25

The first time Kim and I ever went out on a date was January 25, 1992.

It was one of those divisions in time.

There was the time before I ever knew her.

There was the time when I’d first begun to notice her.

There was the time when we first became friends.

There was that night in January when we first went out on a date.

Then there was that period where we were dating but not quite committed to this being “it.”

That changed 25 years ago today.

That was the night that Kim and I decided we would date each other and no one else.

It’s the night that we knew we would probably end up married – and, because we were in our thirties, sooner rather than later.

She was still my friend before all else. One of my favorite things about my time with Kim was that we were always friends first. It was in our wedding vows – but it didn’t really need to be said.

There was also always a spark between us.

You know that feeling you get when you have a crush on a new love and you touch in some way? A hand grazes yours, your knees touch under the table, or she reaches out and puts a hand on your shoulder? That little jolt you feel. Your heart pounds a little more quickly. You relax into the touch and smile because of it.

That feeling never went away.

She used to smile and roll her eyes. I’d tell her it will be a sad day when I don’t feel that way about you. I never didn’t.

A couple of weeks ago I texted a friend of Kim’s and asked, “wasn’t it 25 years ago when you guys went on that cruise.”

Kim always talked about how their cruise was quite rough because of Hurricane Andrew.

I knew it couldn’t have been Hurricane Andrew for two reasons. First, Andrew was an Atlantic storm and Kim was on a cruise in the Pacific. Second, Andrew didn’t hit until August and Kim and I got together a couple of weeks after the cruise and we were together on July 25.

“How do you remember?”

I just do. I don’t remember everything but I remember that.

Kim could remember the dog’s birthday but not mine. She remembered her parents’ anniversary but not ours. There are a lot of things I don’t remember, but I remember January 25, July 25, and our anniversary August 8. They were all days in a progression of my relationship with Kim. There are other dates I remember along the way and since – but those are the ones I mark publicly.

Her friend texted me back that she wasn’t on that cruise but her sister was – she’d check.

Within moments she reported back that yes it had been 25 years and that it was Hurricane Darby that had rocked the boat they were on.

A few days later I got a nice card from her sister with two pictures. One of Kim wrapped up in a towel by the pool and one of her on the plane with the flowers I had delivered in flight.

I felt a jolt. My heart raced a bit. I smiled.

Kim still has the ability to touch me.

Published in: on July 25, 2017 at 10:19 am  Comments (1)  

Meet the Family

About once a year I take a writing course in some genre completely different from the ones in which I work. This year I’m taking a class in writing for Comics (the graphic novel types not the stand-up types).

The most recent assignment I did had us start with a silent image from the old “Nancy” comic strip and let it job a childhood memory.

I paused when I came to a drawing of Sluggo looking over a wall having just spotted something that captured his interest.

I don’t know why but it took me back to a memory of when I was four years old. It’s something I haven’t thought about in many years but there it was graphic and real.

My sister Jill and I were born in Boston – and no, I don’t remember either of those births. Just after my sister was born, my parents moved the family to Oberlin so dad could start a new job as a professor at the college. I don’t remember that either.

I do, however, have a strong memory from when my brother was born.

In those days, young kids weren’t welcome into hospitals as visitors.

Fortunately, Oberlin was a very small town and the hospital only had one floor. Perhaps it had more than one floor but I think my mother was in the old part of the hospital that only had one floor – or at least she was on the ground floor.

I remember that, because my father took my sister and me to see my new brother.

We drove up and didn’t park in the hospital lot. We parked in the adjoining lot that was mainly used for the Tennis Courts and college swimming pool before the new gym was built.

We walked across the parking lot, over the grass, up to a window.

My father picked us up – me and my sister (not at the same time) to see our mother and Ethan, our new baby brother.

That was the first moment that all five of us were together – my parents, my brother, my sister, and me.

I don’t know why that’s the memory that leaped out, but I have a theory.

About a year after Elena died I took a workshop in writing features for radio in LA.

The teacher was amazing. He helped us craft stories, find audio, but most importantly, find the emotional core of the story.

As a warm-up exercise we had to think of a trip that we remembered.

I told the story of our family’s trip to Portland.

The instructor pushed and pushed at why that trip was important to me. Why, he wanted to know, with all the trips I’d taken in my life, why was this one special.

As he pushed – I didn’t know.

He pushed more – I didn’t know.

And then I knew. It was the last trip we would ever take as a family. With Elena dead, Kim and I or Kim and Maggie and I would take trips together but that was the last one with Elena.

