy to get into the cracks
I don’t want to wear you down
I adore your smooth surface
I want to preserve it
So I may enjoy it forever
I know how to treat you
But I cannot even get a hold
And because of your nature
You could not help if you tried
I hope my will is strong
And my eyes accurate
So that I can catch you at
The perfect moment
Or watch you slip away for good.
There will be times
When we are quiet
In the moment, sitting, whatever.
You will ask:
“Why do you love me?”
First, a guy sigh.
A lifetime of training
Tells me this could
Be a trap but that’s
The younger version of myself
He wasn’t always so bright.
This guy knows.
“You have the biggest heart
of anyone I have ever known.”
It’s truth. And as I am surrounded by
Bullshit, it’s comforting to know a truth.
But the first time?
The first thing?
The hook, the bait?
The first reason I fell
In love with you?
It was that smile.
That killer-clever, knowing
And now, somewhere in
that first dimple-popping
and the big heart
Is everything else.
I was staring out the front window
The wife asks me
What are you looking at?
Watching my neighbor
Bag up his leaves I say
Nobody ever taught me the right way
Thought it might be some big-breasted blonde
Jogging down the street
Funny how things change
These things happen without notice
Two years ago today, my dad passed away. He was a young guy, only 61, and he died far too soon. As I have grown older, I have come to understand the lessons that he taught me and I now have a much fuller appreciation for what he left me. I have not been shy with sharing my feelings on my blog, but it will probably take more time for me to process my relationship with my father. For now, I would simply like to honor him by sharing a few of his truisms with you.
“A man must have a philosophy to live by, otherwise he is lost.”
Fairly literary, but Pops was a well-read and very smart guy. He told me this several times. As a kid, it didn’t matter much to me, but as I progressed through college, I started to get it. It wasn’t so much about having a moral compass, but about defining your worldview and sticking with it. I would later find myself sharing this advice with a few of my high school students.
“If I’m not pissing you off, then I am not doing my job as a father.”
Needless to say, I was not a happy subscriber to this mantra. When I share this with people, I often get a raised eyebrow. At first blush, it doesn’t seem that healthy an approach. In reality, it wasn’t so much about creating anger (although teenagers are hard-wired for that go-to response), but what he was trying to share was that parenting meant lighting a fire under your kid’s ass. It was about motivation. And that he did!
“Better a smart ass than a dumb fuck.”
I can thank my father for training me to have a quick, witty response to any situation. Dad could bust balls with the best of ‘em. He had a smart sense of humor and he loved to tease and I certainly have an affinity for that as well. Ask any of my former students. The greater meaning to this saying of his is really quite simple: be informed. Dad read two newspapers every morning, and books in the afternoon. If you don’t know what’s going down, it will go down right on your head.
“Sunday is the best day because of no mail. If there is no mail, then there are no new bills.”
I don’t really need to explain this one, do I?
“Baseball is the only sport where the defense puts the ball into play.”
I suppose that there is a metaphysical concept that could be pulled out from this, but let’s keep it real for today. Pops was a huge baseball fan. It was everything to him. Being from Detroit, he was a Tigers man, through and through – but he did have a soft spot for the Cubs. If I was ever at a loss for a gift, I knew I could always get him something baseball related and he would be happy. He could watch a game and predict every play. He could see the whole field and understood every nuance. Just an elevated understanding that is beyond my words today.
“The Rolling Stones changed my life.”
Specifically, the song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” He never explained to me why it changed his life, but in my mind, there are two possibilities. One is the cultural timing of the song, 1965. I think he would have been about 17 years old when the song came out. It was the mid-60’s, and the cultural shift of that time is well known. He certainly embraced it. There’s also the possibility that the deeper lesson, of finding meaning and contentment in the internal as opposed to the external, which leads me to…
“I don’t want to be a slave to my possessions.”
Ok, now he didn’t say this to me directly, but it was something that he shared with my stepmother when they first met. How many of us are slaves to our possessions? I can’t say that I am a free man. Not completely enslaved, but not free either. For several years, since the nation buckled under the greed of the big banks, Wall Street, and the rest of the insufferable 1%, it’s clear to me that if more people felt as my father did, we might not be in the shit house we are in today. Corporate America has us convinced that we need the bright and shiny toys, and is more than happy to let us sell our souls to have it.
“Proper planning prevents poor performance.”
Ok, I love the alliteration aspect, but this is still a completely “Dad” thing to say. Sure, it’s great advice, but total lecture material ☺
In mind, as I thought about writing this post, I pictured a richly written piece that would deftly invoke a strong portrait of the man. It’s way more concise and direct and not nearly as poetic as I had envisioned. I guess I will have to save that for my memoirs. I can’t take a thousand words and do anyone justice, especially a complicated guy like my father. These are but a few, and I have no doubt that as I grow older I will understand him in an even greater sense. Today, I will honor him by playing some of his favorite music as I reflect on his kindness, loyalty, wisdom, and intelligence.
Today’s playlist includes Pink Floyd, Iggy Pop, Bruce Springsteen, and The Rolling Stones. If you have a chance, give your dad a call today. I’m sure that he’d like to hear how you’re doing.
And if you’re pissed off at him, and really don’t care to call…remember…he’s just doing his job.
If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.
Sober thoughts in a time when something like 50 Shades of Grey sells a shitton of copies. They are crap books filled with crap writing. Pure pablum.
Read Anais Nin instead. Actually challenge your brain…and your heart.