So, I got hit by the flu on Sunday the 16th, so spent most of that week either on sick leave or feeling brain-dead. Then tonight I took one of our dogs for a walk and WHAM!, my awareness of the world around me reawakens. I’ll be 50 in six hours!!
I don’t know where to start with the appreciation, insights and thanks over my last fifty annum. Tonight’s hour-long dog walk, under a startling full moon rising above my distant house, slowly etched the answer into me. The journey started long ago with my parents and the credit rightfully goes to them – and the blame for anything not exemplary falls on me.
I won’t pretend tonight to any eloquence of insight or language. We all can, and do, thank our parents (though maybe often enough?), so please indulge me on this short list of things oft appreciated over 50 years but not shared:
· Meshing that genealogy! Mom is one-half Dutch and one-half German, a German ‘refugee child’ that post-WW2, with its European angers and barbed wire fences, caused to be raised far from either family’s home grounds. Charming, smart and thoughtful. Dad is pure Puerto Rican – a man’s man who likes a challenge and has a mind that won’t stop. I am the product of their devotion and I hope the best of both rubbed off on me.
· Crabbing from a dock in Delaware. When you’re a child, it’s neat and simple fun. When you’re my age and never did so with your own now-adult children, you appreciate that it maybe wasn’t so simple.
· Summer-camping along the Atlantic seacoast of the Netherlands. Sun, sand, dunes and adventures on a scale that I only recently could appreciate.
· Recycling. Seriously – recycling! In northern Virginia, I was encouraged as a young teen to pick up cans and bottles when I was manically bicycling around the area. A good use for my time and man, did I make some change in my free time! I now am an ardent conservationist, a testament to that fledgling habit of taking care of the world right around me.
· Welcoming me home during college. The doors were open, even though I was such a pain in the butt and too self-absorbed to be much fun. But I looked forward to those down days in our living room, where the world was quiet and made more sense.
· Sharing the stereo. I was of the vintage Led Zeppelin era. Talk about culture shock for my parents with their more refined tastes of Elvis, Motown and Marty Robbins. But they indulged me – and yesterday’s Kennedy Center Awards show featuring Zep proves my life-shaping affinity for their music wasn’t all such a bad thing.
· See the world! That lesson was given by parents who walked-the-talk. After college, Michele and I left the Catskills for reasons that pushed us past the beauty around us. As I sit and stroll around western Idaho tonight, I’d say the lesson was well-learned and the right one.
I see. I feel. I walk and think and talk. I turn 50. And my rich and interesting childhood was the launching point for all of this. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for all those intangible things you lived and shared with us kids, ones that made me what I am today. Wow, just wow …