Firsts and lasts.

And so to this assignment.

Why?

Elena’s been dead eleven years.

Kim’s been dead eleven months.

All that’s left is Maggie and me.

As I learn to live with this smaller version of my family, the sense memory I have from my childhood is when my first immediate family became complete.

My parents, my brother, and my sister are, thankfully, still alive and part of my life. That was the moment it all began.

Twenty-five years ago today was the day before Kim and I decided we’d date exclusively. It was the day before the family we would build would begin.

There are these moments.

These moments that stick.

These moments where you meet the family.

Published in: on July 24, 2017 at 5:47 pm  Comments (1)  

Lucky

I was interviewed for a podcast earlier this week.

The interviewer asked me questions about various points in my career where I made changes and I kept saying “I was lucky.”

I kept noting the cool things that had happened to me and the great opportunities I’ve been given.

It’s all true.

Except for those two worse-than-you-can-ever-imagine moments in my life, I’ve been very lucky.

I’ve worked with amazing people who taught me so much and valued what I had to give.

Not always. But at key moments when I needed it.

I’ve known people who took me aside and told me things that changed my life by directing the things I do or the way I approach doing them.

Not always directly. But they’ve given me enough information that I was able to hear them and act accordingly.

It could be that despite my crusty exterior, I’m an optimist.

I may have written about this before, but I remember seeing a keynote by Scott Adams where he talked about an experiment where people were given something to find in a section of a newspaper. The optimists finished the task quickly and were uniformly successful. The pessimists either took longer or never found what they were looking for.

A couple of pages into the newspaper was a big advertisement which announced that the thing people were looking for was in this location. The optimists all noticed this ad The pessimists, by and large, didn’t. The optimists expected to have success and that something would come up to help them in some way.

All that is to say that there are people around us willing to help us.

Not always. But we need to show them we’re receptive to this help and we need to assume there are nuggets in this help worth mining.

So many people have done so much for me.

I’m lucky.

Published in: on July 23, 2017 at 7:34 am  Leave a Comment  

Points

“Use the Discover,” Kim would say, “we get points.”

And so I would.

Sometimes I’d forget and use another credit card.

She’d look at the bills each month – carefully.

“What’s this?” she’d ask. “What did you buy in Pennsylvania? I don’t remember us being in Pennsylvania last month.”

I’d think for a bit. She wasn’t questioning my purchases, she was just making sure we weren’t being charged for something we didn’t buy.

“Oh, I reloaded our EZ Pass. They’re in Pennsylvania.”

“OK,” she’d say and write the check.

I held the check this month until I made a couple of big purchases. One of the many things Kim and I agreed on was we liked to pay as we went. We didn’t want to accumulate debt.

I got the Discover bill but knew I was taking Maggie’s car into the shop so I held the bill until after we paid for the repairs.

I only had the last bill and wanted to pay for the new charges. I tend to know about what I owe so I estimated the payment. I knew we had a really big charge but I couldn’t remember what it was for.

Something health related.

That’s what I kept thinking of.

A hospital bill? Doctor? Dentist?

No.

But something big.

Oh. I remembered. Kim’s headstone. We’d put it on the Discover.

I called Discover and added up all the purchases since the last bill and sent off the check.

And then I smiled.

I’d remembered to use the Discover for Kim’s headstone.

She’d like that even that had earned points.

Published in: on July 19, 2017 at 8:22 am  Leave a Comment  

The Wrong Door

If Kim were still with us …
I would have known where the front door of the church was today instead of trying to enter the door behind the priest with all those gathered watching.
Oh well, we drove around and arrived in time for Jack’s baptism.
Poor Maggie – stuck with me navigating.
Had Kimmy been inside watching me, she would have laughed and said, “leave it to the only non-Catholic there to try to come in the wrong door.”
Reminds me of the Palm Sunday we met in New Orleans after she went to mass.
She called my cell phone and asked, “where are you?”
“Behind the guy with the big red hat,” I said.
“You mean the bishop?”
I had an idea I was on the wrong side of the church today. As Kim would have asked, “didn’t you see that yours was the only car in that lot?”
Maybe we escaped notice.
Nope.
Every one of her cousins came up to let me know they saw us trying to get in the wrong door.
Sigh.
With Kim, when I started to feel bad about the mistake she would have looked at me and laughed and said, “what’s the big deal.”
Gone nearly eleven months and still with me daily.
Published in: on July 9, 2017 at 9:03 pm  Leave a Comment