Sunday, September 30, 2018

Grey Man, Yellow Suit

2 A.M.  The night was beautiful -- cool and quiet.  It was the place that was open.  And the coffee was only a dollar -- any size.

I sat on the tall concrete base of a buzzing lamppost in the parking lot, Kawasaki green motorcycle in front of me, neon yellow jacket on my back, grey in my beard, and coffee in my hand...  It must have been a particularly suspicious sight -- enough so to slow passing police patrol cars to a crawl...

... and to a U-turn

... and to some more crawling

... and then some.

I was there a bit before and then some afterward.  The store was mostly empty.  A few people came and went.  There were the occasional oddballs, but nothing particularly suspicious -- except maybe for an old white guy lingering beneath a lamppost in a convenience store parking lot at 2 A.M.  Oddly, I rarely have that level of scrutiny when I sit outside after-hours at a Starbucks in a nicer part of town.  At least I wasn't rousted.

There's not much more to add to the story -- it is what it is.  To tell the story, though, is to hear the entire world of passionate interpretation.  After all, each person inevitably reveals a piece of him or herself when encountering a yellow jacket.

For the rest of the my ride through the rural county roads, I lost the thought of how we all see one another while watching watching for any sign of the road and watching for the next deer to leap out.  There was no shortage of the later.

3 A.M. on the patio.  Without a question to ask, the crickets' autumn chatter will never be heard.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Perception, Revisited

We wandered.  Opinions were only strong enough to say "not here," not strong enough to say "there."  The van practically drove itself past all of the usual places, allowing us to have the habitual debate.

As we stood in line, some fool stood up on the long picnic table bench and addressed everyone in the restaurant.  He introduced those sitting to his left and to his right, a cohort of US & UK disabled veterans who were ruck marching 1,000 miles of trip across the United States.  They were raising awareness for veteran's mental health and benefits.  They started in Los Angeles.  We caught them near Baltimore.  The next day, they would march their last 29 miles into New York City to complete their journey at the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial.

As we sat outside, a bit more than half through our meal, one of the cohort approached us.  He introduced himself, told his story, told the team's story, and so forth.  My wife and I are veterans, so we spoke the language and had plenty of questions.  My son sat politely and entertained the few pleasantries that came his way.  A bit later, the fellow returned with the entire crew for more conversation and photos.  A few days later in their social media postings they mentioned the honor of meeting my son, reminding him to stay strong.  Soon afterward were the pictures with VP Biden and his wife, Dr. Biden, and Prince Harry -- their US & UK sponsors.

So, what happened?

I had one young fellow -- born when I was graduating high school -- telling me his story of homelessness, hardships, PTSD, suicide attempts, and so forth.  He reminded me of the number of veterans who kill themselves every day.  He told me what he owed personally to this organization as they had ultimately saved him.  Another from the cohort put his hands together, bowed, met my eyes with a smile, and welcomed me home.  I saw the randomness of the encounter -- how even our driving in circles, unable to pick a restaurant, conspired to create that moment -- and I felt the different messages resonating within me.

Clearly the cohort found something in meeting my son, sitting in his wheelchair, enjoying his BBQ chicken.  He hardly had to say a word, let alone make a speech -- they saw what they needed to see too.

And to others, there was a photo opportunity.  To the business owner sponsoring the journey, maybe there was a reaffirmation of the business' mission.  Who knows?  There was a deeply personal reminder that our individual experiences of any encounter are deeply and personally our own -- and maybe that every moment, however mundane, is precisely like this.

... and when I posted the picture and some brief thoughts to my own timeline, a friend commented "I love it!"


In other news, this site's domain renewal is coming up again as it does every year.  Grandfathered with the initial blogger rates, it's only $10 per year... but this year, keeping it alive feels more like a work of vanity than anything else.  There are notions I've wanted to convey or to pass on -- but I'm reminded that even "one mind sharing one mind" is subject to individual interpretation.

Maybe we do all suffer alone...

... just maybe not in the way any one of us thinks.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Memory of My Father

My father died nearly 30 years ago. I was there.

With some quiet, I settle into my chair and I relive it--taking note for a moment that it began with him, about my age, sitting quietly, alone, in his own easy chair. I remember kneeling beside him, talking to him as the paramedics applied the paddles. I remember following the ambulance to the hospital. I remember alarms on the other side of the wall and the people rushing in. I remember thinking I should not gamble with his falling out with the church years and years before, and I remember the anger in trying to find a priest at that hour. I remember the shocked look on the faces of the ambulance crew driving by on seeing me standing outside the funeral home...

... but that is not the memory that haunts me.

I remember years before, sitting at the kitchen table after school, a young teen or maybe a tween, angry at him. He must have overheard my indignant rant though as he came in after work through the garage door behind me and paused just inside my view. He tossed a small bag on the table in front of me and walked off without a word.

It was a thermometer. A simple, outdoor, garden variety thermometer.

I loved math and science as a child, and he knew it. Once, he gave me a gift of an LED Casio calculator; I remember that, if you divided by zero, it would start counting up continuously. Another time, he handed me his old slide rule with a smile. Years later, I remember when he bought me a Pascal compiler and an ASM assembler for the old IBM 8088 PC... I remember the one and only one time I beat him in a game of chess.

I don't know that we ever had much in common, but he tried to connect with me--and occasionally he succeeded. That thermometer... he knew I really wanted one for some science experiments--and that was the day he took the time to find one for me.

That is the moment that haunts me... I may never remember why I hated him then, but I remember the terrible anguish in remembering that he loved me. I knew so much just one moment before... in the next breath, everything I knew was turned upside-down.

I will never, ever forget how terribly I felt.

In the one or two years between his divorce and his death, he wanted to explain some things to me--then a young adult--privately. He wanted to tell me how, in spite of anything I might have been told, things were not necessarily as they seemed--but he would not say how out of certain respect...

... and I told him it was not important. I told him that he had nothing to prove to me. That I clearly remember--not only that I had those words in me for my father, but on seeing the quiet nod. He was just a man; maybe then I was too.

For all of the confusion, misunderstanding, doubt, and outright lies in the world--and for all of the hurt, sorrow, and anger result with the corresponding actions that are the fruit of it all--I remember the thermometer, and I resign myself to the thought that people have their own lessons to learn and we will all inevitably suffer the drama... often in that same quiet resignation. I hope all find their thermometer moments before it's too late, not after.