Friday, June 28, 2013

two midnights

A common theme of the conversations in my gym's locker room relates to how we are aging.  "How is your tennis game" inquiries are met with snorts and sighs.  "Can't bounce back as fast.  Can't get to shots I used to."  On Thursday an old friend pounded his belly and said, "put on a few pounds and that is not helping."

Tonight two locker room buddies were talking about going to the Cape this weekend.  They exchanged notes on restaurants near where they stay when they're vacationing.  At one point they hit on a spot that they'd both been to with their spouses.  One fellow said to the other.  "Went there for New Year's Eve last year."

"No kidding" said his friend. "Didn't know they did much business in the winter."

"Place was packed for New Year's" said the chum.  Then he laughed.  "Had two midnights."

"Two midnights?"

"Yeah, the clientele is getting so old, that they had a midnight at 10 and a midnight at 12, so those of us who couldn't make it to midnight, popped the champagne and said happy new year at 10. Then they did the whole thing again for those who could stay up."

A bunch of us who were overhearing the conversation got a kick out of this.  The night owl continued.  "Most of the people I knew opted for the early midnight."

I'm not quite there, but I am getting there I guess.  I imagine in a year or two the 10 oclock midnight might seem very attractive. For now, though, what has me thinking about this is the notion of multiple opportunities to celebrate.  You miss midnight at midnight, well then, make 1 a.m. your midnight. You miss joy in say 2012 well then go for it in 2013.  Have a bad month of June. Celebrate June in July or just July in July.  For those of us who have not thrown away our lives irrevocably, there are multiple midnights.

This is not the case for someone like Aaron Hernandez.  A multimillionaire but he took such alarming steps such that at 23 he threw away his chances for a single midnight.  A life wasted.

Old family story. My dad is teaching me how to saw wood. This is a bit of a joke because whereas my grandfather was very skilled with tools, my dad was not so naturally gifted.  But this day he is teaching me to saw.  He has a line on a piece of wood.  My job is to cut on the line.  Well, I go off the line, but I am nearly done cutting the wood. Dad spots that I am off the line.  He tells me to go back to where I went off the line, get back on the line, and finish cutting the wood. I comment that I am almost done.  He says no matter how far along you are, you are off where you want to go.

How is this relevant?  You want multiple midnights, well you have to give yourself an opportunity to have the choice.  If you keep travelling way off course, like an Aaron Hernandez and notorious others, your opportunities for multiple chances to enjoy sweet moments will no longer be.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Death and Life

Yesterday I was in the west palm beach airport waiting for a flight back to Boston. I had some time before boarding and the wifi was free. I took out my ipad and checked out facebook.  There I saw a notice from the wife of a dear friend.  She was reporting that the older brother of my bud had passed.

I was stunned by this news. I knew that Maurice had been in ill health, but I'd seen him just a couple of years ago at Fran's son's wedding and he looked as if he was on the rebound.  At one point during the reception, Maurice took the saxophone from a band member and banged out a pretty good "when the saints go marching in".  I remembered when I first met Maurice and I played back my memories and felt for my pal.

I called Fran today and we spoke for a spell.  Shortly after we began talking he told me that his best friend, someone I've known for forty years, died suddenly last month.  This was even more startling than the news about Maurice. Angelo was the life of the party, always. Very clever, gregarious, just a delightful guy. I'd seen him also at Fran's son's wedding and spent a good bit of good time conversing with him.  Then Fran also told me that a cousin of his whom I knew, had perished shortly after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Three shots to the gut in six months.  He told me that I better take care of myself because he did not want to attend another funeral for a stretch.  We laughed some and promised to make sure to get together this summer. And we will.

Then later today I did some sleuthing on the internet. I wanted to get in touch with one of my parents' oldest friends because I needed to relay some news.  I wanted to contact the woman who lived on the first floor of our Brooklyn apartment building. She, a pal of my mom's, and her husband--a pal of my dad's--had acted like another set of parents for me and my brother. Her husband had passed many years ago, and I knew that she was in her 80s.  The nature of my news was such that I wanted to make sure that she was feeling well enough for some sad news.  I recalled that one of her sons was a jazz musician.  I went on the internet and wrote to him. Then I saw something that made me start googling.  And what I found was again unsettling.  This woman's 57 year old son, the jazz musician, had passed a year ago.  And I've known for thirty years that her other son had died in his early thirties.

I had been sitting in the West Palm Beach airport because my father lives nearby. And about two weeks ago, we buried my dear mother after she had fought like the fighter she always was, but eventually succumbed to the residual effects of a stroke.  My brother and I had gone to Florida for dad's day and were ourselves trying to get through the effects of the loss of our mother who had an influence on not only us, but on so many others that the chapel in south Florida--even in June--was packed with those there to pay their respects.

So, death seems to be in season. Fran's brother, cousin, and best pal.  My parents' Brooklyn friends' young son.  And my mother.

Seems like a maudlin subject.  But I will take another perspective and it is not a Pollyanna approach, but my genuine sense.

My cousin wrote the other day that in California funerals are rarely so named, but rather are called Celebrations of Life.  And that resonates with me.  Loudly.

The end of life is, of course, sad--but it is an opportunity to celebrate the life of the deceased and what that person contributed to life.  My mother is alive in me and, to a lesser extent, so is Maurice and Angelo and Wade and Gregory.

Besides, death serves as a clear and as a loud reminder of the precious gift of life.  The time we the living have is time to do nothing other than take advantage of the multiple opportunities of life.  As I type now, the background music is playing the Beatles' "Here, There, and Everywhere." It is a beautiful love song. Those who have died are here, there, and everywhere, and reminding us that we the living must immerse ourselves in the available love and life that is here, there, and everywhere.