I go into my grandmother’s house. It’s on the market right now and could be close to selling. I was in town and able to go by and I was encouraged to look around and see if there was anything I wanted to claim as my own now.
“No there really isn’t,” I think. “This isn’t my stuff, it’s my Nan and Pap’s.” They either built it, knew someone who built it or purchased it at an auction or flea market. All these transactions seem to have fallen to the wayside with today’s convenience of department and box store items that last a fraction of the time my grandparent’s artifacts do.
Yet I wander through their vacant home like I was in Target, only with two distinct differences. I have no shoes on and relish the feeling of the thick, always clean carpet on my bare feet. Secondly, no store could ever duplicate the smell of Nan’s house. It materializes into vivid memories of gathering around the dining room table, staring out the back window through the blinds down to the diving board in the pool where I yearned to go as soon as I was granted permission. The smell brings sounds of the floor boards creaking as my grandfather approached slowly and stared me down until a smile sculpted its way into the corners of his mouth. He was a gentle giant.
As I recalled the sounds, one in particular seemed to be missing. It was the grandfather clock. A signature sound in this house and one that I knew I had the ability to engage. I walk into the den, floor boards creaking in the same manner as my Pap’s. I approach the clock in the corner. It reads 7:30. Looking at my cell phone, I see it reads 11:51 AM. I wind the clock cylinders and begin to move the minute-hand knowing the length of time that it will take me to get it to the current time.
Every fifteen minutes, the clock comes to life and chimes the Westminster Recession. I have to wait for each quarter to perform for me. Still, there is no other place I want to be and I let the soft carpet massage my feet, the smell infiltrate all of my senses and conjure even more memories. The light is omnipresent, almost warm itself as it shines through the hand-made drapes. It is at this moment, that I realize I am making time fly by while all I want it to do is cease. I just didn’t want to leave. This house will never be the same again and emotions flood as I realize time has passed. This chapter has concluded.
Memento is an item that we possess. It means “to bring to mind.” I guess it is for this reason I decided to take two Wysocki paintings that were on jigsaw puzzles that my Nan and Pap did. They loved puzzles. I don’t have to love puzzles, or even decorate my home like their’s, but if these puzzles can only bring to mind the feeling of this moment. If they can hint at the smell and the existence of this particular way of life, I may now be the proud owner of two priceless items.
Ever wonder how your obituary would read? No need to, really. They’re pretty darn predictable. It tells the readers how old you were before you kicked it. It tells them all which relatives outlived you. Then it tells them where you went to school and what you did after school. They’ll read how you graduated honors with a degree in criminal psychology, then how you were supporting yourself or family by working as a manager at Costco, or Salesman for some software company. The people that read the obit are interested enough in you, but wouldn’t they know these fundamental things about you? They’ll read it and say to others, “I read [such and such’s] Obituary…it was very nice.” “Nice,” in this case, refers to status quo. Predictable.
I think Obituaries simply exists to announce to people that you died. In doing so, it half-asses an effort to sum up a person’s life with its template format. But aren’t we all snowflakes? Aren’t we all unique and special? Shouldn’t this literary tribute reflect that? How would your Obituary reflect this? How would your life truly be summarized in a way that the announcement really says, “though the world is now absent of you, it is a better world because of the proceeding two paragraphs”?
I’d want mine to speak about where I went and what I saw in those [x] number of years. I’d want mine to speak of the feeling inside of me eating a Shish-ka-bob outside on a summer evening. How I would drown that thing in ketchup. I’d want mine to speak of the people I prepared and shared that exact meal with. Could it even capture the ancient human connection I gained with them through that experience? I would want mine to say how I’ve always been fascinated with trees. Mine would say that I aged, but always yearned for childhood.
Mine would not just mention the relatives I had by default, but of the journey our relationships went on as we discovered each other as imperfect people with big hearts and through all of the imperfections we loved each other so hard that the journey continues beyond breath in a body cavity.
Who cares where I went to High School? I want it to mention the last wind-sprint on a Friday afternoon of practice where the only thing that pushed me so hard was the excitement of knowing there was a home football game that night. How I’d blaze home, shower and cover myself in Tommy Hilfiger Cologne in the anticipation of sitting remotely close to girls wearing incredibly tight jeans and their boyfriend’s varsity jackets.
Yep, I went to college and got a degree. It was called [this] but my obituary should make mention of the class where we gathered on the floor in a circle and focused in on life and were given top secret tips for how to understand it better. Can it speak to the courageous classmates I had that seemed to lead the charge into identifying ourselves a little bit better and being comfortable with what we saw in the mirror?
Can it speak about making mistakes and how I grew from them? Can it come clean and mention that maybe, just maybe I was average? In doing so, it would liberate me from the romantic aspirations forced on me by the stories of pop culture and I can be content, even blessed, with what I had before I kicked it.
