Dead Men Tell No Tales

fallensoldiers2

That headline isn’t meant to be snarky or salacious nor am I making any references to pirates. This time it is simple, the dead tell no tales.

The music above accompanied the post I wrote about the picture.

We were walking through Newark in June of 201o when we saw a group of people staring at something out the window and curiosity made us stop to see what it was they were looking at.

What you can’t see is the casket dressed in an American flag and the mix of soldiers and police surrounding it.

Words will fail to convey the feeling that came over me, the solemnity of a moment unexpectedly shared with strangers passing through an airport.

All I can do is tell you it hurt us to see that casket because we knew somewhere people were waiting to say their final goodbye to a son or daughter whose life was cut short.

But we didn’t know anything about that person. We couldn’t tell you if the world lost an average Joe or the man/woman who would cured cancer or brought peace to the world.

Instead we were left with questions and an urge to hug our children tighter.

Churchill taught
I didn’t intend to write about that moment at the airport. Tonight I was thinking about sharing some thoughts about trying to figure out what posts I want to represent me.

The past week or so has seen a significant increase in traffic so I was thinking about ways to try and capitalize upon it.

Was thinking about what posts would convince the new folks this is a good place to hang their hat and in the midst of tooling around in the archives I came across the post with the picture of the casket and it touched me.

The boy I wrote about here is going to be 15 this year.

When 9/11 hit he played with blocks in front of the television and I watched the towers fall and wondered what the future would hold.

We went back into Iraq when he turned three and I wondered again what that would mean.

I was in college during the first Gulf War and I remember saying goodbye to some of the guys but that was really different.

Not just because we rolled through the country like a hot knife slicing through butter but because when you are a kid in college the future seems endless and you have no real responsibilities.

The second time was different for me and not because of politics but because I looked at my little boy and realized that my parents weren’t ever going to worry about whether I would want to or need to serve.

I was too damn old, my time was done.

If the draft ever came back and grabbed me it was going to be because things had really gone to hell.

Tonight when I thought about that day at Newark and then looked at my son I realized he is three years away from signing up for Selective Service.

I remember when I went and how I felt old but figured it was no big deal because we weren’t at war and if we happened to go to war I figured I would just enlist because I wanted to support my country.

I Still Support My Country

I still support my country but there is a different approach now because it is not my ass on the line. This time around I am looking at my children and it is just so very surreal.

If they told me they wanted to enlist in one of the branches of the military I don’t know exactly what I would say.

Certainly I would be proud of them but part of me wonders what I would do because the idea of them putting themselves in harms way frightens me.

But I can’t ignore that people do it every day and that someone’s child is out there risking their life for my family. Someone is out there doing what is required to help protect our country.

Soldiers don’t write policy but they sometimes enforce it.

But this isn’t a political post, this is a man thinking out loud about his life and a father thinking about his children.

*****

The moment in the airport obviously stuck with me but this time around it touched me in a different way.

I have the utmost respect for our troops. These men and women deserve our respect.

Tonight I showed my son the picture and asked him if he remembered the moment and he didn’t. I told him it is easy living far away from all the chaos to forget about it.

I told him that when people talk about Iraq and Afghanistan the conversation often turns into a political battle about who did what and what should or should not have happened.

When he asked me to tell him my thoughts I said we would set aside time to have a deeper discussion but summed it up by saying freedom isn’t free and there have been both popular and unpopular wars where people died to help us live as we do today.

And that we should respect the sacrifices they and their families made.

In a few moments I’ll shut off the lights and go to sleep and wonder some more about who was in that casket and what their story was.

Life may be challenging at times, but every day that we keep standing offers us another chance. It is a privilege not everyone gets to enjoy.

Be Present Where You Are

presence
W hen you are 14 and you feel like you are invisible when you want to be seen and glowing when you want to be invisible the world can seem like a harsh mistress.

I know because I remember and I know because my 14 year-old and I have discussed it.

There are girls in school who tease him. I tell him it sounds like one or more of them like him and he is outraged because he says it makes no sense.

Some of the boys do things that make him shake his head and he asks me to explain and I shrug my shoulders.

