Thursday, March 01, 2007
Tomorrow, somewhere around 9am, I will have been on this planet for 50 years. If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
BWAH-HAH-HAH-HAH! Oh, God, I crack myself up sometimes. Wouldn’t change a thing? Only an absolute idiot would say something like that. Mark Twain had it right: No sane man, given the chance, would ever agree to live his life over again.
Anyway, what kind of an a-hole would I be if I said something like that, knowing that along the way to this birthday I could have done so many things differently that would have made others much happier? I’ve caused pain, I’ve lied, I’ve cheated, I’ve rationalized hideous behavior, all while attempting to make my own life comfier. Wouldn’t change a thing? No, I’m not that megalomaniacal.
However, if we’re talking about my own satisfaction – my own happiness with how this life has gone so far – I’d be afraid to live my life over again ONLY because it could have been much, much worse. I’ve been one of the most blessed people on the face of God’s green Earth.
Proof? I give you Part One, Part Two and Part Three of this quadrilogy.
(Is that even a word? A lot of authors have written trilogies, but I think most of them have stopped at three volumes because they weren’t sure what to call the thing if they went further. However, I [surprise] digress, which has been the over-riding theme of my entire life, I think.)
I have had an amazing life, when you get right down to it. Lots of folks these days pooh-pooh the idea of Leave It To Beaver and similar television shows from the 1950’s. They say that such things are pure fantasy and that America was never really like that at all. I’m here to tell you that those people are dead wrong. I lived that life as a youngster.
Our home was on a quiet side street in a middle class neighborhood. My Dad had a good job and my Mom was a housewife. Well, she worked a part-time job, sometimes, but she was always there when I got home – when I walked home from the neighborhood elementary school. There were always cookies in the cookie jar and a large, cold glass of milk to go with them.
The troubles we neighborhood kids got into were no worse than anything Beaver and Wally had to handle. I was an only child – no decent big brother to bail me out – but the other characters from the show were there. My best friend was overweight and slightly more willing to start us on the road to mischief than I was. Beaver had Eddie Haskell; I had Crazy Lawrence Van Aken.
(I don’t know. Given the chance, I might have traded Crazy Lawrence for Eddie. Tough call. Whereas Eddie Haskell was oily and unctuous around adults, but mean to the littler kids once the adults were out of sight, Crazy Lawrence was really, truly insane. He got his kicks torturing small animals, so the fear we kids had of him was of the “Geez, what if he decides to do that to me?” variety. There were very few instances of him actually hurting us, as I remember. It was the possibility that was scary.)
Our family always ate meals together whenever possible. I was taught to say “please” “thank you” and “you’re welcome,” and if I didn’t do my homework, I was punished. There were creepy girls to be avoided and neighborhood characters, like Beaver’s Gus The Fireman, to hang around with and glean wisdom from.
Our street was quiet and peaceful. We played baseball in the summer and early autumn, football in the late autumn, hockey in winter and board games when it rained. The most trouble anyone ever got into was when he played hooky from school. None of us dared to do anything worse than that.
I’m telling you the truth. My neighborhood in Dorchester was the Northeast’s version of Mayfield. If there had been a billboard with a big cup of soup on it, I would have been the kid who was gullible enough to climb up into it and then have to be rescued by the fire department.
It didn’t stay that way, of course. Times change and so do people. There were many temptations introduced into my Eden – some worthwhile, some truly dangerous – and my parents got divorced. But, for about the first 12 or 13 years of my life? It was Mayfield, I swear.
Aside from having a great place to grow up in, I’ve always been blessed with good people in my life. From grandparents who doted on me, to parents who instilled marvelous values, to really cool uncles who showed me the ropes, I’ve always had a massive safety net to fall back on. I haven’t always taken advantage of the help available to me – that’s part of the family ethic, too, to try to do it on your own before bothering somebody else – but the help was always there if I needed it.
As life went on, and I grew up, I found that I always had good people around me. Whatever I needed, in the way of human help, was there. I’ve had trustworthy friends, decent and kind co-workers, teammates who loved playing games as much as I did, and bandmates who wanted to rock just as hard.
My Dad once told me that we’d never hit the lottery, but we’d never starve, either. He was absolutely correct. I don’t expect to ever be rich, but I know with certainty that I’ll never find myself out on the streets, either – unless I make a conscious decision to muck it up so badly that I put myself there.
