Monday, August 22, 2016

It's Marty's Birthday

Yesterday two of our grand kids went to school.  Lily started real kindergarten and Noah, the old pro, started first grade.  Today their grandmother, my bride of 40 years has a birthday, she turns 62.  These are big days.

I knew our kids would grow and have kids, I knew when grand kids came along they would grow and go to school.  Frankly, there were many days I did not know if Marty would see her 62nd birthday.  Ten years ago it didn’t seem likely, ten years ago it didn’t seem likely see would see 55.

But, here we are, our kid’s kids being real human beings growing and starting new amazing chapters and Marty surviving against the rather ugly odds of two strokes.

Life is an incredible journey.

I know our grand kids  and their parents, our kids, will survive their first days and the next days.  They are good, smart kids who will thrive.  There will be dark days, even in kindergarten and first grade, that is life, but they will walk through the dark days and find light at the end.

In celebrating Marty’s birthday we understand that the next birthday is not a guarantee.  Eleven years ago we celebrated Marty’s 51st birthday, the one after her first stroke, I was still pretty naive about Marty’s prognosis and how our life was going to turn.  I talked a good game about not taking any days or any firsts or any lasts for granted.  I thought I understood how precarious life could be.  I didn’t.

I think I got it now.  I think I understand that neither Marty nor I are guaranteed a 63rd birthday.  The 2nd stroke pretty well convinced me that we all walk a very thin precious line between here and gone so I think it’s important to recognize and celebrate the milestones.

On Marty’s 62nd birthday I want her to know she is loved, I want her to know she is amazing, I want her to know that I don’t take one day, not one damn day, of her presence for granted.  I want her to know she is, in my eyes a living miracle and a testament to God’s grace.

Today Marty turns 62 and our two of our grand kids go to a 2nd day of school.  Here’s to many a happy day for all and here’s to 63 and all the little days in between.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Class of Seventy-Two

I’m 44 years and 250 miles removed from the red dirt of my home town, Colorado City Texas.  As we drove along the back roads of Texas, as we drove through Bangs and Zephyr and crossed Bearfoot Creek and Yellow Wolf Creek, as we moved from oak to scrub oak to large mesquite to small mesquite I began to feel the familiarity of home, a home long time gone.

Skip, a literal lifelong friend, and I drove into town, from the south.  We drove into a town I left in 1972, the summer after I graduated from high school.  I have returned to west Texas infrequently for reunions, Skip a little more often.  The town is different, it has evolved, it has changed, it has aged, just as we have.

My childhood homes, the houses I grew up in are long gone, no buildings, no foundations, no nothing.  The earth has started the process of reclaiming the road where I learned to play baseball and ride bikes and where I played under the street lights with neighbors.  In time, I suspect, the only thing left to mark our lives there will be two solitary cattle guards, guarding nothing but pasture grass and mesquite trees.

The town is different, it feels different.  Just like me, like Skip, like all who attended this reunion from all six graduating classes, the town has celebrated success, suffered from natural aging, mourned radical change and evolved in a world where evolution leaves nothing unscathed.

It’s interesting that this part of the world still has such a gravitational pull on my psyche.  As we drove into the town it still felt like home.  My old house is gone, every piece of the home I knew for years has been eradicated, but the town, the little west Texas red dirt town still feels a lot like home to me.

The town holds my memories, it holds my history, it connects me to that part of my life where I started to become a real human being.  It connects some of the dots; it connects some of the trails I’ve walked to get to where I am today.

The memories of skies turned orange from the dust from cotton gins in October, learning how to put on footballs pads, and marching down 2nd Street with the junior high band while Bob Newman, the band director, walked the sidewalks confiscating pea shooters from the local hoodlums intent on shooting the band are still very much alive.

 I never feel the first cold winds of winter without thinking of those skies and those times spent with my friends enjoying free life in a small town.

It really does come down to the people, the people who, in spite of the miles and years, are the only ones who know a special part of your life.  It’s the history you have with these people, not the number of years, not the continuous contact.  They are all part of your formation, all part of your connection to your past, to your own history, to your beginnings and your essence.  These are the people that knew who you were before you were an adult, before you were changed by the vagaries of life. 

It all comes down to Skip and Dean and Randy and David and Sherry and Barbara and Sharon and all of those who also hold the memories who are also connected to this little town.  Its Fay and Debra and Sonny and Wayne and Dewain and Mark and Judy and Kathy and Carolyn who lived through the same times, who remember what it was like when we heard about JFK being assassinated, who watched the same dumb television shows and watched the Beatles and listened to American Band Stand and know who Sky King is.  These people hold the key to your memories and they will forever be a part of your beginning, your growing up, your heart break, your tragedy, your victories, your failures and your recoveries.

Sorry guys but you’re there for life whether you want to be or not, you get to all be a part of who I am as I carry on with Marty, with my kids and with my grandchildren.  You are a part of me as I am, like it or not, a part of you. 

That’s why it makes sense to stop in every now and then and talk.  I like that.