“Sometimes there is no explanation for why people do the things we do. Sometimes we just act.”

He shakes his head and tells me that he doesn’t like my answer and I tell him to get used to it because people don’t act based on logic or reason.

Sometimes we just act.

Be Present Where You Are

We are standing in the middle of a room filled with people but we only know a handful of them.

My son looks at me and says he feels uncomfortable because he doesn’t know anyone. I tell him I understand what it is like to be shy and he laughs.

“You can talk to anyone. You have no trouble at all.”

I smile and tell him it is not true. There are many times where I prefer to sit in the corner and watch people. Many times where I would choose not to talk but sometimes you have to be present where you are.

“What does that mean?”

“It means you get more out of life by being an active participant wherever you are. It means sometimes when you don’t feel like talking you put yourself out there, you talk, you take risks and you take chances.”

“I don’t feel comfortable with that. I am not you.”

“You need to be you. I don’t want you to be a clone of me but I can promise you some of what I do is self taught. I decided I wanted to get more and I couldn’t do it unless I took a chance on getting hurt and or falling down.”

I understand these feelings better than he knows because there are moments where I still feel exactly what he describes.

Moments where I wonder how I can be in  my mid forties and feel like I am the guy standing on the outside trying to figure out that thing everyone else seems to know.

And then there are those moments where I say ‘fuck it’ and just do/say whatever I feel like. They come more frequently than they ever did as a kid because I pushed to obtain that comfort.

Because I worked on teaching myself to be present wherever I am.

Truth is I can fit in anywhere. I can live anywhere and find joy anywhere but it is because I learned how to take those risks.

Part of it is because life humbled me. It beat me to my knees and made me ask why, how and what did I do.

But pride/ego and determination not to be beaten helped me stand again and so did my kids. What kind of father would I be if I gave up when things got tough.

I want my children to do as Camus says, to live to the point of tears.

The Center Of The Tootsie Pop

When I was a kid there was a commercial in which an owl answered the question about how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

The answer was something like two, meaning that it tasted so good you couldn’t help but bite it so you would get to the center sooner than waiting.

I told my son about that and explained that I didn’t become who I am over night. I didn’t bite the Tootsie Pop and turn into this man.

I licked and sucked on things for a long time (that sounds bad, doesn’t it) and eventually turned into this guy.

And the man I am now is not who I once was either.

I am not talking about what I look like now. I am talking about who I am now, a few months short of 46 as opposed to 18, 25, 37 or even 40.

There are parts and pieces of my personality that have been here my entire life. There are elements that anyone who has known me would recognize but there are also changes.

Objectives, goals and desires that have only come through time and life experience.

Twenty years ago I wouldn’t have been able to predict what life would like now or who I would be and I am good with that.

I can hear Supertramp singing Take The Long Way Home now and I can’t help but smile because that is what I did and what I am doing.

Some people take two licks and bite and others don’t. Apparently I am in the latter group.

Blaze A Trail

My son looks at me and asks if we have to blaze our own trail or are there easier ways to do it.

I laugh and tell him part of who we are pushes us to blaze our own trail.

“We walk down the beaten and well marked paths but we see something shiny in the distance and we go check it out. Wanderlust is a part and piece of us, you as well. Sometimes you just have to take those extra steps because you can’t not scratch that itch.”

He nods his head and tells me he gets it and I smile.

This kid of mine is going to get where he is going. I don’t know what he is looking for but I know he’ll find it, same as me.

Of Fear & Failure

Resistance
Bono and the boys are singing Walk On and I am sitting here at the computer staring at the screen thinking about whether I feel like writing or not.

I  never suffer from Writer’s Block or run out of ideas for things to write about.

It is easy to come up with content but the energy required to maintain multiple blogs, being a dad and life in general sometimes requires me to push away from my desk.

Age is assuredly a state of mind but Father Time won’t let me ignore that I am closer to fifty than 30 and this body won’t give me everything it once did.

It is a hard lesson to learn and one I fear to accept because I am scared of slowing down and not because whatever is chasing me might catch up.

Because I am not ready to accept that I can’t run with the boys on the court the way I once did or that my son can now out run me.