I’ve had a bad relationship or two, but when it comes to love, I’m as lucky there as in everything else. MY WIFE is the perfect person with which to share my life. I can’t even imagine finding someone else who could put up with all of my idiosyncrasies. Of course, I reciprocate, so it’s all good.
I’ll tell you about a dream that MY WIFE made come true. I’ve always wanted to own a bobcat. I don’t know why, exactly. I like all cats, but bobcats seem about perfect. Big and powerful, really cool looking, and I bet a bobcat would beat hell out of a dog when it comes to scaring off burglars.
(We’re not taking into account that, as I understand it, it’s near impossible to tame one of the suckers. They’re just really cool, OK? Work with me here.)
Anyway, MY WIFE knew that I’d like to own one. So, for my birthday one year, she bought me one.
No, I didn’t unwrap a big box and have a bobcat jump out and start clawing my face to shreds. We had visited a really nice wildlife sanctuary in New Hampshire, called The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, a place where animals who had injuries of some sort or another, which precluded them from living successfully in the wild, were brought to recover and live out their lives in some sort of relative comfort.
We enjoyed the place a lot. And they had two bobcats there. It was the first place I had ever had a chance to really get up close and personal with some bobcats. They were as awesome in person as they had been in films and pictures I had seen. I had a great time watching them.
Anyway, on my next birthday, MY WIFE gave me the bobcats. What she did was make a donation to the sanctuary earmarked for the bobcats. I was given a certificate granting me honorary ownership of the bobcats for the coming season. And so, I “owned” not just one, but two bobcats, thanks to MY WIFE.
Great stuff like that happens to me all the time - serendipitous wonderfulness in the least expected places. I don’t think it’s because I deserve it especially. I’m a decent sort, but even a brief reading of the archives here will tell you in no uncertain terms that I’m not a saint. Even so, it appears that God loves me and I continue to be blessed beyond all reason.
Take yesterday, for example. I came home from work and there were two packages waiting for me in the mail. One came from my good internet buddy, STU, and the other came from my cousin, David.
Stu sent me a birthday present, out of the blue - a biography of “Pistol” Pete Maravich, great basketball player and one-time Celtic. I’ll enjoy it immensely, I’m sure.
My cousin packaged up a bunch of old photos and mailed them to me. We haven’t seen each other for many years, but he reads my blog regularly. He expected that seeing the photos would please me; that’s why he sent them. But I think I enjoyed them much more than he could have possibly imagined. The combination of people in those photos (David himself, of course, but also my recently deceased Cousin Joey, my Auntie Ba [also deceased], my Cousin Joan, my grandparents, grand-uncles, grand-aunts, David’s father, David, and mom, Cissy [my aunt and uncle, of course] and me, all from when David was 1 and 2 years old and I was 9 and 10) as well as the place where some of the photos were taken – the apartments on Hyde Park Avenue that I so sorely wish were still around – made it an achingly nostalgic, but truly wonderful, gift.
My Uncle Jimmy did the same thing for me a short while back. He sent me a big envelope full of old family photos and memorabilia. At the time, he also found some old negatives that had apparently NEVER been developed, so he developed them and sent me copies. They were photos from when I was about three or four, of my grandparents and other relatives. It was so magnificently sweet to look at those black and white snapshots and be able to travel back in time by doing so.
Thanks, Stu. Thanks, David. Thanks, Uncle Jim.
Thank you everybody.
I’m just rambling now, really, but what I’m trying to express is that sometimes a dream is realized when you aren’t even aware of it. Sometimes a person is lucky enough to wake up one day and realize that the greater part of his time on earth has seen a whole bunch of small dreams realized, and that they all add up to one huge dream fulfilled, a dream LIFE.
That’s what I’ve had. Praise God, I’ll still have it tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. If the next fifty years are anything close to the first fifty... well, then I won’t be around to see all of them. One person’s heart can only hold so much without bursting.
It turns out this is the story of my life: Soon, with more better stuff.
(I'll be back to swearing and calling people bastards and cursing out the government and bitching about the niggling little details of life within probably about two or three minutes of having posted this, of course. Enjoy the mellowness while you can.)
See you tomorrow!