Our three sons are moving on with their lives. We are all here, but someday there will only be the two of us in this big house. I wonder what it will feel like? What will we talk about? What will we do? I am retired and spend most of my time waiting, which is a waste. There is a lot to do, and it’s a big world.
It is likely we will stare at each other and consider our appearance. Then we’ll remember how we looked years ago.
We will remember those who have passed—Family, friends, favorite pets.
We’ll talk about how we raised our kids. Focusing on our mistakes, forgetting what we did right.
We will remember our dreams and consider which ones came true and which ones are still out there.
We will discuss a plan to run one or two of them down as a curtain call before whatever comes next.
I sense we will spend a lot of time discussing travel. What place we want to visit next.
We won’t consider the future as time will seem short. That is what we should be doing, though. Always have space full of dreams.
We will discuss the 2020 election and how it was more of a mess than us being parents.
We will laugh at the commercials about reverse mortgages up until the point where we need one.
I sense we will watch each other and think about who is failing more. You know, having difficulty remembering things like turning off the stove.
Tag team driving will become how we get around. One watches the road while the other steers and works the gas and brakes. At some point, someone will take the keys.
We will watch the news all day.
And somewhere along the way, we will consider the past and the choices we made. We will argue about some of them and agree on some as well. It is likely I will feel sad we never bought that second home in Vermont. We will reason the timing just wasn’t right.
I expect many conversations about the trips we took with the kids, notably Alaska. How much fun we had and how beautiful it is there.
We will be alone a lot, I sense. We’ll have ample time to talk behind the backs of people we knew along the way. Our verbal filters failing, we will say things that piss off those closest to us—a favorite pastime?
And we will often sit in quiet solitude and let the voices of the past fill our heads with laughter, crying, grief, and despair. Five lives brought together through the magic of life, coincidence, and sacrifice. I hope, in the end, we will have lived full lives and recapped the whole event from childhood to adulthood in its entirety. I pray we will conclude that it was all worth it and fulfilling.
We won’t get to say goodbye—most people don’t get the chance to do that as the end often isn’t predictable. But, we will look forward to picking up the conversation in the next place.
I have thought about Grace, its meaning, examples, and how it relates to me for a couple of years. You might say I have a lot of time to think. And that I do. I make it. Time to consider is the most productive and useful part of my life. And none of us are getting any more of that.
I wanted to establish a firm understanding and definition of what Grace is. My years as a corporate executive taught me to have meaning, a process, feedback, and needs for a belief to happen. I got none of that on this one. In my desire to understand Grace, I asked around for a couple of years and got all kinds of answers. From lightning strikes to religious beliefs and intervention. I accepted none of these. It just didn’t ring my bell. I thought about going on a Thoreau like journey to Walden Pond to consider it, but I knew I wouldn’t have a place or family to return to if I did.
I read a lot, and if I had more time added to my life, that is high on my list of things I would do more.
Emily Dickinson wrote, “There is no frigate like a book.” In short, it means this:
There is no boat like a book. A book can take you anywhere.
I believe that sounds reasonable. In the past few months, I came across some things I read that started to piece together what I was looking for from my experiment with Grace.
Eckart Tolle said Grace is “acceptance of the unacceptable.” That made complete sense to me. Short and to the point and almost impossible. Just imagine for a minute how hard that is. Accepting the unacceptable, hmmm so you consume and come to terms with anything and everything that has ever happened. Be it history’s worst bad guys and their atrocities to what might happen in the future. That’s a lot to digest.
I saw another group of words put together by a friend on Facebook. She said, “tears flow down,” as she described the pain of losing a daughter. I tried to marry the two thoughts together. I was getting somewhere and nowhere at the same time. It felt like another Buddhist struggle had been leveled on my chest. It turned out to be the defining moment of the definition of Grace for me.
So tears flow down and pool on your chest and over your heart – the place where everyone’s beats, beat together. The beating to me represents “love.”
Grace is your heart and everything in it.
I look back on six decades and have a chance to think about them, to consider their significance. I often write about regrets to educate others who are younger, hoping they will avoid mine. People who say they have none haven’t lived and are full of shit.
One of my biggest regrets is keeping things too close to the vest, not sharing all I know—my writing has always been an effort to fix that.
The key is when you find something useful, to share it. Don’t leave everyone else behind. Your desire for exclusivity is your most significant and hurtful decision. Passing over those you love most or others you don’t know is the worst kind of behavior. They need you and your experiences to advance the ball.
When real-life arrives, the stuff after everything is washed away; there you are at the kitchen sink, bare assed, and as stupid as the day you were born. You will likely have a keen eye on your hopes, dreams, and experiences washing away and wondering how you could have been a better person. It’s not an idyllic place to be, but it is a place. Make the best use of it.
Vote today, or don’t complain.
My dad was an HVAC contractor and serviceman. He worked hard, whenever he was needed and in some unpleasant places. Over the years, he missed many family events fixing stuff so others could be comfortable or run their businesses. Well known in Rumson and the surrounding area, he was the last of a breed that has died off, putting the final nail in the coffin of quality.
Our garage became home to motors, pipes, copper, lead, evaporators, wires, and tons of shit that meant nothing to most people. As a kid, I was always interested in the copper barrel. It was close to the door, so I got in for a look and out the door quickly. The shop was doubly painful for me being a physically dangerous place and a mental cluster. I had no interest in learning the trade.
To me, the copper barrel contained endless stories carried from the homes and businesses they were removed from. I suspected that then and know that now. I learned anything in the copper barrel had value; it could be sold as scrap whose price changed daily. I was more interested in this than a copper pipe carrying gas to make something run.
After my parents passed, I made many trips to the scrapyard with copper, lead, and recyclable materials of many kinds to clear the property and raise money for a charity. I did that and felt good about it. I made dozens of trips to the scrapyard in Freehold and got to know the guys who worked there a little as I drove on the scale to be weighed each day.
I left behind an untold number of stories as I rolled away in the old truck one last time, having finished a job my dad started many years ago.
James Joyce’s character, My Duffy, lived a short distance from his body, I have as well. Joyce described Duffy this way. I describe myself this way. Imagine my delight in knowing this with so much more time to go. Not everyone gets this chance. A celestial lottery ticket that paid off. The payout? Contentment.
I reached a tipping point a few years ago; what I have is enough. It’s an uncelebrated milestone that should have been achieved via a different route or never have been in my sights. It separated me from everything really important, which is a major regret I have. There is a lesson here to pass on, the one gifted to me now traveling through the sewer pipes of life just hoping to be cleared in an ocean yearning to be free.
Like Irving’s Sleepy Hollow horseman being chased by his past, I was born with my head firmly on my shoulders. The pumpkin thrown at me being alcohol, cancer, and early retirement. I am so lucky and fortunate. This aging orphan is hanging around for one more pass around the sun with the hope that Penn and Teller aren’t the ones keeping the time.
Your clocks should have been set back last night.
The beautiful photo is courtesy of Jack Flaherty Photography, Monmouth Beach NJ.