He can’t beat me in a sprint yet, but the day is coming. I celebrate and dread it.

Of Fear & Failure

I am back in the in-between space again but unlike past times I have a clear idea about how I want it all to work out. The question isn’t if but when and how.

That Beckett quote works so very well for me because it is so easy for me to identify with it.

I have failed and fallen down more than once but every time I have bounced back up, sometimes I got back up so quickly if you looked away you wouldn’t know I had fallen.

But it is harder to pick myself up from some of these more recent falls than it used to be. I blame that on age and a body that no longer appreciates being thrown over chairs, through people and into walls.

Diving for the ball is still appreciated by the team. It is still part of my game because all I know how to do is hustle but there comes a time when you leave where you were and what you did for new things and places.

That is what I am working on now, moving from where I was into the future that works best for me.

Still if I said there was no fear of failure I would be lying and the rules of the blog would be shattered.

But when I acknowledge my fear I usually find it makes it more manageable.

Teaching Moments

Sometimes I take these moments and try to turn them into a teaching moment.

It is funny because sometimes the kids tell me they think I am not afraid of anything and I smile, because I am human. I have things that frighten me but the trick is to manage your fear and not let it manage you.

So I’ll tell them about something that scares me a bit and explain how I plan on handling it.

You can’t be brave without fear and you can’t succeed unless you can fail.

I have very few regrets but those that I do have seem to be tied into moments where I let fear win.

That sucks.

Just thinking about it hurts my head, heart and soul because it is not who I want to be or who I am. But I refuse to let those things define me so I focus on failing better and or not failing at all.

I know where I am heading, just a question of how long it takes to get there.

The Lonely Blogger

Spirits Of The Future Or Shades Of The Past

Who you spend time with matters.
Who you spend time with matters.

Somewhere in between the joys of blog maintenance and mission for 2015 I stumbled onto a post called This Was Our Song.

It wasn’t on my list of posts to review for technical issues or one that I intended to read because I wanted to use it for another post but when it showed up on screen I decided to read it again and it stopped me dead in my tracks.

If you ask me to list my favorite posts I’ll tell you I am not sure and explain that it is a bit like asking me to name my favorite child, but this one has to rank up there.

This one captured so very much and is timeless for me in so many ways.

It fits in with the hard decisions post and so much of what I have been working towards and building for.

What does that Mean?

When my world was turned upside down and inside out I fought with all I had to keep everything from collapsing.

My entire life people had described me as being tenacious, stubborn and at times a force of nature. So I figured that a guy like that could stop the world by force of will and somehow change things.

It didn’t happen.

Instead I managed to stave off some changes that should have taken place sooner than they did.

But the thing about stalling is that it doesn’t prevent you from having to deal with whatever it is you have been pushing off, it just means you are going to spend more time dealing with crap that prevents you from moving into your future.

So here I am at the keyboard listening to Dylan sing Tangled Up In Blue and thinking about the quote I used in the top picture.

Thinking about how important it is to share experiences with people you care about and want to spend time with. That is a big part of our happiness, those moments big and small and who shares them with us.

They don’t necessarily require huge amounts of money either because sometimes the best thing you ever get to do with someone is sit and talk

Sunset
Somewhere during the crazy moments when I felt like I was at war with the world I started to think about what it was I wanted for my future and what I was willing to do to make it happen.

And I will do what is required so that I can determine whether the ghosts I see are the spirits of the future or the shades of the past.

Those words above jump out at me because I realize I know many of the answers to the questions that were once associated with them and more importantly because I can see the changes from the moments where I stopped fighting to stay where I was and started moving into the future.

This post might not make sense to anyone besides me. It might not follow rules of blogging or do things that are likely to attract readers.

There is a lot of ‘I’ and not much ‘you’ and a ton of ambiguity in it but one of the best parts of blogging is that it provides us with a way to learn more about ourselves.

Writing is a great tool to use to figure out what we think, what we feel and what we want.

That might sound silly to you but if you have ever been asked to write down why you believe as you do or to share your dreams you might appreciate how putting words to paper provides a certain clarity you might not otherwise have.