Can this be done in two paragraphs? Probably not. So let’s stop kidding ourselves and create more news hole by saying, “Hey [such and such] died. We all do. What are you doing with your life?”
I begin by saying we’ve been through a lot in the past. You’ve given me a lot. Hell, you’re my birth-month. So I have a lot to be thankful for.
However, we need to talk. I would really like it if you gave me less work as I feel that’s all I’ve done since you came to visit this year. I’m not saying you have to take away my work week, but ease up just a little.
Also, stop f#@^&ng snowing!! No seriously, STOP F#@^&ng SNOWING! Get warmer and act like your damn self. I’ve been really good about dealing with your winter cousins. You know January, February and even March, but my patience and optimism is really starting to become depleted.
You’re better than this Apes. Bring me showers, flowers, days of lounging in the woods and B-day funness. That’s how we used to role. That’s why we are such good buds.
I’ll check back in in a couple of weeks.Until then, I’m taking 1 day away from you. No longer will you have 31 days. Only 30. You brought this on yourself A.
So I just went through my favorite station #AltNation fan page’s entire photo album. First off, those guys have an incredibly cool job and meet some amazing artists/rock stars. Whilst doing so, I finally got to see what my favorite DJ’s look like. It’s a weird thing hearing someone’s voice for several years, then finally putting a face with the name.
My last observation was this….ALL ROCK STARS ARE SKINNY. How is that possible? Not one of them was even the slightest bit portly. How do they manage that? I need to discover the Alt Rock lifestyle diet, write a book, then sell it to the fatties that listen to pop.
I imagine a world where the inventor of the spoon got it wrong. What if the concave utensil was more square? The round sides becoming rigid and points serve as the barrier in which the food is contained. Would my tongue welcome the underbelly as happily and dance underneath its friend like a puppy waiting for its treat to fall to the floor? Could my lips close around it as if they were the arms of an embrace? Would the food we prepare today be made to fit in the spoon? I enjoy spoons. I enjoy the food we eat with spoons. I enjoy saying spoons. Spoons.
Realizing a mentor, colleague and friend will no longer be serving in that capacity (well the mentor and colleague part). It’s strangely a bittersweet feeling. Bitter from the cavity that will need to be filled with such talent and inspiration. Sweet to know that I can find such respect among a person in my job. Today I came a little closer to identifying myself inside of my career.
I am on the phone with a college graduate in the class of 1954. We speak about the difference between our college experience (50 years to be exact). Granted he didn’t have quite the assistance with financial aid that I had. He complained to me about having $600 of student loan debt over his head when he graduated. I laughed. Then he spoke to me about how he got his Masters paid for by the government. Room, board, tuition and all.
You see, this gentleman lived in a delicate time. A time with a great deal of fear, but also a time of great motivation and solidarity among the government. I learned in my moment today, just what a country can do for you during a time when it’s leader was preaching “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” I see our President today, invoking these words and truly wanting to put them to use. I finally understand today, what he means about our generation’s “Sputnik Moment” through listening to how this man on the telephone reaped the benefits of his generation’s Sputnik Moment. What started it? Well, Sputnik.
The government needed educated leaders in the fields of Math and Science and “Paul,” as I’ll call him, just happened to be a Math Major. Paul pursued the opportunity and was awarded with free education. What did he do with it? He decided to get the most use out of it by becoming a teacher himself.
Now, I reflect on my generation’s “Sputnik Moment” and ask is there really one? Are we really all together striving to one achieve one common goal? Do we have a Russia to challenge us? Put fear in us? It seems more complex today. It’s as if our worst enemy is ourselves. In a time where everything is customized, including politics, we struggle to have a clear example of achievement.
I remember the first thing I heard on the radio this morning. I woke up to story that pertained to major cuts to educational funding in my state. I remember this and become upset as I compare my generation to Paul’s. I selfishly sit in my chair and ask “what can my country do for me?” I envision what they are doing right at this very moment and I picture them griping and politicizing anything and everything to a point where time is no longer on their side and we face another federal government shutdown next week. Finally, I ask, with a broken spirit, “what can I do for my country?” Being a citizen of the world has always seemed to make more sense to me. If I practice random acts of kindness. If I volunteer, or spend my money responsibly. If I pay my bills and debts, am I helping my country or my world?
My shoulder slumps. It has just encountered the contoured impact of a heavy hand.
“Do you know what that means?” Mike, my co-worker asks me.
“Sure don’t,” I answer.
“From an older man, if the hand is open and on the shoulder it means approval. If it is closed,” he punches me in the same shoulder, “it means doubt.”