What I am saying is I wrote this post first for me and then for you. I am saying I read words that reminded me about how far I have come and lent optimism to how far I have to go.

I see more big changes on the horizon.

I see myself having put myself in a position to live a richer and fuller life and that makes me smile, how can it not.

And for those of you who are asking for funny stories and screwball adventures, stay tuned for there will be lots to share soon.

How To Make Hard Decisions Easier

Decisions

Forty-five minutes ago I sat on the floor and told that 14 year-old son of mine I am sorry I didn’t get more time with my great-grandparents but especially my paternal great-grandfather.

He was the only great-grandfather I got to meet so it is possible I am not giving my maternal one enough credit, but we go on what we know as much as what we think we do.

So I choose him, a man who shared the same last name as I do, but stood 6 feet tall, had blonde hair and blue eyes.

Did I mention I am 5’10, have black hair and hazelish-green eyes?

Can You Trust Your Memory?

Since he died when I was around eight my memories are not as solid as I would like them to be and most of what I know is what I have heard, the bits I remember and the photos I have.

The point of all this is I am curious about what we share in common besides genetic material and our lineage. I know there is more, I know there are some expressions he passed down that have come into my possession. 

I am curious about what kind of man he was and would have liked to have had the opportunity to hear his thoughts and ideas about life.

Would a man who left Europe so that he wouldn’t have to run from the Cossacks or be conscripted into the army think of my challenges as being silly and relatively easy or would he feel otherwise.

What counsel would he give? Would his words help or would he shrug his shoulders and tell me it was up to me to figure it out.

Based upon the my father, uncles and grandfather I say he would tell me he couldn’t tell me what to do and that some of the challenges I have face are mine alone to figure out.

Like Old Al said above, I feel certain this is what he would say but I don’t know if it is.

Certainty would be nice but life doesn’t come with guarantees, manual or handbooks. All I have to inspire me to keep moving is knowing when it comes to overcoming adversity and challenges I have a perfect record.

C’mon Dad

That teenager of mine says I am manipulating the truth and that I haven’t got a perfect record because there are moments I have failed.

I smile and tell him he is partially correct. In school I failed a test or two and in life I have had a few things not go my way.

Had to sell my house because his high flying father was brought low by the recession. Got fired a time or two, quit a job and moved around a bit and have dealt with a bit of uncertainty.

But I told him I don’t see these things as he does because he looks at life from a very narrow perspective because he hasn’t lived as long or done as much as I have.

He doesn’t know the details about why dad won’t put his life on Slideshare but he does know something about the mission for 2015.

possibility

What he doesn’t know is how many of the decisions I have made and are making are based upon this gut feeling I am following.

He doesn’t know how I stare at Einstein’s quote and think about how badly I want to know so that I can make the right decision but I don’t talk about that with him.

Don’t talk about it because right now I want him to focus to learning how to make hard and easy decisions based upon logic and reason.

That teenage brain isn’t fully formed yet so I don’t want him to apply skills he hasn’t developed yet.

What that means is that some of the gut decisions I make include a ton of outside data called experience. It involves my being able to look at experiences and add a dash of judgment and insight into it and feel relatively confident that I am getting it done.

Still it doesn’t eliminate how much of this is me dwelling in possibility and trusting my gut to not lead me astray. I can’t live as I did any more. Can’t do as I have done because that man died a fiery death.

Burned out, choked out and buried.

This man is making different choices. This man has decided to take chances he once refused to take and make moves he once feared because it is time.

There is no more holding up a finger to try to figure out which way the wind blows or if it is going to rain.
weatherman

I am on the tail end of one path and the start of a new one. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that because I want to stick that finger up in the air.

But my heart and my gut tell me I am doing the right thing and that even though I have stepped out of my comfort zone it is going to all work out.

I couldn’t have done this before because my attitude was too close to the one Bruce Wayne has in the clip below. I was certain I knew all that I needed to know so making some of these choices was silly.

Logic and reason made it clear I was right.

Except age and experience makes me think maybe I wasn’t.

I wonder if my great-grandfather could have been my Alfred…