“Well thanks Mike,” I respond hesitantly. He pats heavily on my shoulder twice more, then continues around the corner looking down. It’s subtle but I find the opportunity to ask, “Sounds like you can use one on your shoulder too?”
“You’re not an old man,” he grumbles. “Just remember what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
I smile, “Mike I prefer, ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, but don’t forget….it tried to kill you.’”
The disadvantage of having large hands is when you have to wrap them around the handle of any garden tool. Rakes for instance. Shovels , axes, even sledgehammers cause a problem. The disadvantage comes when the hand is larger than the circumference of the handle, the excess skin bundles up and the friction caused by the usage of the tool begins to callus and blisters form. Such is the case on day 2 of my intense hammer workout.
Why does one feel it necessary to swing a 12 lb hammer up and down onto a large tractor tire? Well, it conditions not only the larger back muscles, the deltoids, the lats, but it works it works its way around to the shoulders, tri’s, bi’s, chest, forearms and hands and even some core and hips. If that’s not enough, doing it repeatedly works in a butt load of cardio. My session leader knows this. Some know him as Coach Smith, Juniata’s strength and training coach. The guy used to condition NFL players so I thought he’d be good enough to whip me into shape. So far, he hasn’t let me down. Seeing a hammer in his hand, one can’t help but envision Thor himself barking orders to the rest of the team struggling to keep up with him. He’s built like a “v,” well a capital “V.” He has a shaved head and a beard that appears to have gone through a couple strength and conditioning sessions itself.
“We’re gonna start off light today, just stay with me,” he begins the session. “Light,” according to him is starting the session with 230 reps. Then we “rest” as we do 25 inclined pushups on the tire. Next we work in the legs by doing step ups on the tire. Right foot first-30 reps, left foot- 30 reps. Then right foot-25, left foot-25. Then it’s back to right foot-50, left foot 50. Then we “rest,” then we start again with the hammers by trading off 25 fast with 25 inclined push-ups. My body is winding down. I know I did this a day before, and I’m capable of doing it, but mentally, I begin to break. My back hurts, my legs are shaking and my hands burn as they try to grip the hammer.
My day’s moment comes when the base of my right ring finger suddenly bursts open and the gelatin padding that formed my blister leaks onto my hand. Instantly, I feel a rush. Before I would have thrown the hammer down in defeat, but this is the moment of my day today and weeks of conditioning have strengthened my mind and spirit. I say to myself “you see how hard you are working?” My body answers with a second wind. I grip down on the hammer and pick up the pace to finish as fast as possible. I am thankful for that inner cheerleader. He’s been dormant for far too long and he pops in moments that aren’t even athletically oriented, but speaks the same message and he speaks it with the same steadfast conviction.
Those of you that don’t live in Central PA probably don’t know what a Hoss’ Steak and Seahouse is. Those of you that do, not only do you consider it an abomination of grammatical correctness, but also an abomination on the digestive system. It’s like Bieber-fame – it is inevitable. So when my one room mate wanted to get some Hoss’ last night, the night before his birthday, I thought I’d treat him and we’d make a little sport of it. Here are the standing for the Inaugural Pre-Kevin’s Birthday Hoss’ Challenge:
3rd place – me. A whopping 30 seconds after getting home.
2nd place – Kevin. Approximately 10 minutes after getting to the office.
Grand Poo-bar – Pat, whom has us convinced he has the stomach of a ninja and you know you can’t inja’ a ninja.
Congrats to Pat and Happy Birthday to the big guy Kev-Kev. I’m sure no one’s ever given you diarrhea for your birthday so I bet this one will be memorable.
I turn my head to the right and face my enemy. He reads 4:35 AM. I wonder how it is humanly possible to still be up and have been blowing my nose for two staight hours. Tissues served merely as the fishing net. I needed something stronger . I needed Brawny strength. But the fabric was too close to cardboard so I dampened the paper towels to soften the blow. Half a role later I’m in agony and my sinuses tell me there’s more to come.
I watch a clip of a film maker in New Zealand that starts filming right after the earthquake hit and edits his 36 hours down to 3 minutes of captivating images. I first wonder how he had time to do anything else between now and then. Then I wonder where everyone is going. You see clips of people in disasters and they are always walking somewhere, but where? Everything is pretty much destroyed or unsafe to be in. What could possibly be going on that’s more important than helping those in need or those that didn’t make it out onto the streets?
So I’ve heard from some friends that they like my MoD’s. For those that don’t know, MoD stands for Moment of the Day. I was really good about documenting one a day for the entire month of November last year and they I slacked off….quite a bit. I’m going to try to bring this back as much as possible. Though I’d love to document one every day, the reality dictates that this may be difficult. Still I have these experiences and I want others to appreciate the focused, vibrant moments that weave their way into the course of our lives much like vines grabbing a post and winding up toward the clouds.